Just one day after Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio took the title Pope Francis I and leadership of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics, his conservative, biblical views on the issues of same-sex marriage and abortion have earned him accolades from conservative, Christian, and pro-family leaders — and dubious comments from the major media and social liberals.
In 2010, as lawmakers in his native Argentina considered a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, Bergoglio, then cardinal of Buenos Aires, issued a strong statement in favor of traditional marriage and family, condemning the so-called marriage of homosexual partners as a scheme “of the father of lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”
In July 2010 the Argentinian congress passed a bill legalizing homosexual marriage, and the legislation was quickly signed into law by the country's president, Cristina Kirchner. But in the weeks leading up to the vote Cardinal Bergoglio spoke boldly for the family and traditional marriage.
According to the July 8, 2010 National Catholic Register, Bergoglio penned a letter to the four Catholic monasteries in Argentina, asking their residents to pray for a positive, Godly outcome on the issue. “In the coming weeks,” wrote the future Pope, “the Argentine people will face a situation whose outcome can seriously harm the family.... At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.”
The cardinal declared that the issue was not merely “a political struggle, but it is an attempt to destroy God’s plan. It is not just a bill … but a ‘move’ of the father of lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”
He wrote that as the country faced the possible legalization of same-sex marriage it needed “the special assistance of the Holy Spirit to bring the light of truth onto the darkness of error. It needs this advocate to defend us from being enchanted by many fallacies that are tried at all costs to justify this bill and to confuse and deceive the people of good will.”
He went on to pray that God would “send his Spirit on senators who will be voting, that they do not act in error or out of expediency, but according to what the natural law and the law of God shows them.” Addressing the contemplatives residing in the monasteries, he implored them to intercede on behalf of the legislators and their families, “that the Lord visit, strengthen, and console them. Pray for the senators to do good for their country.”
Pope Francis I has taken an equally firm and biblical stance on the issue of life, declaring last year that abortion “is never a solution” to an unintended, inconvenient, or otherwise problem pregnancy. In 2007, then-Cardinal Bergoglio likened abortion and euthanasia to a death penalty for the defenseless, saying that “in Argentina we have the death penalty. A child conceived by the rape of a mentally ill or retarded woman can be condemned to death.”
LifeNews.com noted that the future pope's comments came “during the presentation of a document called the Aparecida Document, a joint statement of the bishops of Latin America.” That document, which addressed the Church's obligation to defend life, said that “we should be conscious that people cannot receive holy communion and at the same time act or speak against the commandments, in particular when abortion, euthanasia, and other serious crimes against life and family are facilitated. This responsibility applies particularly to legislators, governors, and health professionals.”
At the time Bergoglio noted that “the most mentioned word in the Aparecida Document is ‘life’, because the Church is very conscious of the fact that the cheapest thing in Latin America, the thing with the lowest price, is life.”
The choice of a pope so closely aligned with the biblical mandates of traditional Christianity has been a bitter pill to swallow for those wishing for a leader willing to pronounce a blessing over what the Church has traditionally regarded as sinful practices.
“In Pope Benedict's short time in the papacy, he made a priority of condemning gay people routinely,” complained Herndon Graddick, president of the radical homosexual group GLAAD. And Ben Summerskill of the homosexual group Stonewall hoped that “Pope Francis shows more Christian love and charity to the world’s 420 million lesbian, gay and bisexual people than his predecessor” — meaning, apparently, the Pope's acceptance of same-sex partnerships as equal to biblically defined marriage.
Likewise, in its reporting on the new pope, the New York Times offered a muted complaint that Bergoglio represented a “conventional choice” by the Church's leadership, “a theological conservative … who vigorously backs Vatican positions on abortion, gay marriage, the ordination of women, and other major issues — leading to heated clashes with Argentina’s left-leaning president.”
While it was difficult for liberals to hide their disappointment and irritation over such a tradition-minded Church leader, conservative, pro-family, and pro-life spokesmen overwhelmingly applauded him as just the leadership the Catholic Church — and the Church at large — needs at a time of great moral compromise. Alan Sears, president of Alliance Defending Freedom, called Pope Francis “a leader who has stood strongly for the values of religious freedom, the sanctity of human life, marriage, and the family, often under very trying circumstances. We appreciate his many strong statements over the years on the protection of marriage and the unborn, and trust he will continue to be a powerful voice on the deep importance of these issues.”
Longtime conservative spokesman Richard Viguerie called Francis' choice a “world changing event for Catholics, and all Christians,” noting that “as American Catholics face a continuing battle with the Obama administration … over Obamacare's abortion mandate and President Obama's push for universal acceptance of same-sex marriage, we can take heart that we have a new Pope who has already shown he is willing to stand before worldly leaders girded only in Christ's teachings to tell them they are wrong.”
Dr. Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life noted that “the pro-life movement owes a debt of gratitude to the Catholic Church for its leadership and on-going commitment to building a world in which everyone is welcomed in life and protected in law.” She offered her group's “sincere congratulations to our Catholic friends as they prepare to welcome Pope Francis I as their new leader.”
And Dr. Judy Brown, founder and president of the American Life League, expressed her enthusiasm for the new Catholic Church leader, declaring: “No more talk of compromise on questions of abortion, contraception, homosexuality, or euthanasia. No more tolerance for those who claim to be Catholic while supporting vile acts such as abortion. Please join me in thanking God for our new Pope. Let us pray without ceasing for him.”
Photo of Pope Francis I at his inaugural Mass in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican March 14: AP Images