It’s certainly one way to frame the utilitarian argument. The biggest question that arises from Pope Francis’ metaphor is which of his opponents will be the most offended — abortionists, or Mafiosi?
For that matter, which might be the deadlier?
Pope Francis compared abortion to a mafia-style killing Wednesday, saying it’s the equivalent of hiring a hit man to “take out a human life to solve a problem.”
Francis made the comments, among his strongest yet against abortion, during his weekly Wednesday audience dedicated to the commandment exhorting the faithful not to kill.
Francis said some people justify abortion as respecting other rights. But, he asked, “How can an act that suppresses innocent and defenseless life as it blossoms be therapeutic, civil or simply human?”
He asked if it was fair “to take out a human life” to solve a problem: “Is it fair to hire a hit man to solve a problem? It is not fair. We cannot take out a human being, even if it is small.”
The question about offense isn’t entirely facetious, either. Pope Francis has made challenging Mafiosi a significant mission in his pontificate, with all of the risks that entails. Four years ago, the pope emphasized his battle against organized crime by publicly excommunicating anyone belonging to the organization, the first time any pope had done so. Francis even specified the ‘Ndrangheta in his exhortation, calling them an example of “the adoration of evil and contempt for the common good.”
That history makes the pope’s condemnation of abortion even more damning. Francis is essentially equating the abortion industry to organized crime — and if one believes that human life begins at conception, that’s not an altogether hyperbolic comparison. In the US alone, over 300,000 children get aborted every year, and an estimated 60 million abortions have taken place since Roe v Wade. Abortion may no longer be a crime, but no one can claim that it’s not organized. It’s become an industrial process.
The Associated Press notes that Francis has been sharpening his rhetoric against abortion of late:
In June, Francis denounced how some couples resort to pre-natal testing to see if their unborn babies have malformations and then choose to have an abortion, which he said was the “white glove” equivalent of the Nazi-era eugenics program.
Francis has framed both abortion and euthanasia as part of what he calls today’s “throwaway culture,” where the sick, the poor, the elderly and the unborn are considered unworthy of protection and dignity by a society that prizes instead individual prowess and success.
Official church teaching opposing abortion is absolute, providing for no exceptions. That said, Francis has acknowledged that women sometimes are driven by circumstance to abortion and he has extended the ability of ordinary priests — and not just bishops — to absolve them of the sin of abortion if they repent.
Francis’ comments came during a three-week meeting of bishops from around the world on young people, where sexuality, including premarital sex, is among the topics of discussion.
There does seem to be a shift in emphasis lately on this issue. Early in his pontificate, Francis made it clear that he wanted to move away from the traditional culture-war issues to emphasize outreach and inclusion. The 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family may have been a high-water mark on that strategy, and it’s still obviously part of Francis’ mission. However, it’s also clear from the vote in Ireland that engagement on other social issues didn’t do anything to prevent the spread of legalized abortion in Christendom, which may account for Francis’ tougher approach now.