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On papal flight, Pope Francis tackles debate over Communion for politicians who support abortion

By Courtney Mares for CNA

Pope Francis holds an in-flight press conference en route to Rome from Slovakia, Sept. 15, 2021. (Image: Andrea Gagliarducci)

Rome, Italy, Sep 15, 2021 / 09:20 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Wednesday that the Catholic Church is firm in its stance on abortion because “abortion is murder,” and urged priests to be pastoral rather than political when faced with the question of who can receive Communion.

Answering questions aboard the papal plane from Bratislava, Slovakia, to Rome on Sept. 15, the pope emphatically said that abortion ends a human life and that human life must be respected.

“Abortion is more than an issue. Abortion is murder,” Pope Francis said.

“Scientifically it’s a human life. The textbooks teach us that. But is it right to take it out to solve a problem? And this is why the Church is so strict on this issue because it is kind of like accepting this is accepting daily murder,” he said.

In response to a question about the U.S. debate about denying Communion to politicians who support abortion, the pope said that in the history of the Church when bishops have acted politically rather than as pastors, there have been problems.

“What should the pastor do? Be a shepherd, do not go around condemning … but be a pastor. But is he also a pastor of the excommunicated? Yes, he is the pastor and … he must be a shepherd with God’s style. And God’s style is closeness, compassion, and tenderness,” the pope said.

“For me, I don’t want to particularize […] the United States because I don’t know the details well, I give the principle … Be a pastor and the pastor knows what he has to do at all times, but as a shepherd. But if he comes out of this shepherding of the Church, immediately he becomes a politician,” Francis said.

The pope cited the controversy over Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics that followed the publication of his 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia.

“Do you remember the storm that was stirred by Amoris laetitia when that chapter on accompanying separated, divorced couples came out: ‘Heresy, heresy!’ Thank God there was Cardinal Schönborn, a great theologian who clarified things,” he said.

“But always condemnation, condemnation, enough with excommunication. Please let us not place any more excommunications. Poor people. They are children of God. They are outside temporarily, but they are children of God and they want, and need, our pastoral closeness. Then the pastors work things out by the Spirit of God.”

Pope Francis said that he had never personally refused the Eucharist to anyone, adding that he was not aware of ever having been in the situation that the journalist who posed the question described: that of a pro-choice politician coming to him for Communion.

The pope also told the story of a time when he inadvertently gave Communion to a Jewish woman at a retirement home who had approached the sacrament in ignorance.

Pope Francis said: “Those who are not in the community cannot take communion – like this Jewish lady, but the Lord wanted to reward her and without my knowledge – why?”

“Because they are out of the community, excommunicated, they are ‘excommunicated’ it is called. It is a harsh term but what it means is that they are not in the community or because they do not belong or are baptized, but have drifted away from some of the things.”

The pope’s comments during the in-flight press conference came at the end of his four-day visit to Hungary and Slovakia.

It was the 84-year-old pope’s first international trip since undergoing colon surgery in July.

Pope Francis began his journey on Sept. 12 with a visit to Budapest, where he offered the closing Mass of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress and met with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

The pope told journalists on the flight that he had discussed ecology and his concerns about a “demographic winter” in Europe with Orbán, but nothing about immigration, a topic which the two have differing opinions.

After spending just seven hours in Budapest, the pope departed for neighboring Slovakia the same day and spoke at an ecumenical gathering in the capital city of Bratislava on the evening of his arrival.

In Bratislava, the pope addressed political leaders, offered encouragement to the Catholic community, and visited a homeless center run by Mother Teresa’s nuns on the capital’s outskirts on Sept. 13.

Pope Francis then traveled to the eastern city of Prešov, where he presided at a Byzantine Divine Liturgy on Sept. 14. In the afternoon, he met with members of the minority Roma community in Košice and spoke to 25,000 young people about the importance of the sacrament of Confession.

Before returning to Rome on Sept. 15, the pope offered Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows in Šaštín.

The pope’s flight touched down in Rome’s Fiumicino airport at 3:30 p.m. local time. The 90-minute flight marked the last time that Pope Francis will fly Alitalia, Italy’s long-struggling national airline which is being replaced next month by a new airline called Italia Trasporto Aereo (ITA).

Out of the six questions that the pope was asked during the in-flight press conference, he spent the most time speaking about the topic of abortion and the reception of Communion by politicans who support abortion.

Pope Francis said that many times before a mother realizes that she is pregnant, her child’s DNA and organs have formed.

“It’s a human life, period. This human life must be respected. This principle is so clear,” he said.

The pope said that to those who cannot understand this, he would pose two questions:

“Is it right, is it fair, to kill a human life to solve a problem? Scientifically it is a human life. … Is it right to hire a hitman to solve a problem?”

During the flight, Pope Francis also answered a question about a resolution in the European Parliament seeking the recognition of same-sex marriages and registered partnerships in all member states of the European Union.

In response, the pope underlined that marriage is a sacrament between a man and woman, instituted by Christ, which the Catholic Church does not have the power to change.

He said there are civil laws which attempt to help the situation of couples “of different sexual orientations,” but which at the same time do not challenge the teachings of the Church on the sacrament of marriage, such as giving same-sex couples the security of inheritance, or of health insurance.

“But marriage is marriage,” he emphasized. “This does not mean condemning people who are like that, no, please, they are our brothers and sisters and we must accompany them.”

The pope noted that civil laws such as France’s PACS law — which allows adults of any sexual orientation to form a civil union — exist, but are not sacramental marriage.

“Sometimes what I said is confusing. All the same, respect everyone,” he said, adding: “Please don’t make the Church deny her truth.”

“Many, many people of homosexual orientation approach the Sacrament of Penance, they approach to ask priests for advice, the Church helps them to move forward in their lives,” he said.

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  1. Thank God the Holy Father is back safely , for the great and ongoing blessings from the trip for persons world over , to glimpse the Father’s Love , for another good treat of gentle wisdom to help bring more clarity to any who are truly seeking same , seeing the unfathomable ( even foolish Way in the eyes worldly minded ) of the Heart of The Shepherd who can care for one with as much Love and tenderness as for the 99 !

    • In plain English, please Mr. JPG, where do you see the ‘heart of the shepherd’ within the events of this CNA report? If you could please define what you see as the connoting or denoting of the ‘heart of the shepherd,’ that would help. Thank you.

        • My question was: What do you, Mr. J.P.G., see as “the heart of the shepherd”? Yes, the pope has spoken many words, but I wanted to understand what YOU meant. It seems you answer: ALL THE WORDS OF THE HOLY FATHER and the views at wherepeteris.

          Perhaps you haven’t read about wherepeteris, where it describes itself: “The contributors to this website hold and express a diversity of views. Each contributor’s view are his or her own,…”

          The same site quotes the very pope himself saying “…we can learn so much from one another!”

          I wonder why you cannot or will not share what you think.

  2. “For me, I don’t want to particularize […] the United States because I don’t know the details well, I give the principle … Be a pastor and the pastor knows what he has to do at all times, but as a shepherd. But if he comes out of this shepherding of the Church, immediately he becomes a politician,” Francis said.

    What is the sense of these words??

    By what claim other than the chair where he sits (or stands, up in a plane) does this man have any moral authority? First, he stops priests from saying private Mass in St. Peter’s. Next, he forbids priests from saying and laity from worshipping at the Mass of the ages. Then he deigns to talk about community and pastors, being shepherds, becoming politicians. Nonsense. He deserves resistance and rejection. When one is
    beyond the sensus fidelium, one is not part of the community and belongs to something other than the Body of Christ.

    • Explain to me, J.P.G. where the “heart of the shepherd” is in this man. By his own explicit admission Bergoglio is a serial formal cooperator in the mortal sin of sacrilege by public manifest sinners and willfully violates canon 915 (“Can. 915 – Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion”), laughs and jokes about giving the Sacred Body and Precious Blood of Jesus Christ to a Jew, denies the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue and the permanence and exclusivity of the Sacrament of Matrimony, by public deed and action supports and promotes the heinous sin of abortion by encouraging and even lauding pro-abortion politicians while saying the opposite to cover his mendacity and hypocrisy, and even stoops to mock Cardinal Burke’s near-death COVID infection as the “irony of life” that is the due dessert of a “Negationist”. These actions come not from the heart of a shepherd but from the heart of a hireling.

    • The Bishop of LaCrosse WI said the same thing(I don’t know all the details) when Fr Altman(who just lost his faculties by this Bishop) about the Grinder Mnsr. in the same diocese who just got caught with his pants down but only gets a slap on the rist

  3. Rhetorical argument that following moral principles is lacking tenderness, a harsh condemnation is an appeal to sentiment not mercy. We cannot formulate that being a shepherd who calls the sinner to admit their sin and repent, as adversarial to justice. As if justice requires the exclusion of those politicians who support the murder of the innocents simply because they’re politicians. Politicization on the scales of justice weighs against the Pontiff as politicizing the moral responsibility we all have whatever our station. And in this instance especially because of our station as Congressmen with enormous influence to set moral trends the requirement to repent. What then of Catholics who actively and politically supported Nazi genocide? All the exclamation on clear principles and murder is in effect convoluted into support of abortion. We’ve suffered this reversal of justice by sophistry since 2013.

    • To clarify, my comment addresses Pope Francis’ remark, “In denying Communion to politicians who support abortion historically, when bishops acted politically rather than as pastors, there have been problems. What should the pastor do? Be a shepherd, do not go around condemning” (Francis). Bishops who have denied communion did so when the congressman openly advocated abortion rights, and in instances sought increased access as did Senator Dick Durbin who was denied by Bishop Paprocki. Other bishops acted similarly, nor did they “go around condemning”. What they achieved wasn’t politicization, rather the opposite. A required disciplinary reminder of the congressman’s primary responsibility to Christ’s Church in respect to murder of the innocent, and repentance for salvation. To offer communion to manifest advocates of abortion is a dereliction of one’s priestly office and for a bishop his obligation to defend the faith misrepresented by the sacramental abuser. To offer communion adds to the sacrilege, jeopardizes the salvation of both communicant and priest, and scandalizes the faithful. A laissez faire pastoral attitude urged by Pope Francis isn’t pastoral at all. It promotes these ills.

      • When he doesn’t have his script written for him, he is no different in his rhetoric and historical “knowledge” than the neighborhood barstool thoroughbred ignorant anti-Catholic.

      • Thank you for your great presentation that directly makes clear what this issue is all about. You’re clarity snuffs out the “confusion”. We need more priests to the same.

      • It never was a political. exumunication in this case is the person is well know as is his stance on abortion. Excomunication is a merciful way of trying to draw the person back to the truth. There is a reading the book of St James, not sure were, that God is saying if you see your brother sinning and you try to bring him back and he comes back a soul has been saved, but if he refuses it’s not on you(I’m paraphrasing of course because I do’t remember the exact wording

  4. “Abortion is murder”

    He says.

    But what will it take, then, for Pope Francis to not continually allow the public sacrilege of the Holy Eucharist? Has not this papal indifference to the grave sin of scandal contributed to three-quarters of professed Catholics denying the Real Presence?

    Francis says he has not met ‘this type of person’, pro-abortion politicians, in regard to receiving Holy Communion!!!


  5. Who said anything about excommunication? The question is arbitrary access to the Eucharist by, as the pope says, murderers and hit men (or, rather, hit persons).

    And if Biden, let’s us his name even at the risk of particularizing a notorious case…if he is excommunicated, for promoting abortion, this is a penalty which he inflicts on himself, under existing Canon Law.

  6. I would like to ask Pope Francis: what about to deny communion to politicians who claim to be Catholic and support abortion until birth? This is not a political, its a religious question.

  7. Have Catholic politicians who publicly support and promote abortion been excommunicated? Pope Francis seemed to be speaking from that perspective.

  8. The most pastoral action is telling the person the truth: You are endangering your immortal soul by advocating for the murders of babies in the womb. Receiving Communion with this mortal sin on your soul doubles the impact of your sin.

    • How many people have left the church because they perceive the hypocrisy. No one wants to be associated with a person or group that is unwilling to support what they believe.
      So it is not just the politician and the mother and those who preform murder that are lost. We now have the watchers who go else where.
      How many souls are lost?

  9. The best gift anyone can give to our Holy Father is a neck pillow and prescription for sleeping pills, so he cannot give any more dreadful plane interviews anymore.

  10. I am not sure why we even have Canon Law. The bishops ignore it when canceling faithful priests. The Pope and Bishops ignore Canon 915.

    • Good point, Crusader. Pope Francis and many Bishops would do away with Canon law, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and even the Ten Commandments, if they could. Following the Pope’s line of thinking, those documents would be considered too rigid.

  11. Tackle? Really?
    More like he made another touchdown for the other team. The Bergoglian Captivity roles on and on…
    The pastoral disorientation manifested by this gentleman is pathetic, tragic and scandalous. This weeks citations from “On Pastors” by Saint Augustine in the Office of Readings ring in my ears annually while observing an episcopate and the chief shepherd confect a new confession in a romanticized atheism divorced from Divine Revelation.
    We are witnesses to a grotesque parody.

  12. The number one problem in the Catholic Church, by far, is the inability of the leaders to stand up to the Godless world around them. Francis knows that abortion and homosexual “marriage” are wrong, but he is far more worried about controversy than standing up to the perpetrators.

    This attitude permeates just about the entire Church except for a remnant of the faithful willing to fight for the Truth.

    God shows mercy, of course, but he also wipes out entire cities who embrace homosexuality. Same God. Jesus shows mercy to women caught in adultery, but he also calls people “vipers” and runs others out of the temple area. Same God.

    The Catholics of the past were far more worthy of respect than the current leaders. Some may talk about the ancients’ failings, but they were at least capable of standing up to the non-Christians.

    May God raise up real men in the Church soon.

  13. The person’s at CNA who titled this are participating in the self-deception necessary to being “welcome” inside “The McCarrick Church,” which has as its subversive head the long-time friend of the sociopath McCarrick, the Pontiff Francis.

    To be welcome in “The McCarrick Church,”one must do now with abortion what the Bishops of the US did with slavery in the 19th century, repulsively making excuses for it, just as they do now with slaying unborn children.

    To be welcome by those in power who define their pathologies as progress, all that is asked is that everyone Ustinov pretend reality is not happening.

    Therefore, the unborn now are treated by progressives just as black people were treated in the 19th century: they don’t count as persons, so the Church Bishops trade placeswith Pontius Pilate, and wash their hands of say “this murder is your affair, not mine.”

    Pretending reality is not happening is the daily subscription paid for membership in “the progressive lawn party.”

  14. Pope Francis, concerning debate over Communion for politicians who support abortion,

    Pope Francis emphatically stated that abortion ends a human life and that human life must be respected “Abortion is more than an issue. Abortion is murder.”
    Questioned about the U.S. debate about denying Communion to politicians who support abortion Pope Francis reaches into unspecific history of the Church saying “that when bishops have acted politically rather than as pastors, there have been problems.” The question “what should the pastor do?” evokes the soft answer “Be a shepherd, do not go around condemning … but be a pastor. But is he also a pastor of the excommunicated? Yes, he is the pastor and he must be a shepherd with God’s style, and God’s style is closeness, compassion, and tenderness,” Pope Francis said.

    How does that reconcile with the sterner side of God? Who in Jesus, when commenting on those who did
    harm to children said “it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

    Pope Francis also said “For me, I don’t want to particularize the United States because I don’t know the details well, I give the principle … Be a pastor and the pastor knows what he has to do at all times, but as a shepherd. But if he comes out of this shepherding of the Church, immediately he is a politician,”

    The statement “because I don’t know the details well” is surprising!! Details of the issue have been well publicised over a long time. . Surely there would have been communication and feedback from hierarchy and diplomats.

    “the pastor knows what he has to do at all times, but as a shepherd.”
    The Pastor and as shepherd knows what he has to do and it should not always be the gentle soft action, where there is a long history of ignoring Church teaching, ignoring science and common sense.
    This approach has resulted in confusion inside and outside of the Church, the falling away from the faith, and a gradual accepting of the falsehoods that underpin child killing abortion.
    If a Pastor/shepherd considers that stronger measures need to be taken to jolt the offender into the serious
    reality of offending, why when taking strong action does this instantly become political rather than ongoing shepherding? Implication in serial mass murder of children over numerous years in spite of counselling,
    meaningful dialogue, engagement dialogue, requires further stronger action. This should be the pastoral
    action irrespective of what political party the offender is a member. Endeavouring to prevent or diminish the killing of unborn children is not a political action!

    • Joe Biden Vice President in Obama Presidency…. Ignoring, the UNCRC, all scientific medical & DNA evidence, human rights, ignoring common sense, this 8 year administration became the most abortion child killing in American history. Joe Biden fully supported this child killing agenda. Close to six million American children were brutally killed, poisoned, ripped apart limb by limb while alive, head pieced & drained, vacuumed or torn out then disposed of as hospital garbage. Biden & abortion supporters are implicated in the killing.
    • Biden, Presidential candidate ,along with Kamala Harris, campaigned on this abortion child killing policy
    • Biden, President, >>>is adamantly committed to this child killing and has swiftly dismantled all legislation from the previous administration that was pro life supportive of Children’s Rights and against their brutal child butchery.
    >>>Promptly rejoined and funded the World Health Organisation and the Paris Climate Accord. Both organisations have an agenda of worldwide abortion child killing.

    Surely, this support of child killing, this persistent heresy, should be a ground for denial of communion, even excommunication.

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