Pope Supports 'Conscientious Objection'

28 September, 2015

Pope Francis says people should have the right to refuse tasks they oppose on moral grounds.

The Pope's comments were thought to support a court worker in the United States. This woman refused to sign marriage licenses for homosexual, or same-sex, couples.

Pope Francis made these comments on a return flight to Rome after a 10-day trip to Cuba and the United States. He said, "I can say that conscientious objection is a right, and it is part of every human right."

A person's conscience is like their moral inner voice, telling them what is right for them and what is wrong. In most cases, conscientious objectors are people who refuse to fight in wars on moral or religious grounds. In this situation, the definition has been expanded to include people who refuse to do certain work based on their moral beliefs.

Kim Davis is at the center of same-sex marriage debate by refusing to sign a marriage license.
Kim Davis is at the center of same-sex marriage debate by refusing to sign a marriage license.

Kim Davis is a court clerk in the central southern state of Kentucky. She was jailed for several days last month after refusing to sign marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Ms. Davis was released after agreeing that she would not block her coworkers from signing same-sex marriage licenses.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June upheld the Constitutional right to marry for all people. The Roman Catholic Church says marriage should be reserved for unions between women and men.

On his flight the pope said, "Conscientious objection must be supported legally. Otherwise, we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying: 'This right has merit, this one does not.' "

The Pope's visit to the U.S. included the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. That gathering is the world's largest Catholic gathering of families.

The Vatican – the government of the Roman Catholic Church -- will continue talking about family issues like marriage next month. The meetings are called the Ordinary Synod on the Family. A synod is a formal meeting of church leaders. The meeting will be held October 4 to 25.

During his visit, the Pope also addressed the issue of child-sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. He met privately with five victims of child-sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, or officials in the church.

According to the New York Times, the pope said, "I felt the need to express compassion because something really terrible happened. What happened was a great tribulation."

He said some bishops, or high officials in the church, had covered up abuse cases. Pope Francis has removed a handful of bishops for their roles in protecting abusive priests, the New York Times reported.

I'm Anna Matteo.

Reporters for VOA News wrote this story. Kathleen Struck adapted this story and edited it for Learning English.


Words in this Story

moral n. concerning or relating to what is right and wrong in human behavior : based on what you think is right and good

conscientious objector n. a person who refuses to serve in the military because of moral or religious beliefs

conscientious adj. very careful about doing what you are supposed to do : concerned with doing something correctly

clerk n. an elected or appointed official whose job is to take care of official papers and business for a court or government

synod n. a formal meeting of church leaders : a group of church leaders who are in charge of making decisions and laws related to the church