The letter, an apostolic exhortation, is entitled Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel). In a section called “Concern for the Vulnerable,” the Pope talks about several ways in which the sanctity of human life is violated in the world, such as through human trafficking, prostitution, children used for begging and the exploitation of “undocumented labor.” Then Pope Francis talks about “unborn children.”
“Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this. Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the Church’s effort to defend their lives, attempts are made to present her position as ideological, obscurantist and conservative.”
“Yet this defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right,” says the Pope. “It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems.”
“Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question,” says the Pope.
The Pope then went on to state that the Church needs to do more to help women “in very difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution to their profound anguish, especially when the life developing within them is the result of rape or a situation of extreme poverty. Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?”
As for female priests, the Pope, in a section on Other Ecclesial Challenges, wrote: “The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion, but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general.”
Pope Francis also emphasized that women make tremendous contributions to the Church in myriad ways and added that the “legitimate rights of women be respected, based on the firm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity ….”