Pope Francis said he opposes abortion as per the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, clarifying that his remarks on abortion in an interview this past week were meant only to convey the message that some social issues need not be repeated constantly.
"Every child that isn't born, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ, has the face of the Lord," the pope said, speaking to a group of Catholic gynaecologists, on Friday.
Pope Francis denounced the "throw-away culture" that condones disposing of lives, according to CBS News. He added that doctors were being forced to "not respect life."
"Things have a price and can be for sale, but people have a dignity that is priceless and worth far more than things," he said, urging gynecologists to heed their consciences and allow lives to come into the world.
On Thursday, Francis said in an interview with the Italian Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica that it is not necessary to talk about the issues of abortion and same-sex marriage all the time. "The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church's pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently."
There is a need for a new balance, the journal quoted the pope as saying. "…Otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel."
Francis urged that those issues should be presented in a larger context. "I see the church as a field hospital after battle," he said. "It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars. You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else."
In a much quoted sentence from the interview, Francis said, "Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person."
"Every pope has a different strategy," U.S. Cardinal Timothy Dolan told "CBS This Morning," of the pope's interview. "What I think he's saying is, 'Those are important issues and the church has got to keep talking about them, but we need to talk about them in a fresh new way. If we keep kind of a negative finger-wagging tone, it's counterproductive."
Dolan added, "Every day I think, 'Thank God he was elected.' ... Every day I say, 'This man is batting a thousand.'"
John Green, a religion specialist at the University of Akron's Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, told The Associated Press that the pope's remarks suggested that the church's rhetoric on the culture war issues needs to be toned down. "I think his language calls for less stridency on these issues."
Terrence Tilley, a theologian at Fordham University, was quoted as saying that Francis was only indicating those issues should be less central, for the sake of evangelizing. "Although Francis is sending a clear signal that he's not a culture warrior, that doesn't mean the bishops will follow in lockstep," he said.
The Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, also said the pope's remarks do not undermine the urgency of the issue. "Nobody should try to use the words of the pope to minimize the urgent need to preach and teach about abortion," The New York Times quoted him as saying.