Pope Francis has said abortion is no longer necessary in the case of newborn infant suffering, saying the Church must stop “playing the martyr” card to deflect criticism over the Catholic Church’s handling of the crisis.
“There are cases when the death of a child should not be a reason for the Church to intervene.
And that’s not a reason to change its doctrine,” Francis told reporters in Vatican City on Tuesday.”
But I think in the cases where there are circumstances, in which it is necessary, to intervene, I think it’s not for a moment, but it is something we must stop.”
Francis’s comments come as Catholic leaders continue to back an anti-abortion resolution that will go before the Vatican’s highest court on Wednesday.
The resolution, which was endorsed by more than a third of the bishops of the world’s 2.2 billion Catholics, would allow women to terminate pregnancies if they are deemed to be in danger of suffering irreversible harm from the pregnancy.
The resolution is expected to pass the bishops’ Senate committee on the family and family life, which is expected on Wednesday, though the Senate has yet to approve the resolution.
The Church, which has repeatedly denied the necessity of abortion, has also repeatedly backed anti-choice measures at the U.N. in response to a spike in abortion deaths.
It has also blocked efforts to pass new global standards for contraception and abortion rights, despite international calls for change.
Francis was asked if the pope’s view on abortion had changed since he took office.
“The answer is yes, and it has,” he said.
“I mean, there are cases, in the Catholic tradition, when the life of a human being has been endangered, there is an emergency and the Church is called on to intervene.”
In the 1970s, the Pope said abortion was necessary in certain circumstances, but he never specifically endorsed abortion.
When asked about Francis’s new position, Bishop Peter Berg of the Diocese of Buenos Aires said, “We have no intention of changing our position.”
“We don’t think it is morally good to terminate the life or to cause the death,” he added.
The Argentine pope also rejected calls from U.S. conservatives to re-litigate the Vatican-accused former priest Benedict XVI over the Vatican sex abuse scandal.
Francis said he believes Benedict, who has been under house arrest since his departure in 2013, is “doing a great job” in the church.
He said, however, that “there are other problems with Benedict, which are far greater than the sex abuse scandals.”
The Vatican has already said it will not reopen its doors to anyone convicted of sexual abuse and that the Holy See will “review” whether to reopen the Roman Curia to those accused of child abuse.
The church has also said it would allow the Holy Father to live in a palace in Rome for the rest of his life if he so chooses.