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Catholics claim presidential office misinterpreted pope’s words on abortion

South Korea’s Catholic Church refuted the presidential office on Tuesday, saying it has misinterpreted Pope Francis’ words and strategically used it to back its stance on abortion.

A Life Committee under Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea claimed that the pope had never spoken about the need to “find a new balance” on the issue of abortion, as suggested by Cheong Wa Dae’s statement released Sunday. 

Pope Francis (Yonhap)
Pope Francis (Yonhap)

It released a Korean translation of the pope’s interview with an Italian Catholic magazine, “La Civilta Cattolica,” released in September 2013, in which the phrase “finding a new balance” appears.

In a written response to an online petition for the legalization of abortion, senior presidential secretary for civil affairs Cho Kuk talked about the need for a public discussion on the idea of abortion in the society, and cited the pope on the issue.

“Pope Francis has said ‘we need to find a new balance point’ on the issue of abortion, and I wish our society also finds a new equilibrium, starting from the petition,” the official statement from the presidential aide read.

Cho also explained that the government will resume surveys to check status quo and start a public discussion on the idea.

While claiming that Cho had used the words to suggest that the religious chief is supporting abortion, the Catholic group said the pope’s words of “balance” did not refer to a flexible attitude towards abortion.

“The pope is not talking about changing our doctrine to allow abortion, and it is still viewed as a sin,” a cleric from the committee who refused to reveal his name told The Korea Herald.

“The term ‘balance’ here refers to how we, believers, should treat those with sin, and those who went through abortion. Instead of talking about their misdeeds and criticizing them the Pope sought for us to understand their situations first,” he said.

In the 2013 interview, Pope Francis said “We must therefore find a new balance” in Italian, as he explained about their strict doctrines on the topic. He said, “We cannot insist on issues related to abortion, homosexual marriage and the use of contraceptive methods.”

The Korean Catholic Church had earlier posted a petition titled, “We oppose lifting the ban on abortion,” on the website of the presidential office, directly fronting the petition to decriminalize abortion, as it has gathered over 230,000 supporters.

According to South Korean law, abortion is illegal except when the mother faces a serious health risk or in cases of rape, incest or hereditary disorders.

By Jo He-rim (
Korea Herald daum