Pope Francis’s Consistent and Boldly Proclaimed Pro-life Message.

News has circulated this week about Pope Francis baptizing 32 infants in Rome. During his homily, he told the infants’ mothers to go ahead and feed the babies if they’re hungry. Breastfeed them in Church, in the Sistine Chapel even. It was also noted that he baptized the baby of a couple who were in an irregular marriage.

Why is any of this news? Why does it matter? Because the Pope has declared anything goes and he really wants to relax the standards at the Vatican?


It matters because nearly every mother of young children has wondered at some point if her children really are welcome at Church. She’s received the odd glances when her child starts to cry. She’s spent hot, loud, services battling her young in the cry room. And she’s asked herself, if the church is so pro-life, why does it feel like such an inhospitable place for children?

It matters because 40 percent of live births in America are to unwed mothers. That’s 1.6 million babies whose mother’s chose life in spite of their irregular relationships, in spite, perhaps, of their poverty or addiction, in spite of the fact that they may rely on government assistance or charity for many of their most basic needs. If the church is pro-life, it cannot bar these babies and their families from the life of the Church.

It matters because breastfeeding is good for the environment and public health. It prevents diseases in children and obesity in their mothers. It’s affordable for those with low incomes, and cuts down on carbon emissions from bottle and formula manufacturing. And if the church is pro-life, it must care about public health and the environment that our children will inherit.

The press has noticed that Pope Francis doesn’t speak explicitly against abortion very often. His recent statement declaring abortion a “horrific” symptom of a throwaway culture, appears to be his strongest statement on the issue to date, if you are willing to ignore the way he has consistently, since the first days of his papacy, outlined what it means to be pro-life, as opposed to just anti-abortion.

Pope Francis is making it clear that a person–once granted a right to life–also has an invitation to life in the Church. Yes, you can be hungry, dirty, poor, imperfect, improperly catechized, poorly dressed, born of a single mom, or of parents who are not Catholic and still enter the Church. Come and see, and we’ll let the Holy Spirit work with us from there.

This matters tremendously, because it’s not enough for pro-life people to say, “Yes, you must live, but live over there please.” Most undesired pregnancies do not yield well-adjusted citizens that go on to happy middle class lives, seek out a nice RCIA class, and become fellow fervent soldiers in the fields of the Lord.

If we can see these realities and say, yes, your life still matters, and I want you here, in my house with me, eating with me, bathing in the waters of eternal life with me, then we may be able to keep pace with Pope Francis’s consistent and boldly proclaimed pro-life message.

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About Elizabeth Duffy
  • Katie

    Perfect. Love it. Sharing it. Thanks for stating my gut sense of what this Pope has to say to us.

  • Deacon Dean

    Amen! And, thank you for this thoughtful and insightful piece.e

  • Steve31

    “his matters tremendously, because it’s not enough for pro-life people to
    say, “Yes, you must live, but live over there please.”

    Instead of bashing pro-lifers, who btw run the CPC’s with support pregnant mothers and their children up to 1 year, try to get other fellow Obama catholics to become pro-life. Or are you another liberal democrat catholic at Patheos?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/duffy/ Elizabeth Duffy

      Did I accidentally write something about politics? I thought I was writing about the Pope’s consistent pro-life message.

      • Steve31

        I’ll take that as a Yes, you are another liberal democrat at Patheos.

      • Tjkurz

        Are you kidding? Your post is nothing but straw men and false narratives to forward leftist pet causes. Carbon emissions? Really? Might as well just join the population control movement and call it a day. I don’t know where all these mean prolife conservative Christian straw men are, but the prolifers I know are socially conscious and treat babies like rock stars at church and church activities. Really this kind of leftist message would be passé if it wasn’t so effective in attacking prolifers and the church in general as hypocrites on prolife issues. The message is only effective because people want to believe prolifers are hypocrites rather than look at there own rationalization for abortion.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/duffy/ Elizabeth Duffy

          Well, here is one of many complaints you can find online concerning babies at Mass: http://www.faithmag.com/faithmag/column2.asp?ArticleID=1519

          But I’ve never had to go that far to find someone who doesn’t like hearing noisy children (I have six) in Mass. Of course most people and most pro-lifers are not this way, but it only takes one to make a mother feel unwelcome.

          Otherwise, I don’t know why you and Steve keep bringing up leftist politics, and conservative yadda yadda. Are Conservatives not allowed to be glad about the positive environmental effects of breastfeeding? Is it really leftist propaganda to observe that many babies whose mother’s choose life will probably need some form of government assistance, even in addition to the wonderful services provided by CPC’s? If you call me names (You liberal democrat at Patheos!), and say I should join the population control movement just for observing these facts, I’d wager that you are exactly the mean conservative straw men I had in mind.

          • dudebro

            Sounds reasonable to me.

            But you’re just a commie!

          • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

            It is leftist propaganda to claim that the unwanted are less than human. People who rely on government assistance are not less for doing so, and it plays into the hands of the eugenicists to claim so.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/duffy/ Elizabeth Duffy

            Um, what are you reading? In no way does my post equate someone relying on government assistance with being unwanted and less than human. In fact, my point was the opposite–that even though many of those lives saved from abortion will be born to unwed mothers who probably WILL depend on some form of government assistance, mother and child both must still receive an invitation to life in the Church.

            I think maybe you made a mistake in your reading. Or maybe I’m not reading you correctly?

          • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

            “Most undesired pregnancies do not yield well-adjusted citizens that go on to happy middle class lives, seek out a nice RCIA class, and become fellow fervent soldiers in the fields of the Lord.”

            Either a mistake in my reading or your writing.

            The whole idea of discriminating against the undesired and unwanted is problematic to me. It doesn’t matter what they go on to do. I don’t care if they grow up to be Stalin, abortion is still wrong.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/duffy/ Elizabeth Duffy

            Your reading, I think. We are making the same point.

    • dudebro

      Instead of bashing pro-lifers, who btw run the CPC’s with support pregnant mothers and their children up to 1 year

      They usually drop the woman like a hot potato after she has handed the baby over to a nice adoptive couple.

      They also lie about contraception and other things.

      • claire

        Not true, at least in our personal experience of adopting two children through Catholic Charities. Our birth mothers received support of all manner fom CC during pregnancy through today, four years after placement.

  • Caroline M.

    I’m impressed that he was man enough to understand that breasts are for babies’ food, not just something for men to oggle. Too many women breastfeed in nasty public restrooms because our tender sensibilities can’t handle a mother feeding her child.

  • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

    I’m trying to figure something out: When did Christians get a reputation for excluding sinners? When has illness or sin ever been cause for hatred instead of love?

    It struck me today on a Protestant website about a homosexual telling a fundamentalist that he wasn’t comfortable coming out to her earlier because of her religion, that even for those of us who still believe homosexuality to be disordered, a person merely having a disordered mental illness is no reason at all to exclude them. If anything, it is all the more reason to INCLUDE them.

    A crying baby in Mass may be distracting- but that crying baby might be giving you the eucharist in 25 years.

    • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

      Yes–! Pope Francis has called for tolerance and inclusion, and what an inspiring word he speaks when compared to the hating, disparaging and excluding speech we hear from so many.

      • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

        I for one wonder how real it is that it is intended to be disparaging and excluding speech.

        I wonder that because in 1994, I came to the conclusion that basing marriage laws on Christian and Catholic teaching was bigoted and against the separation of Church and state.

        Throughout the late 1990s, I was for getting government out of the churches- for civil unions for any couple for tax benefits, reserving the Sacrament of Marriage to the Free Exercise of Religion.

        In March 2004, without changing a single iota of that opinion, I became an evil Catholic bigot who wouldn’t let those people marry.

        Thus, I see the idea that calling homosexuality disordered is a disparaging and excluding remark, to be in and of itself disparaging and excluding.

  • michicatholic

    THIS is pro-life.

  • irena mangone

    Enjoyed this article yes there are people who glare en when a baby babbles I say get a life you sour puss. That’s my thought now that but at the time I just ignored surely even baby Jesus would have goo and gah as a baby

  • Sinter Borg

    The church I go to calls itself Catholic but it’s really just one of the places where”liberal” ex Catholics go. I wish I could say we are welcoming to poor, single, Gay or outcast mothers raising young children. We might be if they did come but they don’t.

    My advice is to keep as many as you can and attract as many more as possible, any way you can.

    I hear there are places in Europe where the only people in the churches are hired caretakers

  • HermitTalker

    Practical Pope. US culture is so schizophrenic about normal decent human sexuality it frowns on breast feeding in public and topless nudity on beaches, showing breasts in TV ads for shampoo. On the other hand politicians are drummed from office if they stray sexually at the slightest hint but film language and night time comedians can suggest the lowest filth. The PC crowd of course rains fire and brimstone on conservative groups and topics and is all for choice, abortion and anything Leftie. Schizo-phrenic means split brain Bi-polar, Nuts

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    I thought that, centuries ago, the church said that “quickening” (when the mother feels the baby for the first time) was when abortion would be murder. Before that point, as I understand it, it was wrong (like killing an animal, maybe?), but not murder.

    Presumably the pope is saying that that teaching is wrong. But maybe in the future, the pope’s view today will be considered wrong. I’m not seeing the consistency (from the pope, perhaps, but not from the church).

    • http://www.thewinedarksea.com/ Melanie B

      The idea that “quickening” was when abortion would be murder was based on the contemporary scientific understanding of the day. As science changed our understanding of when life begins, the Church, which is by no means anti-science, also updated her teachings to reflect what we now know to be true. The Church consistently teaches the same moral truths, but understands that the application of those truths must take into consideration developing understanding and changing technology.

      And while the Church may have taught that abortion was not _murder_ before quickening, she never taught that it was licit even before that point. It was still taught to be a sin, just not as grave a sin as it was after “quickening” had occurred.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        “when life begins”? What information is new here? Like a seed that grows into a plant, I can’t imagine that they thought that things were inanimate, like a rock, at any place along the journey.

        My point is that this teaching is a moving target. Seen from a long-term viewpoint (which admittedly may not have been the intention of this post), the church’s teaching is not consistent.

        • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy Gritter

          The question was whether the act was considered contraception or abortion. Abortion is a sin against life and so has greater moral gravity than contraception which is a sin against chastity. Basically both adultery and murder are gravely immoral but murder is worse.

          So the teaching is a development in thinking. The church did not say something that was wrong is now right or vice-versa. It said looking at this immoral act in the light of new science makes us conclude it is even more immoral.

          That is the kind of change you would expect when deepening your understanding of a true faith. Zero change would mean the faith does not grow or progress at all. Changes that imply your previous understanding was all wrong are problematic as well. If the church was wrong before how can we be sure of what it teaches now? But changes that move from a good understanding to a better understanding. They are what we can and do see.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

            contraception which is a sin against chastity

            Wouldn’t sex be a sin against chastity?

            The church did not say something that was wrong is now right or vice-versa.

            No? It said that abortion before “quickening” was right but is now saying that it’s wrong.

            That is the kind of change you would expect when deepening your understanding of a true faith.

            If new facts are the reason for the change, I think it’s a deepened understanding of reality through science than an understanding of a faith.

            But changes that move from a good understanding to a better understanding. They are what we can and do see.

            I don’t see why there’s any change at all (and that includes the change from Judaism to Christianity). God doesn’t need rough drafts. Why the change? Why not get it right at the beginning?

  • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

    “Most undesired pregnancies do not yield well-adjusted citizens that go on to happy middle class lives, seek out a nice RCIA class, and become fellow fervent soldiers in the fields of the Lord.”

    I disagree, and consider this to be a rather exclusionary remark in and of itself.

    We don’t know the future, we can’t judge somebody just from their childhood.

  • Damhnait

    I want to thank you so much for this post. It really means a lot to me. Attitudes of love like Pope Francis’s and yours are so rare in my area that I feel misty just reading them. I am so completely and utterly exhausted by people whose message ultimately boils down to, “Abortion is wrong and evil and you can’t have one . . . but you also can’t have healthcare while you are pregnant, you can’t have healthcare for yourself after you give birth, you can’t have healthcare after for your child after your child is born, you can’t have assistance with buying food, you can’t have assistance getting and maintaining housing, you can’t have help with childcare, you can’t have accommodations made for you at work to benefit your child, and for the love of God don’t breastfeed where I can see you but also magically stop your child from crying and/or making other noise.”

    Attitudes like that hurt, and just watching women have to endure them is overwhelming. I’ve known a good chunk of women who get pregnant unexpectedly, give birth, get unexpectedly pregnant again, and have an abortion because, by their own words, they can barely keep their head above water with one child. It breaks my heart when I encounter women who have had abortions because of a lack of spiritual, monetary, moral, emotional, and physical support.

    So, really, thank you so much.