But are Pope Francis' convictions all that different to his predecessors?
The Pope and by association the Catholic church seemed to be moving in a different direction from the more doctrine-minded rule of his predecessor. Well, any hopes more liberally-minded Catholics had held were all but smashed this week, when Pope Francis announced his stance on abortion in particular. The pope denounced abortions as a symbol of today’s “throw-away culture” and urged Catholic doctors to refuse to perform them. He cited Vatican teaching on the need to defend the unborn during an audience with Catholic gynecologists. "
Every child that isn't born, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ, has the face of the Lord," he said via the Associated Press and continued: "Things have a price and can be for sale, but people have a dignity that is priceless and worth far more than things."
Is the Pope extending a gesture of peace? To whom?
This comes as a slight contradiction to blasting the church's obsession with "small-minded rules" that are driving the faithful away and urging it focus instead on being merciful and welcoming. This interview naturally sent waves of discontent throughout the church, so perhaps his abortion statement was meant to appease more conservative followers of Christ. To some, however, it sounds dangerously close to statements made by his predecessor, most notably his infamous comment that condom use might actually serve to increase the spread of AIDS in Africa.
Regardless of his latest divisive statement, however, Pope Francis remains the most liberally minded Catholic leader of the past several decades. His remarks that he doesn’t judge gay people and that he would be happy to baptize an “illegitimate” child have quickly made him a people’s favorite. Nevertheless, in an effort to make peace with the past, Greg Burke, the Vatican's senior communications adviser, insisted Friday that Francis was by no means calling into question the papacies and priorities of his predecessors.
"The pope is not condemning his predecessors," Burke told The Associated Press. "What he is saying is 'We've spent a lot of time talking about the boundaries, we've spent a lot of time talking about what is sin and what's not. Now let's move on. Let's talk about mercy. Let's talk about love.'"