A Sly Devil: How Francis Secretly Undermines Doctrinal Opposition to Abortion while Appearing to Affirm It
A new interview with Jorge Bergoglio (“Pope Francis”) has just been released by the Spanish radio channel COPE. A full English transcript of the 75-minute conversation with Spanish journalist Carlo Herrera was published by Vatican News on September 1:
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We have excerpted highlights from this interview and provided some commentary in a separate blog post:
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In the current post, we would like to provide more extensive analysis of one specific response Francis gave to a question by Herrera that is particularly alarming. It concerns the horrific crime of abortion, which is the deliberate killing of preborn children in the womb.
For the sake of ensuring an accurate understanding of Bergoglio’s words, we will quote first Herrera’s question (in bold) and then Francis’ response in full, lest we be accused of having taken things out of context. His highly problematic words we will underline. Here we go:
Your Holiness, in Spain, euthanasia has been legalized, on the basis of what they call the “right to a dignified death.” But that is a fallacious syllogism, because the Church does not defend incarnate suffering, but dignity to the end. How far does man have real power over his life? What does the Pope believe?
Let us situate ourselves. We are living in a throwaway culture. What is useless is discarded. Old people are disposable material: they are a nuisance. Not all of them, but in the collective unconscious of the throwaway culture, the old… the most terminally ill, too; the unwanted children, too, and they are sent to the sender before they are born… In other words, there is this kind of culture.
Then, let us look at the peripheries, let us think of the great Asian peripheries, for example, to go far away and not think that we are just talking about things here. The discarding of entire peoples. Think of the Rohingyas, discarded, nomads around the world. Poor things. In other words, they are discarded. They are no good, they don’t fit, they are no good.
This throwaway culture has marked us. And it marks the young and the old. It has a strong influence on one of the dramas of today’s European culture. In Italy, the average age is 47 years old. In Spain, I think it is older. That is to say, the pyramid has been inverted. It is the demographic winter at birth, in which there are more cases of abortion. The demographic culture is in loss because we look at the profit. It looks to the one in front… and sometimes using the idea of compassion: “that this person may not suffer in the case of…” What the Church asks is to help people to die with dignity. This has always been done.
And with regard to the case of abortion, I do not like to enter into discussions on whether it is possible [=permissible] up to here, or whether it is not possible up to there, but I say this: any embryology manual given to a medical student in medical school says that by the third week of conception, sometimes before the mother realizes [that she is pregnant], all the organs in the embryo are already outlined, even the DNA. It is a life. A human life. Some say, “It’s not a person.” It is a human life! So, faced with a human life I ask myself two questions: Is it licit to eliminate a human life to solve a problem, is it fair to eliminate a human life to solve a problem? Second question: Is it fair to hire a hired killer to solve a problem? And with these two questions, what about the cases of elimination of people—on one side or the other—because they are a burden for society?
I would like to remember something they used to tell us at home. About a very good family with several children and the grandfather who lived with them, but the grandfather was getting old and he began to drool at the table. Then, the father could not invite people because he was ashamed of his father. So he thought to set a nice table in the kitchen and he explained to the family that beginning the next day, Grandpa would eat in the kitchen so they could invite people. And so it was. A week later, he comes home and finds his little son, 8 or 9-years-old, one of the children, playing with wood, nails, hammers, and he says, “What are you doing?” “I’m making a little table, Dad.” “For what?” “For you, for when you’re old.” In other words, what is sown in discarding, is going to be harvested later.
At first sight, this may seem like a really strong pro-life message, but it is not. On the contrary, in the above passage, Francis opens the door, however slightly, to an acceptance of abortion as morally licit.
This is a serious accusation, no doubt, and we will now prove it. His exact words were:
And with regard to the case of abortion, I do not like to enter into discussions on whether it is possible up to here, or whether it is not possible up to there, but I say this: any embryology manual given to a medical student in medical school says that by the third week of conception, sometimes before the mother realizes [that she is pregnant], all the organs in the embryo are already outlined, even the DNA. It is a life. A human life. Some say, “It’s not a person.” It is a human life!
In these few sentences, Francis does the following:
- He brings up the topic of abortion, which he was not asked about
- Instead of firmly stating that abortion is always morally forbidden, at any point in the pregnancy, he emphasizes that he is not interested in taking a stand on the question whether it might be permissible up to a certain point
- He introduces the notion that a baby is present no later than the third week of gestation, thereby creating doubt concerning the presence of a baby in the time before that third week
- By inferring the presence of a human life from an empirically verifiable outline of the organs, he insinuates that the humanity or the life of the unborn is dependent upon such a criterion
- He distinguishes between human life and human person, thereby insinuating that there could be human life that is not a human person
Regardless of what may have been his subjective intention, what the false pope’s comments accomplish is that they create doubt in the minds of his audience, doubt that can later be exploited to overturn the absoluteness of the moral prohibition of abortion. We will elaborate on this shorlty. First, a few comments are in order.
All of the above remarks were completely needless. Francis was not asked about abortion at all and did not need to bring it up. He was not provoked or challenged on the issue either. He freely chose to talk about abortion in the first place.
Granted, considering that the topic he was asked about concerned man’s authority over his own body (a question Pope Pius XII addressed exquisitely in a 1952 allocution), it is certainly legitimate to also touch upon the related topic of abortion. It’s not wrong that Francis went there, but it is telling that he did, considering how he went on to handle the issue.
Next, Francis gratuitously introduces doubt concerning the absolute moral prohibition against abortion. He could have said, at least, that although some people believe it is licit in the first few weeks, they are wrong. Yet he chose not to say that. Instead he created the impression — notice that he didn’t say it outright — that the issue is debatable.
Similarly, by talking about a visible outline of organs in the child by the third week of development, he insinuates — again, he’s not stating it — that before these inchoate organs are discernible, we cannot say for sure that it’s a living human child.
Lastly, he unnecessarily introduces a distinction between human life and human person. The classic definition of “person” is that given by Boethius, namely, that a person is an “individual substance of a rational nature”. Every human meets this definition, regardless of age, ability/handicap, or the point of gestation. Now it is true that many pro-aborts will claim that preborn humans are not persons, and Francis is not wrong in pointing that out; but once again he refuses to engage the criticism and thus leaves the objection unrefuted. That creates the impression that he is implicitly conceding the point.
From this critical analysis, we can easily see that what Francis does in the above-quoted passage from the interview is extremely dangerous. Although it is clear from his past words and official teachings that he officially condemns abortion at every stage of development, the earliest point of which is conception (also called fertilization), here he begins to undermine, to subvert, that very teaching. He is needlessly opening a door that must absolutely and firmly remain shut. And why does he? Why does he introduce the idea of abortion possibly being licit before a certain point in development, if not in order to slyly subvert, however gradually, the absolute moral prohibition against abortion?
We know that Francis loves to talk tough about how grave an evil abortion is, using vivid imagery and forceful language, even in the very same interview, as quoted above. However, again and again his actions give the lie to his words. For example, he has invited the pagan left’s pro-abortion witchdoctors straight to the Vatican to talk sustainable ecology, “healthcare”, climate change, migrants, and the rest. A Dutch abortion activist got a pontifical medal from him. With Emma Bonino, he even gave a friendly welcome to an actual abortionist and called her a “forgotten great”! Bonino once bragged that she and her associates had killed over 10,000 preborn infants — at a time when abortion was a crime in Italy! In light of this despicable behavior, it is clear that Bergoglio’s tough words against abortion mean nothing: “…for they say, and do not” (Mt 23:3).
By answering Herrera’s question the way he did, Francis has cunningly introduced doubt where no doubt is necessary or permitted. In this manner he is now creating the premises that logically lead to the conclusion that abortion is not always wrong. But if it is not always wrong, this means it is sometimes permitted. But if it is sometimes permitted, then it is not wrong in and of itself, for what is wrong in and of itself cannot become permissible at any point for any reason. If, then, abortion is not wrong in and of itself, then what makes it wrong is only specific circumstances, and of course those are debatable.
It is important to understand that with these premises in place, it does not matter if no one actually draws the logical conclusion at first. What matters is that the premises that lead to the conclusion are in place — the conclusion can be drawn later, “when the time is right”, so to speak. It seems that Francis is doing the necessary prepartory work now so that he or someone else can draw the conclusion later.
As this may be a bit difficult to grasp, we will illustrate this by means of a concrete example. This is going to take a few paragraphs, but it is well worth it.
The reason there is such a torrent of publicly sanctioned sexual immorality in our society today (divorce, adultery, abortion, sodomy, etc.) is due to the legalization and social acceptance of contraception (birth control) and the contraceptive mentality many decades ago. Yes, you read that right. Contraception is the premise from which all the other sexual immorality logically flows. That is not to say that everyone who endorses contraception also endorses these other evils. It is clear that many do not, and we are not trying to insinuate otherwise. The point is, however, is that people who accept contraception but reject the other evils are being illogical.
Here is why: Once the marital act is divorced from the primary purpose for which it was instituted by God (the begetting and rearing of children; see Gen 1:28), and its secondary purposes or even its mere pleasure are substituted in place of the primary end, the moral licitness of its exercise becomes arbitrary. If the primary purpose (which can be deduced from the natural function of the reproductive organs that pertain to the act) is denied or demoted, whatever may be placed in its stead is necessarily arbitrary. Who’s to say that purpose X is sufficient for a moral use of the act but not purpose Y — if the purpose for which it was created in the first place is deliberately frustrated? If one can deny the primary essential purpose of an act, any other purposes substituted for it will necessarily be arbitrary. This inference is necessitated by deductive logic. That means it is undeniable.
But if the pleasure derived from it justifies the act, then there is no logical reason why it should only be the pleasure between the married, or the pleasure between man and woman, or the pleasure between only two individuals and not more, etc. It is a slippery slope. The fact that Western society didn’t draw this logical conclusion until fairly recently (and even now is only beginning to) is not because the reasoning does not follow but because people often will actually draw a monstrous conclusion only reluctantly, especially one they “feel” is morally repugnant.
We have to remember that man does not only have an intellect but also a will, and it is a deplorable fact that emotion plays a big role in people’s moral decision-making. Sometimes people refuse to draw logical conclusions simply because they do not like them. Eventually, however, subsequent generations will draw those conclusions because earlier generations could not explain rationally why they should not be drawn. “I don’t like the conclusion” is simply not a good enough reason for not drawing it, especially not if the conclusion promises convenient and virtually unlimited venereal pleasure. That is why, if left to himself, man will sink ever deeper into immorality. That is why what began with contraception and divorce-only-for-the-hard-cases, has now sunk to, well, to where we’re now at. (There’s no need to dwell on the specifics.) And the future generations will be more depraved still if they are not lifted out of the morass by God’s grace.
That is how logic works. In the end, logic always wins, even if it takes a few generations. What would it take to stop the slippery slope? The only way to stop it would be not to embark on it in the first place, to refuse to take even the first step. This means that its tacit premise — that the sexual act is not primarily for the sake of generating offspring — must be denied.
But that would mean that our society acknowledge that what started it all — contraception — is itself immoral and therefore forbidden. Yet, without God’s help, that will never happen because contraception is modern man’s sacred cow. He worships it because it allows him to have sexual pleasure and promiscuity without those pesky consequences for which the pleasure was created in the first place. Therefore, fallen man compels himself, as it were, to eventually accept, however reluctantly, every sexual moral evil rather than abandon his sacred cow of contraception. As the brilliant English Catholic writer G. K. Chesterton once remarked, birth control leads to two things: no births and no control. He was exactly right.
Lest there be any misunderstanding, here we must clarify that what is absolutely forbidden in Catholic sexual morality is the deliberate frustration of the primary purpose of the marriage act, especially (but not only) by artificial means. This has nothing to do with those who, due to natural causes or for reasons known only to God, are unable to have children. It does not mean the married must deliberately and explicitly wish to have children every time they come together. It also does not mean that the married are never permitted to practice periodic continence or that they are not permitted to abstain perpetually if they both freely so choose. For people wishing to understand this in greater depth, we recommend the excellent theological treatment of the subject found in the book Contra Crawford: A Defense of Baptism of Desire and Periodic Continence by Christopher Conlon and Dylan Fellows (2018). It is available for free PDF download here or for purchase here.
With all of the above in mind, we can perhaps better understand now why Francis handled the abortion issue the way he did in his most recent interview: His goal was to lay the premises that would be needed to kick off a gradual softening of the absolute prohibition of abortion. It will take time. It will take more work on his part, meaning he will need to revisit the topic a few more times and continue to chip away at the absolute prohibition of abortion. He’s opened the door just a tiny bit — now he needs to firmly plant his foot in it and gradually force an ever wider opening. Ambiguity, vagueness, insinuations, unclear expressions — those will come in very handy for him to accomplish his goal.
It is very important to understand how Modernists operate. As Pope St. Pius X noted in his anti-Modernist encyclical:
Although they express their astonishment that We should number them amongst the enemies of the Church, no one will be reasonably surprised that We should do so, if, leaving out of account the internal disposition of the soul, of which God alone is the Judge, he considers their tenets, their manner of speech, and their action.
(Pope Pius X, Encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis, n. 3; underlining added.)
Modernists in general, and Francis in particular, thrive on a lack of clarity. They love to speak in ways that allow the words to be understood in more than one sense. They do not typically state heresy outright; rather, they like to communicate in such a way that, although strictly speaking nothing clearly heretical is affirmed, the reader or hearer will nevertheless take heresy from what is communicated. This way they leave enough room for plausible deniability should someone call them out on it. This diabolical method has worked very well for them. It was also the method used by the proto-Modernists in the 18th century. Pope Pius VI described it thus:
In order not to shock the ears of Catholics, the innovators sought to hide the subtleties of their tortuous maneuvers by the use of seemingly innocuous words such as would allow them to insinuate error into souls in the most gentle manner. Once the truth had been compromised, they could, by means of slight changes or additions in phraseology, distort the confession of the faith that is necessary for our salvation, and lead the faithful by subtle errors to their eternal damnation.
(Pope Pius VI, Apostolic Constitution Auctorem Fidei, preamble)
Having once sufficiently planted in people’s minds the idea that abortion isn’t intrinsically wrong but only by circumstance, all that will remain to be done, then, is to have a debate about what those circumstances are or should be, and to what extent they can change. Novus Ordo theologians, especially Jesuits, will then be more than happy to help determine under what circumstances abortion can be justified (right, “Fr.” Mario Serrano?).
Just as they did for Amoris Laetitia and the question of adultery and bigamy, they could harp on the “lived experience” of the mother, her “concrete situation”, and the “definite complexity of her limits” and combine that with a rejection of “rigid rules”, a “cruel casuistry that only condemns”, and a “heartless moralism” that “suffocates compassion” and is “contrary to the logic of the Gospel.” Then there could be another synod. A few documents and hundreds of footnotes later, the new
teaching pastoral approach will be enshrined in another “apostolic exhortation”. The pagan left will celebrate, pro-abortion groups will thank the “Pope”, and Catholic Answers apologist Tim Staples will claim it’s all a big misunderstanding and insist that we have to read the document “in light of Tradition.” Been there, done that.
Let us recall what was reported in the Italian press years ago regarding Francis’ scheming for the so-called Synod on the Family (2015). At a conference after the release of the scandalous exhortation Amoris Laetitia, in which Francis permits unrepentant public adulterers to receive Novus Ordo communion, the über-Modernist “Abp.” Bruno Forte spilled the beans:
Archbishop Forte in fact gave a special “behind-the-scenes” look at the Synod: “If we speak explicitly of Communion for the divorced-and-remarried — Archbishop Forte said, quoting Pope Francis joking(*) — we don’t know what a mess [casino] will result. So let’s not mention it directly. Make sure the premises are there, and I will draw the conclusions”. “Typical for a Jesuit”, Archbishop Forte joked, attributing to this guideline a wisdom that has allowed for the maturing necessary that resulted in “Amoris laetitia”, which, as stated by Monsignor Bruno Forte, does not represent new doctrine but rather a “merciful application” of what has always been [believed].
(*) Translator’s Note: The “joke” is merely in Francis’ colloquial use of the term casino, which literally translates as “brothel”.
(“Nessuno si deve sentire escluso dalla Chiesa”, Zonalocale.it, May 3, 2016; our translation.)
So there we have it. Francis knows what he is doing with premises and conclusions. He may not be terribly intelligent, but he is definitely clever. We all know the result: He got what he wanted.
He has done the same with premises for the introduction of married priests in the exhortation Querida Amazonia. Although he did not mention the issue explicitly, he tacitly laid the foundation for its eventual acceptance. This is explained in our podcast episode TRADCAST EXPRESS 109.
And now it seems like he’s beginning to subvert the absolute prohibition of abortion by introducing premises that will gradually chip away at it.
Here at Novus Ordo Watch, he won’t get away with it.
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