Pope Francis felt “caged” when the pandemic lockdowns began, interrupting what had been slated for him to be, among other things, a banner travel year. “But then,” he said, “I calmed down.” He made the remarks in an interview to Italy’s Mediaset Tg5, which aired Sunday evening.
“I took life as it comes,” Pope Francis said, “praying more, speaking more, using the phone more, taking some meetings to solve problems.”
“No one ever emerges from a crisis unchanged,” Pope Francis said. “One either emerges better, or worse,” he went on to say. “It’s up to us,” to decide which it will be. He recognized the tough times many families had — and continue to have: “A family — with a couple of kids, say — cooped up: it’s not easy,” Francis said, “I get it.”
“That’s why staying in touch is so important — with friends, neighbors — on the phone — closeness,” he said, “helps us carry on in the pandemic crisis — but don’t run off to do the comfortable thing — ‘my’ vacation — this doesn’t help.”
“Think of the ‘We’,” in which we all participate, Pope Francis said. “Put the ‘I’ (the ‘me’) in parentheses for a little while,” he went on to say: “Either ‘we’ get out of this, or else no one does.”
In the interview, Pope Francis addressed a broad range of issues, including the US Capitol riots of last week and the ethics of Covid-19 vaccination.
Pope Francis said he’d booked his vaccination appointment at the Vatican already. “I don’t understand why some say this could be a dangerous vaccine,” Pope Francis said. “If doctors present it to you as something that can be fine and has no special dangers, why not take it?”
Pope Francis also discussed the increasingly diffuse social tendency to judge persons’ worth on the basis of “productivity” and to discard anyone “unproductive” – especially the sick, the elderly, and the unborn – a tendency he identifies as the chief characteristic of the “throwaway” culture.
On abortion, Pope Francis at once broadened the scope of the social debate and narrowed its focus. He said abortion is not primarily a religious issue, but a scientific and moral one.
“The problem of death is not a religious problem: it is a human, a pre-religious problem; it is a problem of human ethics,” he said. “It is a problem that even an atheist must solve in his conscience.”
Pope Francis said there are two questions he asks people who raise the issue of abortion with him: “Do I have the right to do this?” is the first. “Is it right to cancel a human life to solve a problem, any problem?” is the second.
Science has an answer to the first question: “It is a human life,” he said – something that becomes inescapably evident even to the untrained, as early as three or four weeks’ gestation. “All the organs of the new human being are there,” he said, “in the womb of the mother.”
It is an argument with which seasoned pro-life advocates are familiar: Because we know – without a shadow of a doubt – what the gestating organism will look like, we know what it is at any point, starting from conception.
He repeated his now-famous remark: “Is it okay to hire a hitman to solve a problem?”
He tied the treatment of children and the elderly to the “throwaway culture” against which he has often spoken. “Children do not produce and are discarded,” he said. “The elderly do not produce and are discarded,” he also said. “Discard the sick or hasten death when it is terminal.”
“Discard,” he said, “so that it is more comfortable for us and does not bring us so many problems.”
Pope Francis also spoke of the way migrants are discarded.
He distinguished the question of immigration policy from the duty to help those in immediate and dire need. Immigration – the fact of hit, hence the question of right policy – is something that countries “must approach cautiously and wisely.”
Nevertheless, “Letting people drown in order to solve a problem [that might arise] later is wrong.”
“The people who drowned in the Mediterranean because they were not allowed to come weighs heavily on our conscience,” Pope Francis said.