VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is expected to raise issues ranging from climate change to income inequality when he visits Cuba and the United States Sept. 19-27. Francis has launched an agenda of reform in the Vatican and in the global church, prioritizing different issues and counseling a more merciful message. Here’s a primer on where the pope stands on key issues.
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ABORTION: Francis has upheld church teaching opposing abortion and echoed his predecessors in saying human life is sacred and must be defended. But he has not emphasized the church’s position to the extent that his predecessors did, explaining that by now the church’s teaching on abortion is well-known and that priests “cannot be obsessed” with preaching only about “a disjointed multitude of doctrines.” In an indication of his mercy-over-morals position, he has established a new type of roving confessor, dubbed “missionaries of mercy,” who can absolve people of sins reserved to the Holy See, including abortion.
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CAPITALISM: Francis has been accused by some U.S. conservative commentators of Marxist sympathies given his frequent denunciations of economic systems that “idolize” money over people and the failings of the trickle-down economic theory. He has said while globalization has saved many people from poverty “it has condemned many others to die of hunger because it’s a selective economic system.” Francis has said he’s not preaching communism but the Gospel. Pope Benedict XVI voiced the exact same concerns, and in 2009 denounced the profit-at-all-cost mentality blamed for bringing about the global financial meltdown and called for a new world financial order guided by ethics and the search for the common good.
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CELIBACY: Francis said last year that celibacy for priests “is a rule of life, which I highly esteem and I believe is a gift for the church.” But he added, “since it is not a dogma of faith, the door is always open” to discussing the issue. In the book “On Heaven and Earth,” the pope, when he was Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, said he was in favor of maintaining celibacy “for the moment,” but noted the Eastern Rite Catholic church makes celibacy optional.
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CONTRACEPTION: Francis has defended the church’s opposition to artificial contraception, which is enshrined in the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae. At the same time, he has said Catholics need not breed “like rabbits” and should instead practice “responsible parenthood” through “licit” methods. The church endorses the Natural Family Planning method, which …Read More