Can Francis help end the culture wars?

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Pope Francis's explanation of why he has not spoken much on abortion is part of his call to rebalance church teaching, to move it away from a legalistic focus on a handful of moral teachings, writes Robert Christian.

- The Washington Post, On Faith

The pro-abortion rights group NARAL quickly thanked Pope Francis for his comments on their Facebook page and many pro-choice Americans were giddy, hopeful that the Pope’s comments might usher in a change in the church’s position.

These hopes were quickly dashed the day after, as Pope Francis strongly affirmed his belief in the sanctity of life, arguing that it was the ‘throwaway culture’ that preys on the weak and vulnerable which leads to the elimination of human beings, including unborn children. Were these statements to soothe conservatives who might have been disturbed by the pope’s statements the day before?

No. His defence of the sanctity of life and the worth of all people, including unborn children, align with his past statements on abortion and match one of the central themes of his papacy: the importance of human dignity and protecting the vulnerable.

Pope Francis warns: 'We have to find a new balance; 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.' This new balance does not entail an abandonment of church teaching on abortion, but a full embrace of the moral and social teachings of the Church, and a recognition that Catholicism is about more than a political agenda or even its understanding of justice in the contemporary world.

The elevation of abortion, gay marriage, religious liberty, and contraception into a special category of faith-defining, preeminently important teachings is a distortion of church teaching, undermining the unity of Catholic teaching. This is why Pope Francis has said, 'We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods' and when 'we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context.'

FULL STORY Can Francis help end the culture wars?

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