Vatican City : Pope Francis has compared having an abortion to hiring a “contract killer”. Women who have an abortion are like people who hire “a hitman to solve a problem,” Pope Francis told worshippers in St Peter’s Square on Wednesday.
“How can an act which terminates a budding life, innocent and defenceless, be therapeutic, civilized, or simply human?” Francis said in his weekly public audience.
“I ask you: is it right to put out a human life to solve a problem,” the pontiff said as the faithful shouted back “no.”
“It is like hiring a hitman to solve a problem,” the pontiff concluded.
Francis’s “hitmen” remarks were an impromptu addition to a pre-prepared text, seen by dpa, which focused on the Fifth Commandment, “You shall not kill.”
The Union of Atheists and Rationalistic Agnostics (UAAR), an Italian anti-clerical group, issued a statement to condemn them as “incredibly violent.”
The “hitmen” are the doctors who refuse to do an abortion on women whose lives are at risk, or those who carry out deadly attacks against abortion clinics, UAAR spokeswoman Adele Orioli said.
Orioli disputed “the prevailing narrative that portrays [Francis] as a revolutionary pope,” whereas he “is no different than his predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.”
Even though he is widely considered more liberal than the previous two popes, Francis has not changed church teachings on family planning and sex.
However, he comments less frequently than his predecessors on such hot button issues, arguing that the church should focus less on enforcing doctrine, and more on reaching out to those who stray from it, and to the needy.
In April, the leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics said helping the poor and the destitute should be as important as fighting against abortion.
This year, Pope Francis opposed a bill that would have legalised abortion in Argentina.
In August, a campaign group said thousands of Argentinian Catholics had renounced their membership of the church to protest against his opposition to the bill.
Francis, seen as a progressive on some issues for the church, including its attitude towards the LGBT community, has staked a traditionalist position on abortion rights since ascending to the papacy.
However, Francis did allow priests in 2016 to begin offering forgiveness for the practice, while at the time reaffirming the church’s stance that abortion is a “grave sin.”
“I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life,” Francis wrote in a letter in 2016.
“In the same way, however, I can and must state that there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father.”
In April of this year, the pope called on Catholics to tend to the sick and needy with the same vigor with which they oppose abortion.
“Our defense of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned,” he said at the time.