Believe it or not, the one line he devoted to abortion was one line more than he devoted to the subject of Jesus, who wasn’t mentioned at all in this morning’s speech according to the transcript. Maybe that was a deliberate choice made by Francis, to stick to politics and universal principles before a domestic television audience with many millions of non-Christians. (He did mention Moses.) Or maybe he just had more important things that he wanted to talk about, like the environment.
This is exactly right:
The Holy Father's politics, as w/his predecessors, defy easy right-left categorization. Not sure that's true of his political *priorities.*
— Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) September 24, 2015
It’s not that the Pope has rejected traditional Catholic teachings on morals and the family (although he’s upset them a little), it’s that his passions palpably run towards other aspects of Catholic teaching. That’s why the left embraces him notwithstanding the fact that he always says the socially conservative thing about abortion and gay marriage when those topics are raised. They can tell where his priorities are. It’s all in the emphasis. Here’s the sum total of what he said today about abortion to a national legislature that’s currently debating whether to shut down the government to stop the country’s biggest abortion mill from being funded: “The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.” That was sandwiched between several paragraphs about our duty to welcome our illegal immigrant neighbors (“We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome”) and the need to “avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity.” Ending the death penalty, which won’t be happening anytime soon in America — unless their royal highnesses, the Supreme Court, intervene, of course — got a full paragraph. Even the Iran deal, or whatever this passage is about, got more than a single line:
From this perspective of dialogue, I would like to recognize the efforts made in recent months to help overcome historic differences linked to painful episodes of the past. It is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women, in any way possible, to do the same. When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue – a dialogue which may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons – new opportunities open up for all. This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility. A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 222-223).
Dialogue is always good: That’s quite the Obama-esque spin on a deal that greenlights nuclear weapons for a Shiite terror state in 15 years. But I digress. How does the Pope, with a debate over abortion roiling all around him in that chamber, all but skip the subject to talk at greater length about climate change instead? If abortion is child murder, then 700,000 child murders are being committed each year in the United States with the endorsement of one of the two major parties. It’d be like Churchill delivering a speech in the middle of the Blitz in 1940 to address the potential threat to Europe posed by the Soviet Union. Even if that’s true, there’s a more urgent threat that’s already right on the doorstep. I don’t know — maybe Francis thought it was pointless to even try. In fairness to him, he could have performed an exorcism on Nancy Pelosi from the podium and her head would still spin around, spitting pea soup, bellowing in an unearthly voice, “Pro-choice.” But if abortion is a lost cause, why not at least devote some time to the holocaust being perpetrated against Christians in the Middle East by ISIS? Unless I missed it in the transcript, the only reference was a passing mention of “violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion.” This was his chance to demand that the most powerful country in the world take action. As it is, he spent more time on the death penalty.
He did mention gay marriage near the end, albeit with the vaguest, most gentle reprimand possible: “Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.” Via the Free Beacon, here’s what he had to say about immigration. As you’ll see, the bit about how most of us are descended from immigrants brought a tear to Marco Rubio’s eye.
Update: Ah, Drew McCoy catches me in an obvious slip-up: The excerpt above about dialogue is certainly about U.S. detente with Cuba, which the Pope had a role in brokering. It might be about Iran too, but Cuba was surely the main point of that passage. My mistake.