In his annual foreign policy address, Pope Francis condemned surrogacy, an act where a woman carries and births a baby for another person. Whilst this is a restricted practise globally with some countries such as Spain and Italy banning it entirely, it is not a foreign policy issue and contradicts a lot of what the Pope and the Vatican have previously supported. This statement has also allowed for the questioning of what role do religious leaders have in global politics or if they should even have a say at all?
‘I deem deplorable the practice of so-called surrogate motherhood, which represents a grave violation of the dignity of the women and the child, based on the exploitation of situations of the mother’s material needs.’
As clearly stated above, the Pope is opposed to surrogacy and the commercialisation of giving birth to a child. Indeed, this does have some religious standing, however the issues arise when looking at the context of this speech. Being a foreign policy address, the speech given by the Pope included his list of threats to global peace which also included the wars that are occurring in Ukraine and Gaza as well as the issues of mass migration and climate change. Put simply, surrogacy has no influence over peace and should not be compared to creating the same damage as wars. This is an over exaggeration of the issue of surrogacy and has the effect of lessening and invalidating the other issues stated that are actively impacting global peace. Regardless of one’s opinion of the role that religion should have in politics; this statement oversteps a boundary. The Pope is more than allowed to condemn the wars that are happening right now and is also allowed to ask for people to peruse peace however, should he have the power to give a speech dedicated to his opinions towards foreign policy? Ultimately, Pope Francis is a religious leader and not a political one and therefore addressing foreign policy issues, as he has, blurs the line separating religion and politics. The delivery of dogmatic beliefs on such a global scale has a negative impact; the Pope has undoubtedly a lot of influence in the court of public opinion and by discussing surrogacy as an issue as grave as climate change, he can create a lot more hate towards this practice.
Another issue with this speech is how it contradicts previous sentiments of the catholic church. In December 2023, Pope Francis formally approved the blessing of same-sex couples without ‘an exhaustive moral analysis.’ The Catholic Church still does not approve of same-sex marriage, but this blessing is a step towards acceptance. Moreover, the Vatican’s doctrinal office have stated in the past that children born from surrogacy for same-sex couples could be baptised into the Church. How can some children born from a surrogate be blessed and capable of being baptised when the practice is deemed as preventing peace? The opposing opinions within the Catholic Church has opened it up to criticism, notably from the LGBTQ+ community, who rely on surrogacy to create their families.
The paradox of surrogacy that Pope Francis has created demonstrates a lack of communication within the Vatican. The speech given highlights the need for people of power to really think about what they use their platform for. Pope Francis has no need to get directly involved in foreign policy and certainly should not be the only prominent voice in declaring what issues impact world peace.
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