Pope backs conscience rights, reiterates Church teachings, during in-flight press conference
Catholic World News – September 28, 2015
Pope Francis affirmed the conscience rights of government workers, reiterated the Church teaching on the impossibility of ordaining women, and underlined the indissolubility of marriage in an exchange with reporters who accompanied him on his flight back to Rome after a visit to the Cuba and the United States.
The Pope also said that he understood parents who could not forgive priests for abusing their children; repeated his call for a charitable approach to the migration crisis; and said that he hoped for improved relations between the Holy See and China.
Answering a question about conscientious objection to laws, the Pope said that “conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right.” When a follow-up question probed for his thoughts on the rights of government employees—an apparent reference to the case of Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to recognize same-sex marriages, the Pontiff replied: “It is a human right and if a government official is a human person, he has that right. It is a human right.”
In reply to a question about his reform of annulment procedures, the Pope stated emphatically that “those who think this is ‘Catholic divorce’ are wrong.” An annulment, he reminded journalists, is issued when the Church reaches a determination that a sacramental marriage did not take place. “It is not divorce because marriage is indissoluble when it is a sacrament. And this the Church cannot change.”
Looking forward to the October meeting of the Synod of Bishops, and the hotly contested discussion of Communion for Catholics who are divorced and remarried, the Pontiff said that it “seems a bit simplistic to me to say that the Synod is the solution for these people and that they can have Communion.” He went on to say the this “isn’t the only problem” to be discussed by the Synod, which will focus on the broader issue of strengthening marriage.
Regarding the sexual abuse of children, the Pope said that he had expressed his sympathy to the American bishops because “something really terrible happened.” But he conceded that some bishops were guilty of a failure to curb abuse. He said that he felt the pain of victims and their families, and could understand why they have trouble forgiving molesters. Speaking of one woman who lost her faith because of her anger of a child’s suffering, the Pontiff said: “I understand that woman. And God who is even better than me, understands her. And I’m sure that woman has been received by God.”
Questioned on immigration issues, the Pope reminded reporters that, in his address to Congress, he had described the crisis of migrants today as the more serious than at any time since the days immediately following World War II. He rejected the idea that barriers would halt the flow of migrants. “All walls fall,” he said. “The wall isn’t a solution.”
Pope Francis said that during his stay in the US he had been surprised by “the warmth of the people.” The reaction was different in each city, he said; “in Washington the welcome was warm but more formal; New York was a bit exuberant. Philadelphia very expressive. Three different kinds of welcome.” He added that he was also struck by “the religious ceremonies and also by the piety, the religiosity of the people.”