A lengthy interview with Pope Francis published recently by several Jesuit publications, including America magazine in the United States, has sparked a flood of news reports as well as in-depth commentary from Catholic analysts.
Vatican analyst John Allen, Jr., said the pope’s recent comments are “not breaking with traditional doctrine but trying to shift the church’s emphasis from condemnation to mercy.”
He noted that when the pope was asked if he “approves” of homosexuality, he responded with another question: “Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?”
This focus on the person is key to understanding what the Holy Father is doing, Allen suggested. “In saying these things, Francis argues, he’s doing no more than rephrasing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which denounces homosexual acts but says homosexual persons are to be treated with ‘respect, compassion and sensitivity.’”
“In general, Francis seems to suggest he wants the church to come off as less judgmental and more pastoral, though without becoming morally ‘lax,’” he explained.
Fullness of Gospel
The interview with Pope Francis was conducted by the Jesuit-run Italian newspaper La Civiltà Cattolica and translated into English by America.
In the article, released Sept. 19, the Holy Father explained that “the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives,” highlighting the need to proclaim moral truths in the full context of the Church’s Gospel message rather than as isolated requirements to be imposed.
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible,” he said, explaining that this would not be the fullness of the Gospel, but a “disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”
While clarifying that he is a “son of the Church” and agrees with its teaching on these topics, he added that “when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context.”
“The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow,” he explained. Otherwise, the moral teachings of the Church will lose “the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”
Noted Catholic author and scholar George Weigel said that those who were shocked by the content of the papal interview “haven’t been paying sufficient attention.”
Writing for National Review online, he explained that long before his election to the papacy, Francis emphasized the Church’s fundamental role of evangelization.
Now, he said, the Holy Father is “redirecting the Church’s attention” to Christ and the proclamation of the Gospel.
“The 21st-century proclamation of Christ must take place in a deeply wounded and not infrequently hostile world,” Weigel observed.
“The moral law is important, and there should be no doubt that Francis believes and professes all that the Catholic Church believes and professes to be true about the moral life, the life that leads to happiness and beatitude,” he said.
“But he also understands that men and women are far more likely to embrace those moral truths — about the inalienable right to life from conception until natural death; about human sexuality and how it should be lived — when they have first embraced Jesus Christ as Lord.”
Broad range of topics
Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor-at-large of National Review Online and director of Catholic Voices USA, suggested that the pope’s call to “heal wounds” in the world is about opening doors and the renewal to which the Church is constantly called.
Writing pieces for both Fox News and National Review Online, she noted that while many media reports focused on the few paragraphs dealing with abortion and homosexuality, the lengthy interview covered a broad range of topics, including the importance of discernment, the pope’s vocation and need for community, and his own sinfulness.
Lopez said the pope’s words on homosexuality and abortion must be read in the context of his entire interview, as well as his actions. She pointed to the numerous instances in which the Holy Father has made headlines by making unexpected phone calls to individuals throughout the world — a single mother, a man struggling with the murder of his brother, a rape victim.
The pope’s message on homosexuality was “very consistent and most urgently needed,” Lopez said. “Christianity is about telling the truth and always with love and mercy and justice.
“Whatever your politics, be careful what you read into this. He’s talking to you. He’s talking to me. He’s reminding himself.”
Read the full interview with Pope Francis at americamagazine.org.
Category: U.S. & World News