ON THE PAPAL PLANE (AP) – Pope Francis said on Wednesday that Catholic bishops must deal with politicians who support abortion with “compassion and tenderness”, not condemnation, and warned that they should not allow politics to question fellowship.
Francis was asked on his way home from Slovakia about the debate in the American church over whether President Joe Biden and other politicians should be denied Communion because of their positions on abortion . The American bishops have agreed to draft a “teaching document” which many of them hope to reprimand Catholic politicians, including Biden, for having taken communion despite their support for the right to abortion.
Francis refused to answer with “yes” or “no”, saying he did not know enough about the American case. He repeated that abortion was a “homicide” and that Catholic priests cannot give the Eucharist to someone who is not in communion with the Church. He cited the case of a Jew, or someone who is not baptized or who has strayed from the church.
Most important, he said, was that priests and bishops must respond pastorally and not politically to any problem that comes their way. He said they should use “the style of God” to accompany the faithful with “closeness, compassion and tenderness”.
“And what should the pastors do? Be pastors, and do not condemn, condemn, ”François declared.
Francis recalled cases where the church had clung to a principle for political reasons and it ended badly, citing the conviction of Giordano Bruno for alleged heresy at the time of the Inquisition. He was burned alive at the Campo dei Fiori in Rome.
“Whenever the church, in order to defend a principle, has not done so in a pastoral way, it has taken a political stand,” Francis said. “If a pastor leaves the pastoral care of the church, he immediately becomes a politician. “
Francis said he never refused Communion to anyone, although he said he never knowingly had a pro-abortion politician in front of him. And he admitted that he once gave Communion to an elderly woman who afterwards confessed that she was Jewish.
The American bishops agreed in June that the conference doctrine committee will draft a statement on the meaning of fellowship in the life of the church for consideration, possibly at an in-person meeting in November. To be formally adopted, the document would need the support of two-thirds of the bishops.