TAGAYTAY CITY, March 15, 2014 – According to Rolling Stone magazine, which put Pope Francis on its cover a few
weeks ago, “Times are a’changin’” in the Catholic Church. But apparently, not much will change in the Church’s stand on pro-life issues, despite the rarity of the Holy Father’s public statements on gay marriage, abortion and divorce, which, says a senior Vatican analyst, is probably strategic.
“I don’t think there’s any retreat from the Church’s defense of the Gospel of life. I do think there’s a change in strategy about how you make the case for life,” said former senior Vatican analyst for CNN John Allen, Jr. at a press conference at the Divine Word Seminary last Wednesday.
Politics to the Gospel
According to Allen, being relatively mum on such hot-button issues as same sex marriage and divorce shows a shift of focus from “politics to the Gospel message.”
“[Pope Francis believes that] we have to start with the Gospel. If people don’t know that we are sons and daughters of a loving God who has a plan for their happiness, then they’re not going to be receptive about what should or should not be legal,” he explained further.
Allen, who has covered the Vatican for the past two decades, went as far as to say that then Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, head of the Argentinian Bishops’ Conference, learned this lesson rather painfully in 2010 when the Church took a hard line on the legalization of gay marriage in the country—and they lost.
“[The Pope’s] conviction is, if the Church talks about [the Gospel], and if it seems credible about that, then its position on the life issues stand a better chance,” he added.
Allen, who is also a former correspondent of the National Catholic Reporter, noted how the Holy Father’s outspokenness on other issues like social justice, but his reticence on issues like contraception and abortion have given the impression, especially to staunchly pro-life Catholics that this Pope is wishy-washy on pro-life issues.
“There are some people around the world who believe—because Francis has said, ‘I’m not going to talk so much about abortion and gay marriage’—that somehow he’s running up the the white flag of surrender,” he said.
The observation, Allen said, could not be further from the truth.
“I can assure you this is a robustly pro-life Pope,” he said, describing how Pope Francis’ speech to a group of Italian medical professionals in September of last year was “the toughest pro-life speech you’ll ever hear a Pope give”.
The Holy Father, according to Allen, also publicly supported a pro-life rally in Italy, as well as the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., tweeting about it, using the official Papal Twitter account, @pontifex.
Last March 12, Allen gave a talk on how Pope Francis has affected popular culture and media since assuming office a year ago. He also had a dialogue with Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle as part of a fund-raising dinner for mission, organized by the Society of the Divine Word last March 13 at the Eaton Centris in Quezon City.
Allen, who is now associate editor of The Boston Globe, has also authored books like “The Future Church: How Ten Trends are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church” and “The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution”. [Nirva’ana Ella Delacruz]