“Every child who, rather than being born, is condemned unjustly to being aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ, bears the face of the Lord, who even before he was born, and then just after birth, experienced the world's rejection," Pope Francis said.
Pope Francis’ strong statements mark a continuation of the Catholic Church’s clear pronouncements that abortion is a grave evil. Here are some other notable statements made over the decades since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in the United States.
Pope Benedict XVI, Dec. 3, 2005: ‘Intrinsic evil of the crime of abortion’
Among Benedict XVI’s many pro-life statements, one that stands out was a speech he gave to bishops from Latin America on family and life issues in which he said that “children have the right to be born and to be raised in a family founded on marriage.”
“Children truly are the family's greatest treasure and most precious good. Consequently, everyone must be helped to become aware of the intrinsic evil of the crime of abortion. In attacking human life in its very first stages, it is also an aggression against society itself. Politicians and legislators, therefore, as servants of the common good, are duty bound to defend the fundamental right to life, the fruit of God's love,” he said.
St. John Paul II, March 25, 1995: The ‘Culture of Death’
In John Paul II’s groundbreaking encyclical on the Gospel of Life, Evangelium Vitae, the late pope defined the emergence of a “culture of death” and a “war of the powerful against the weak” in which “a life which would require greater acceptance, love and care is considered useless, or held to be an intolerable burden.”
“Disregard for the right to life, precisely because it leads to the killing of the person whom society exists to serve, is what most directly conflicts with the possibility of achieving the common good …. Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize,” John Paul II wrote.
Pope Paul VI, 1974: First papal reaction to Roe v. Wade
The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a declaration on procured abortion, which was ratified and published by Pope Paul VI in 1974.
“Respect for human life is not imposed only on Christians: reason is sufficient to demand it,” the declaration stated.
“From the moment the egg is fertilized, a life is inaugurated that is not that of the father or mother, but of a new human being that develops on its own,” it said.
Second Vatican Council, Dec. 2, 1965: Abortion an ‘unspeakable’ crime
Eight years before the Roe v. Wade decision, the Second Vatican Council’s pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world, Guadium et spes, described abortion and infanticide as “unspeakable crimes.”
“For God, the Lord of life, has conferred on men the surpassing ministry of safeguarding life in a manner which is worthy of man,” it said.