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