Before concluding his first visit to the United States, Pope Francis voiced support on Monday for people who decline to solemnize or otherwise facilitate same-sex marriages.

According to NBC News, Pope Francis was asked, “Do you … support those individuals, including government officials, who say they cannot in good conscience, their own personal conscience, abide by some laws or discharge their duties as government officials, for example when issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples?”

According to NBC, the pontiff responded, saying:

“I can say that conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right. It is a right. . . . Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right, a human right. Otherwise we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying, ‘this right that has merit, this one does not.’ . . . It is a human right and if a government official is a human person, he has that right. It is a human right.”

Given the Catholic Church’s longstanding history fighting for rights of conscience on issues ranging from military service to abortion, Pope Francis’ remarks really come as no surprise. Bishop Anthony Taylor of the Catholic Diocese of Little Rock summed it up very well a few years ago, when he told a crowd gathered outside the Capitol Building, “Government must not require what conscience forbids or forbid what conscience requires.”

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Bruno from New York City, United States [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.