In his new apostolic exhortation, Pope Francis puts to rest any speculation that he might bend the rules on the Church’s moral positions by stating that the institution of female priests is “not a question open to discussion” and that the taking of a human life by abortion is always wrong.
CNSNews.com is reporting on Pope Francis’ new exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, in which he states that unborn children are among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular concern because they are the most defenseless and innocent of us all.
“Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this. Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the Church’s effort to defend their lives, attempts are made to present her position as ideological, obscurantist and conservative,” writes the Pope.
“Yet this defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems.”
He goes on to say that because this position is consistent with the Church’s stance on the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on the question of abortion.
“I want to be completely honest in this regard,” he writes. “This is not something subject to alleged reforms or ‘modernizations.’ It is not ‘progressive’ to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life.”
He was equally blunt about the question of female priests.
In a section of the document entitled “Other Ecclesial Challenges” he writes: “The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion, but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general.”
He went on to explain that the ministerial priesthood is one means employed by Jesus for the service of His people, but “the configuration of the priest to Christ the head – namely, as the principal source of grace – does not imply an exaltation which would set him above others.”
The function of the priesthood is considered “hierarchical” but it is not ordered toward domination; rather, it is intended to serve the members of the Church.
The role of women is indeed important in the Church, he said, noting that “a woman, Mary, is more important than the bishops.”
“The Church acknowledges the indispensable contribution which women make to society through the sensitivity, intuition and other distinctive skill sets which they, more than men, tend to possess,” he writes, such as the “special concern which women show to others, which finds a particular, even if not exclusive, expression in motherhood.”
Even though women already share pastoral responsibilities with priests and contribute to theological reflection, “we need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church,” he said.
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