On Plane Ride Home, Pope Francis Makes Conservative Remarks He Avoided On U.S. Visit

Pope Francis reflects on a journalist’s question on his plane ride to Rome.

In one of his famous airplane interviews on his flight back to Rome, Pope Francis spoke out in a more conservative tone than he used during his week-long visit to the United States.

Two items that are grabbing headlines from the interview are his support of government officials who refuse to issue marriage licenses to lesbian and gay couples, and his continued support of the magisterium’s ban on ordaining women to the priesthood.

On the first issue, in response to a reporter’s questions, Pope Francis spoke generally, but refused to speak specifically about the situation of Kim Davis, most celebrated case of a clerk who refuses to issue marriage licenses.  From Our Sunday Visitor’s  transcript of the interview:

“Terry Moran, ABC News:
. . . Holy Father, do you also support those individuals, including government officials, who say they cannot in good conscience, their own personal conscience, abide by some laws or discharge their duties as government officials, for example in issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. Do you support those kinds of claims of religious liberty?

“Pope Francis:
I can’t have in mind all cases that can exist about conscience objection. But, yes, I can say the conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right. It is a right. And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right.Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right, a human right. Otherwise we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying ‘this right that has merit, this one does not.’ It (conscientious objection) is a human right.It always moved me when I read, and I read it many times, when I read the ‘Chanson de Roland” when the people were all in line and before them was the baptismal font and they had to choose between the baptismal font or the sword. They had to choose. They weren’t permitted conscientious objection. It is a right and if we want to make peace we have to respect all rights.

“Terry Moran, ABC News:
Would that include government officials as well?

“Pope Francis:
It is a human right and if a government official is a human person, he has that right. It is a human right.”

Though he did not want to comment on a specific case, his broad generalization of the issue, particularly in his last two sentences, makes it seem that he is categorically in support of ALL cases where conscientious objection comes into play.  So, in effect, the pope HAS spoken in support of Kim Davis.

Conscientious objection is a noble principle, unfortunately, it does not apply to the situation of clerks who refuse to issue marriage licenses to couples of whom they disapprove.  Why?  Because clerks are not being forced to issue the licenses.  If they don’t want to do so, they can resign.

Conscientious objection is not the principle that is involved in these cases because the clerks are not being asked to compromise their consciences.  They have the freedom to choose another job.

Military conscientious objectors choose not to participate in military action.  They seek other jobs that are more in line with their values. Clerks whose consciences do not allow them to issue marriage licenses should similarly seek other employment.

I do not believe in the death penalty.  If I were employed at a correction facility which required me to execute a prisoner, I would seek another job.  Clerks with conscience objections should do the same.

If Pope Francis wants to honor conscientious objection, why doesn’t he reinstate Father Roy Bourgeois whose conscience required him to participate in the ordination of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest. If the pope honors conscientious objection, he should honor the consciences of all Catholics who support women’s ordination and provide entrance to the clergy for all women called to ordination.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related articles:

Reuters:  “Govt. workers have right to refuse gay marriage licenses: pope:

National Catholic Reporter:  “Francis again rejects women priests without specific reasoning”


11 replies
  1. Friends
    Friends says:

    Francis, you’re exactly right about conscientious objection — but the Kim Davis issue is a bit of a red herring in this context. That woman wants to continue collecting her cushy (most of us would say “overpaid”) salary of $80,000 a year for performing simple clerical duties — while stubbornly refusing to perform those duties. Hence she is operating from a reprehensible position of personal greed and bad conscience. Bonhoeffer, on the other hand, made the conscientious decision that to participate in the attempted assassination of Hitler was a greater moral good than allowing this madman to continue killing millions of people, merely because of their religion — which, by the way, was also Jesus’ own religion!. Bonhoeffer paid for his conscientious decision with his life. Now THAT choice shows true moral courage and bravery. Kim Davis possesses neither of those two qualities. And on the issue of the ordination of women: I don’t believe the Pope would dare to make such a pronouncement upon his personal authority alone. There would need to be the vote of a Plenary Council of all the world’s bishops to ratify such a drastic change. As much as I admire your posts (and most of your ethical positions), I think you’re “mixing apples and oranges” here, in a somewhat confusing (or perhaps confused) way. Or are you just being provocative for the sake of being provocative?

  2. paulaczech@comcast.net
    paulaczech@comcast.net says:

    I, too, read it as having the right to be a conscientious objector. And, like you, particularly when it comes to the law of the land, if one cannot in good conscience fulfill his/her duties, then that position has to be filled by someone who can. The only “crime” being committed here is that rights are being denied to people of good will by someone with a little authority but not the ultimate authority. If one does not believe in swimming, one should not apply for the position of lifeguard. Paula

  3. Joe Geist
    Joe Geist says:

    I get a little tired of these reporters who ask these very general questions and then quickly apply them to concrete cases after the Pope gives a broad response. The word “conscientious objectors” opens up a huge can of worms. Some of us do remember the Viet Nam War.

  4. Mary
    Mary says:

    I was hoping that the pope would have mentioned the harm and the hurt that the Catholic church has caused so many homosexuals and their families. I am disappointed in the Pope for not directly addressing the rejection of openly gay people in the church. I believe LGBT people and those who support them should be “conscientious objectors” to the church and its teachings. They should find another church which accepts them fully and unconditionally.

  5. Randy Kowalik
    Randy Kowalik says:

    I had not expected to hear Pope Francis speak in favor of LGBT people. Even when he first stated “Who am I to judge?” I believe we have waited to some change to be made. We do have a better response by SOME of the hierarchy, but that’s as far as it goes. As for the religious women he praised to applause in NY, women still cannot be priests. The reason is simply that they are not anatomically correct. I have found Pope Francis to be a very charismatic and caring and loving man, but he has still left much of the Church in the category of outcasts.

  6. Annette Magjuka
    Annette Magjuka says:

    It is a matter of conscience for many Catholics to say NO! to all bullying, firing, labeling, name-calling, isolating and marginalizing of LGBT people. The Holy Spirit has made most Catholics aware that it is a grave sin to discriminate. So, as Catholics of conscience, we must keep speaking up, including our LGBT brothers and sisters, and protesting every discriminatory comment a priest or bishops makes. Firing is the opposite of treating someone with respect. We must demand that the church lives up to its own standards.

  7. Marie Coraluzzi
    Marie Coraluzzi says:

    I thought I liked this new pope but he is too political. He’s worried about global warming in his encyclical. Seems to me a pope should be concerned with God and with his church not politics. He should tell us to love one another as God has loved us. We are all God’s children. We come in all sizes, colors and yes, LGBT too. It would be a much more loving world if that were the mantra of all of us.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Francis made similar remarks about the conscience decisions of government officials on his plane ride home from his U.S. visit […]

  2. […] a choice that the pope and his meeting planners made, and that choice–along with his comments made in the plane ride interview the other day–puts a strong emphasis on where the pope’s administration stands on the […]

  3. […]  Why did he not tell reporters then that he had met with her? After those remarks became public, New Ways Ministry had commented that the pope was incorrect in labeling the refusal to issue marriage licenses as conscientious […]

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