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Do You Really Believe Pope Francis Said The Church Needs To Stop Talking About Abortion and Gay Marriage?

Pope Francis has given an extended interview which was published simultaneously today by several Jesuit magazines around the world, with America providing the English version.

The interview is good and very much worth reading, and of course the noise machine (ranging from the New York Times to left wing, dissenting Catholics) has kicked into full gear, radically distorting the pope’s message to claim:

Pope Francis sent shock waves through the Roman Catholic church on Thursday with the publication of his remarks that the church had grown “obsessed” with abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and that he had chosen not to talk about those issues despite recriminations from critics.

Perhaps because the interview itself is long and wide ranging, a disturbing number of people, even ones who should know better, have taken the reporting of the NY Times and other biased sources at face value, and this is too bad because not only is the message these sources are giving untrue, but it obscures a very, very important point about the faith that Pope Francis actually is making.

The interviewer asks the pope, “What does the church need most at this historic moment? Do we need reforms? What are your wishes for the church in the coming years? What kind of church do you dream of?” He replies:

I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…. And you have to start from the ground up.

The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person. The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, ‘This is not a sin’ or something like that. In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds. [emphasis added]

Note the order here. The first and most important message of the Church is to preach Christ as savior. If people do not believe in God and in their need for Christ’s grace, they will not listen to Christ’s moral message either. Then, the Church as the dispenser of God’s grace must extent his mercy, pursing neither a discouraging legalism nor a soft-headed compassion which pretends that sin does not exist. The confessor who pretends that a sin is not a sin is not doing the sinner any favors. He duty is to compassionately help heal spiritual wounds, not pretend that they do not exist. Pope Francis emphasizes the missionary duty of the Church:

Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent.

This leads into the section which has caused so much controversy. The interviewer prompts him, “I mention to Pope Francis that there are Christians who live in situations that are irregular for the church or in complex situations that represent open wounds. I mention the divorced and remarried, same-sex couples and other difficult situations. What kind of pastoral work can we do in these cases? What kinds of tools can we use?” and Pope Francis responds:

… A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied 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?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.

This is also the great benefit of confession as a sacrament: evaluating case by case and discerning what is the best thing to do for a person who seeks God and grace. The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better. I also consider the situation of a woman with a failed marriage in her past and who also had an abortion. Then this woman remarries, and she is now happy and has five children. That abortion in her past weighs heavily on her conscience and she sincerely regrets it. She would like to move forward in her Christian life. What is the confessor to do?

We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.

I say this also thinking about the preaching and content of our preaching. A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation. There is nothing more solid, deep and sure than this proclamation. Then you have to do catechesis. Then you can draw even a moral consequence. But the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives. Today sometimes it seems that the opposite order is prevailing. [emphasis added]

The order of priority is essential here. People come to believe in God and want to do His will, and from that love of God they desire to do His will. Rare is the person who will go from opposing abortion or opposing gay marriage to believing in God. Yes, these moral laws are accessible to reason, but the desire to “be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect” comes from love of God, not the other way round. In virtually every conversion story I have heard, the convert first came to believe in God and in the Church as the channel of God’s graces, and then, from that point, came to accept the Church’s teachings on the moral issues which are so controversial in today’s world. I’m sure there are examples of the contrary, but they are not the norm.

The word “obsessed” (especially after we’ve heard it thrown around a dozen too many times by triumphant opponents of Church teaching) goes down like a piece of broken glass, but if we pause to think about what Pope Francis is saying, he is clearly right. The Church’s ministry cannot be reduced to “a disjointed multitude of [moral] doctrines to be imposed insistently”. It doesn’t matter whether that multitude of doctrines relates to “right wing” issue such as abortion, contraception and gay marriage or “left wing” issues such as justice, poverty and protecting women: If the Church’s message is not rooted in the proclamation of salvation, then the edifice of all those moral issues will crumble like a house of cards. Without Christ, “I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.”

I often hear the complaint that we seldom hear a sermon mention that fornication is wrong, that divorce and remarriage is wrong, that contraception is wrong, etc. This is true, and that silence hurts the faithful. And yet at the same time, how often do we actually hear, from the pulpit, that we need the graces earned by Christ’s suffering and death, channeled to us through the sacraments, in order for us to be one with God forever in heaven? How often do we hear that we need to be saved, and that only by completely giving ourselves to Christ can we be saved?

Not very often. Yes, we hear a lot about how God loves us, but it often sounds as if this is simply because we are in and of ourselves so lovable. We’re great, says modernity, and we can only hope that God is enlightened enough to realize it. Francis’s message since the first day of his papacy has been, by modern standards, radical: Without Christ we are nothing. The Church’s primary mission is to proclaim Christ to a world which no longer believes, because until people embrace Christ, until they recognize that they are sinners in need of treatment in the field hospital which is the Church, they will not be able to listen to all these other teachings with make up the moral edifice which those of us already in the Church spend so much time worrying about.

So: Did Pope Francis say that the Church needs to stop talking about abortion and gay marriage? Of course not. And honestly, more fool anyone who thought he did. However, he did, rightly, emphasize that we will get no where telling people about abortion and gay marriage if we do not preach Christ to them first. And in that, he’s right.

In closing, it’s worth noting that everything I’ve written about here, and virtually all the quotes you’ve seen from the interview, come from one section out of twenty. Elsewhere in the wide ranging interview you’ll read about everything from what Francis has learned about leadership in the temporal church to why he chose the Jesuit order to his favorite painters and books. I think the section being quoted so much is, perhaps, the most important, because it emphasizes the way in which the central doctrine of Christianity relates to the moral doctrines about which we talk so much, but the whole thing really is worth reading, and I hope that people will read the whole thing and not just the biased summaries of it.

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DarwinCatholic

Now an Ohio Catholic!

57 Comments

  1. I just am floored that the Pope thinks our Pastors concentrate too much on these issues because quite frankly I have yet to hear an anti-gay marriage homily and abortion is barely discussed and forget about contraception—that too is barely mentioned or approached as a subject. The Church is dying because its role as a moral compass has been derailed. Our Pastors are embarrased to tell us the truth amd afraid of reprisals from liberals sitting in the pews waiting to pounce on them.
    As a conservative Catholic I would tell the Holy Father that I often feel unloved and rejected in my Church! When I think of last election, for example, the one person the Pastor really pounced on was a humble woman carrying a “Vote Prolife” sign at the end of the Church parking lot entrance.
    However you spin it, what the Pope said in his interview is enough to give our Pastors a more comfortable sense that they are on the right track and they will simply continue to be silent on all these issues which are hardly ‘small’ and insiginificant. The order Christ gave His Apostles was to preach repentence, but if sin is not recognized how does anyone get to that?
    Preach mercy and forgiveness after repentance, but when the Church loses its voice as a moral compass and guide than it has lost its’ mission to diagnose and say what is sin. We wouldn’t be in the mess we are in today if our Pastors had been doing their job and giving true moral guidance all along.
    I suggest everyone read the article in the Catholic Encyclopedia which discusses the rights of the laity in the Church to be given clear guidance from their Pastors. Somehow I feel the Pope is out of touch with what really goes on in our Parishes. Right now it is the conservative, orthodox Catholic who is feeling truly alienated.

  2. Pope Francis’s approach reminds me of something the Oratorian Lucien Laberthonnière said in his famous dispute, just over a century ago, in his debate with the Jesuit, Pedro Descoqs. Descoques, still reeling from the 1905 Law of Separation, believed that the victory of Charles Maurras’s L’Action française would mean “the triumph of the Church in society.”

    “The triumph of the Church in society? That would be excellent. But then, it is necessary to examine by what means our religion permits us to pursue it. Moreover, it has not been promised us. And then, it is not, perhaps, the most pressing of our tasks.

    The Church is like Christ. To go to souls, she is, in her own essence, a soul of truth and kindness. And, if He needs a body to act in the world, it is by His soul and for His soul that His body subsists. And, if we wish His body to be beautiful and vigorous, if we wish it to be radiant, let us labour to enrich her soul with the faith and love of our souls.

    Her power does not consist in giving orders, to which external obedience is required, backed up by threats or favours. Her power is to raise souls to the life above. It is to give birth to and to cultivate in consciences the supernaturalising obligation to live for God and for others, through Christ, and to pass through temporal defeats to a triumph that is timeless.

    Do not indulge in childish dreams, when you have in your grasp eternal realities that invite you. Understand, all you who would triumph and reign on earth – Et nunc, reges, intellegite”.

    These last words would have been familiar to a French audience – the text of the sermon delivered by Bossuet over the tomb of the widow of King Charles I of England, which every French school child reads.

  3. Thank you DarwinCatholic for shining a light on this for me- Yesterday I hadn’t had time to go to any original sources and was a bit worried by what I heard on the secular news. I did note that it was filtered to us through “America”
    I know God is good and has provided us a good shepherd. and thank you Michael P-S for this ; “Et nunc, reges, intellegite”. it seems the “and NOW” part jumps out at me. The time is Right Now to apply our faith and our reason-

  4. He has been chosen as our pontiff so that we might hear what we are supposed to hear. There are those that will try and distort the message, just as they did with every other pope before him. Just as they do of Christ.

    I especially like his emphasis on confession which is so neglected a gift among most Catholics. (Partially because of so many bad or should I say misguided confessors.) And I agree that conversion, the acceptance of Christ must come first for the rest to follow. Much like Newman said about knowing when to point things out and admonish. Sometimes parents wisely accept the repentance and give the penance at a later time.

    With that said, it seems to me the obsession with the Church’s teaching on abortion, homosexuality, divorce and etc. does not come from the believers but rather from those who reject the truths. “Oh the Church is against homosexuals, or abortion or contraception” is more likely to instigate any conversation. I rarely hear believers actually bring it up outside of particular interests groups that champion their cause. As you pointed out, I have not heard a good discussion, catechesis or homily on any of these subjects in years within church walls in many years. Because of this omission there is a huge gap between the multitude who know what we teach and the few who know why we teach it. And for the most part, it does not happen in our Catholic schools where we are to presume they have accepted Christ. Ah, but that is a big presumption….

  5. I think I see where the Pope is coming from. Without a personal encounter with Christ, the rest ultimately will rest on sandy ground. Christ is the only sure rock of salvation. This salvation ultimately is not earthy but heavenly. Then, with this encounter, we will live that life Christ has called us to. That of improving this earthly life with our eye always on our eternal life. That will include stopping abortion etc. I think JPII and Benedict XVI have said the like but in less blunt words.

    Before those on the left seek to abuse the words of the Pope, they should try this exercise. Instead of citing abortion etc., they should insert “social justice” or “serving the poor.” For example, one can say “A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation. Only then we can talk about justice and the poor.”

    If those on the left do this -focus on the person of Christ and his ultimate message of eternal salvation – they then can provide their exgesis of the Pope’s words.

  6. I agree 100% with Mary Zore’s comment, above.

    Increasingly, I feel that I am being told by the Church to sit down, shut up, and let others do what needs to be done. I should just write bigger checks.

    So I’ve stopped my blogging and my political activism, and I’m focused on making money, so I can write bigger checks.

    I don’t want to take the Holy Father out of context — not just the full context of his remarks on this occasion, but also the context of the past several years, in which bishops are reacting with evident fear to the TLM, pastors remain silent in the pulpits about the march of the gay “marriage” movement, and the thousands who die of abortion each year, both supported in the U.S. by a President who won the majority of the Catholic vote, and by a host of political leaders who themselves claim to be Catholic.

    I am scandalized; my faith continues to be undermined. More and more I feel that, in words of my favorite movie, “Rosenkrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead,” “We only know what we’re told. And for all we know, it isn’t even true.”

    I hear so many conflicting messages from the Church, I no longer know what I can really believe.

  7. Phillip is right. That is why Pascal says, “without Scripture, which has only Jesus Christ for its object, we know nothing and see only obscurity and confusion in God’s nature and ours.” Again, he says, “Not only do we know God by Jesus Christ alone, but we know ourselves only by Jesus Christ. We know life and death only through Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus Christ, we do not know what is our life, nor our death, nor God, nor ourselves.”

    In Acts 17:18, some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers thought St Paul was “a proclaimer of strange deities,”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. They seem to have thought that ἀνάστασις [anastasis = resurrection] was the name of a deity. How often do preachers speak today about Jesus and resurrection? They should remember they hold a prophetic office, not a chair of moral philosophy.

  8. I have read the whole thing.

    Small point of dissent, from a woman’s point of view.

    The Church teaching on abortion has been an opening through which I grasp salvation.

    The inductive path looks approximately like,

    don’t kill your baby” = “and nobody should kill you, either” = “we are all children of God

    Then again, I’m not a mystic, and the pope clearly prefers the mystic to the instructional-ascetic.

    So I was disappointed to read that he grouped abortion with the issue of sexual orientation. My point would be, let’s get everyone born, first. Then talk about the other rules.

  9. Thank you, Darwin Catholic, for your explanation. I get the message. I was on a road trip last night and my company was talk radio that only commented on the story in the NY Times. As soon as Mass and rosary this morning were finished I looked up the American Catholic for a true explanation and I was not disappointed. I shall endeavor to read the whole interview. It is sad that the issues you mentioned have been typed with political descriptions of “right wing” and “left wing”. Because of the latter misused by nominal Catholic professors and columnists, many Catholics voted for the most pro-abortion candidate ever, Barack Obama. The flawed rationale that by eliminating poverty and social injustices abortion would be rare was the excuse. I fear that the ill informed will be fooled by the NY Times and the like. I hope and pray that our bishops will write a letter or instruct our priests to correct the misinterpretations from the Sunday Mass pulpit.
    I take issue with Mary Zore that the Church is dying. It is not. In liberal dioceses it certainly is weakened. I am blessed to reside in a traditional diocese with many new parishes and many vocations. Now I must go and look up Bossuet and the text of the Pope’s interview.

  10. I also agree with Mary Zore. It’s true that the press twists the words of popes, but Pope Francis’ actions and words make it especially easy. I’m in sync with his overall message, but I don’t think he communicates or clarifies well. He needs to shore up the “teacher” aspect of his position.

    “The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

    Homilies never talk about these issue except abortion. Even then, they very lightly touch on why abortion is evil, no diving into the moral reasons why. “Abortion is wrong because it’s wrong to kill the unborn.” That’s about it.

    If you think the Church is still a powerful force for good in America, I give you exhibit A & B: the election of an infanticide supporting president not once, but twice!

    I know. I know Pope Francis. We need to preach “Jesus saves!” more. Salvation homilies are the easiest. Better steer clear of those touchier subjects which challenge us and society. Keep it to John 3:16, the football gospel, and we’re good. :-\

  11. Give em an inch they take a mile! So do any of us not understand, “love the sinner, hate the sin?” Good God Almighty, You would think we were all a bunch of complete blithering idiots. Right is wrong and wrong is right. And double speak does not help give any clear direction. I was going to Adoration but that is so out of touch with the real world I think I will head out into the streets and try to give some good example finally!

  12. FWIW, Pope Francis said today, in a talk to a group of gynecologists:

    “Every unborn child, condemned unjustly to be aborted, has the face of the Lord….Although by their nature they are at the service of life, health professions are sometimes induced to disregard life itself….If you lose the personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of a new life, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away. The acceptance of life strengthens moral fiber and makes people capable of mutual help.”

    http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-calls-on-medical-professionals-to-spread-the-gospel-of-life

  13. “It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol.”

    Although Darwin has offered a well-written defense of Pope Francis’ remarks, I wonder if the “high cholesterol” reference was meant to trivialize and equate the mortal sins of abortion and gay marriage with high cholesterol, given that Pope Francis thinks the church obsesses on these mortal wounds. I am confused by these remarks and very wary of this pope.

  14. Although Darwin has offered a well-written defense of Pope Francis’ remarks, I wonder if the “high cholesterol” reference was meant to trivialize and equate the mortal sins of abortion and gay marriage with high cholesterol, given that Pope Francis thinks the church obsesses on these mortal wounds.

    I don’t think that the pope is trivializing issues like abortion, but pointing out the basic issue that no one is going to obey a God that he doesn’t even believe in. No one is going to refrain from one sin if he doesn’t even believe that sin exists.

    In that sense, important though issues like gay marriage and abortion are, in an increasingly post-Christian world we need to bring people to accept Christ first — because only then will they understand that you cannot believe in Christ and yet murder the unborn or support sodomy.

  15. I’m even more confused. One day, he says we mustn’t obsess over these issues, the next he makes a powerful (though of course much less-widely-reported) speech about one of them.

    And Darwin, I cannot believe you intend what I’m understanding you to say above: that the Church cannot teach morality except to Christians, and so we must first convert Christians, and then teach them morality. You appear to be saying that the Church has nothing to say to the secular world in the public square. That would be completely at odds with everything I’ve read by you, so perhaps you could restate yourself for me?

    It reminds me of this exchange from Shakespeare:

    DOGBERRY: This is your charge: you shall comprehend all vagrom men; you are to bid any man stand, in the prince’s name.

    Second Watchman: How if a’ will not stand?

    DOGBERRY: Why, then, take no note of him, but let him go; and presently call the rest of the watch together and thank God you are rid of a knave.

    VERGES: If he will not stand when he is bidden, he is none of the prince’s subjects.

    DOGBERRY: True, and they are to meddle with none but the prince’s subjects.

  16. I’m mostly astonished by the way some Catholic responders have “buried the lead” about this interview.

    First, let’s note that whenever a commentator says, “This is what the pope REALLY meant . . .” we are about to hear some “spin.” We seem to be reading such spin on a weekly basis now. Is this going to go on for decades? Are people going to continue to re-interpret his words to fit their notions of what he said, on a weekly basis, for years and years? Or is there going to be a tipping point after which people start to say: “No more re-interpretation. Just take the Holy Father at his word.”

    Second, so many Catholic commentators like to minimize the Pope’s words by claiming that he is hopelessly naive about Vatican procedures, and that he doesn’t understand how self-serving the vicious media can be, and that he doesn’t cautiously fall back on his “handlers.” This interview puts that nonsense to rest.

    The Holy Father knows exactly what he is doing, exactly what he is saying, exactly how it’s being read, and exactly the effect it is having. And his statements in this interview show that he understands all those things profoundly.

    In addition to his determination that too many of the faithful “obsess” over “small-minded rules” about abortion, homosexuality and contraceptives, and that he choosed to de-enphasizes those issues in his teaching role because he sees that we need to find “a new balance” and that such obsessing will cause the moral authority of the Church to fall like “a house of cards,” the real news of his interview is this:

    The pope acknowledged that he knows the kind of press he is getting. He acknowledged that even members of the Curia and the College of Bishops are alarmed about the lack of attention he gives to these issues (abortion, homosexuality and contraception — and by extension: divorce, and remarriage without losing the ability to receive sacraments), and that they “reprimand” him for it, and urge him to address these issues. But he won’t. And it is fine with him. He hears the controversy, he acknowledges it, and he understands it. But it doesn’t change how he sees his teaching role. He said that he knows that many conservative Catholics try to spin his statements differently than he means them. He said that many conservatives try to parse his words, and strive to look back to the more hardline authoritative, conservative teaching and governing approach he displayed as the head of the Jesuit order in Argentina. But he cautions those spin-doctors: he said that when he was appointed the head of the Argentine Jesuits, he was young (36 years old), inexperienced, and out of his element, and that he made authoritarian, conservative decisions because the conversative line was the path of least resistance. But, he assures us: he has found his governing and teaching bearings now, and he knows what he says and doesn’t say, and the effect it has. And he assures us, contrary to what conservatives wish, “I have never been a right-winger.” The liberal things he says are exactly what he means.

    Nevertheless, some people seem to be striving to minimize his words and his intentions. I think in doing so, they fail to comprehend the largest effect of his papacy. Within 6 to 8 years, he will, as all popes do, appoint, elevate and install a generation of bishops and cardinals who share and practice his governing and teaching vision, and will forever change the governmental and teaching force and focus of the Church.

    As to the proper context of these social issues relating to human sexuality, he makes the Church’s teachings very clear: Ours is a Church of relationships more than rules. Our goodwill is exercised by how we foster these relationships, not by how we strive to enforce rules.

    There are two relationships in the world that we must foster: our relationship to God (and thus to ourselves) and our relationship to others in the way that Christ modeled for us. As we approach any circumstance in which moral teachings are at play, we must as people of God be primarily motivated by mercy, and view the circumstances in the context of relationships more than rules. Christ’s display in the story of the adulterous woman is the perfect example of operating for the good of relationships first and rules second. Look what Christ did:

    First, in terms of the crowd’s relationship to the adulterous woman (reflecting our relationship to others) what did he say? We are all sinners. Sinners must be merciful above all else. Forgiveness is so paramount to our love of God and its corresponding salvation, that we should not even start to contemplate another’s sinfulness before we start forgiving. Forgive, forgive, forgive. Judging sinfulness doesn’t even enter the picture. Forgiveness so completely trumps judgment that we shouldn’t even see the sin before we start forgiving it. Put your stones down and go home.

    Second, Christ approaches the woman, and teaches us about our relationship to God and to ourselves. “Where are your accusers? Is there anyone here to condemn you?” “No.” “Then neither do I condemn you. Go in peace, and sin no more.” The message: We all sin. The graveness of the sin is no one’s concern but God’s. God loves. People of goodwill, in proper relation to God, do not accuse, do not judge, and do not withhold forgiveness. Live your life, he tells her, without condemnation and without feeling accused. And sin no more, a course of conduct made exponentially easier when we bask in a world of mercy, love and forgiveness, not judgment and condemnation.

    Relations to God, and to each other in a God-like manner. These are what’s important. If we foster such a world of forgiveness, love and acceptance, if we evangelize God’s mercy, love and forgiveness, the rules will take care of themselves.

    Pope Francis’s wisdom is this: Do you want to reduce the horror of abortion? Don’t do it by obsessing about the rules and the sinfulness of others (woman who abort, doctors who perform them, citizens who fight for its legality). Do it by displaying God’s love and forgiveness. Inspire others through your saintly example of love and forgiveness. Show that Christ’s example is so foremost in your heart and that your goodwill for others is so great and pervasive, that judgmentalness and condemnation never even enter your mind or find voice in your mouth.

    Put the stone down, assure the sinner that no one condemns him, and in doing so, create a world where people are aroused to goodliness and Godliness by your ceaseless example of mercy and forgiveness. Only then will the world shake off the desire to sin.

    These are not easy lessons. As sinners we are inclined to condemn others. As sinners we are inclined to judge others. As sinners we are inclined to withhold mercy and forgiveness. It is only when we stop our condemnation and judgment of others, and promote forgiveness above all things, that we create a world and a Church that improves the human race and makes sinfulness unattractive.

    Amen, Francis!

    Remember, he was elected by the Holy Spirit.

  17. Remember, he was elected by the Holy Spirit.

    People really need to stop saying this, because this is not true. The Holy Spirit guides the Cardinal-electors, but they have free will and make their own choice.

  18. Paul, Just This Guy, You Know?

    “You appear to be saying that the Church has nothing to say to the secular world in the public square.”

    Well, the Church’s message to all is “Believe and be baptized.”

    In a fallen world, the moral law has only one purpose: to make man inexcusable before God. Since it reveals itself in the dictates of conscience, conscience, too, serves only to deprive man of the pretext of ignorance and to condemn him before God.

    Now, this does not imply that unregenerate man can attain to a true knowledge of the divine will and still less that he has the ability to obey the moral law. That is the Pelagian heresy.

    The just are saved by grace, entirely free and gratuitous.

  19. “In addition to his determination that too many of the faithful ‘obsess’ over ‘small-minded rules’ about abortion ….”

    Well, Jeff. I don’t think the Holy Father exactly made such a determination, but substitute “gassing Jews” for “abortion” and perhaps you’ll understand why.

    Those of us who work tirelessly to fight abortion do not think much about, let alone obsess over, judgment, sin, or condemnation. We want to save innocent lives because Jesus commanded us to love. We kind of obsess over that rule.

  20. Jeff,

    No, sorry, your interpretation doesn’t remotely fit what Francis has said in this interview or elsewhere. It’s important to encounter the pope who actually exists in reality, not in your head.

  21. If Jeff’s interpretation is right, then the Pope is fond of stabbing good and faithful Catholics in the back. That seems be an interpretation of the Pope that is both uncharitable and unlikely. Especially in light of his statement to Catholic doctors today.

  22. Paul, Just This Guy,

    I’m even more confused. One day, he says we mustn’t obsess over these issues, the next he makes a powerful (though of course much less-widely-reported) speech about one of them.

    I think it’s important to keep in mind, though, the pope didn’t say that “we mustn’t obsess over these issues” he said:

    We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods.

    and

    The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.

    People who are against the Church’s teachings want to turn this into “we shouldn’t talk about these issues” but I think what he’s saying is that we can’t talk only about these issues, and we can’t present them in a way that seems like a disjointed collection of commandments but rather part of a comprehensible whole. So his strong statement on abortion isn’t contrary to what he said in the interview. He said we shouldn’t talk only about hot button issues, but he certainly didn’t say we shouldn’t talk about them at all.

    And Darwin, I cannot believe you intend what I’m understanding you to say above: that the Church cannot teach morality except to Christians, and so we must first convert Christians, and then teach them morality. You appear to be saying that the Church has nothing to say to the secular world in the public square. That would be completely at odds with everything I’ve read by you, so perhaps you could restate yourself for me?

    No, I wouldn’t say that the Church cannot teach morality except to Christians, but I would say that the Church’s primary duty is to convert people to Christianity, not to try to make non-religious arguments.

    One thing that strikes me here is that while we need to make secular arguments about moral issues in the public square, it’s often not all that effective. What seems to matter a lot more is whether there are more convinced Christians or more secularists in the public square, and then one of us wins by force of numbers, not force of persuasion. Secularists are pretty damn (literally at times) determined to reject God’s moral teachings, and while I would never advocate abandoning the struggle in the public square, I think it’s in many ways a defensive struggle not an offensive one — we can at best fend off attacks but we’re unlikely to make long term changes in the culture that way. The way we make long term changes in the culture is by getting more people to be Christians who actually accept the moral law at a deeper level.

    The other thing I’d say (and I seem to recall Benedict talked about this in one of his encyclicals but I’d have to look up which one and the way he phrased it) is that making that case in the public square is primarily the job of the laity. We’re the ones who have to take our convictions out into the secular square and try to make them the law of the land. The job of our pastors and bishops is primarily to bring people to Christ through preaching and the sacraments — to make people Christians. So to the extent that Francis it talking about preaching and church leaders specifically, I think it’s appropriate to say that their primary job is to convert people to Christianity first, and then once having got them to believe in Christ catechize them in what that means morally.

  23. So which is it? The laity should talk about abortion, marriage, etc.? Or we shouldn’t? I’m still confused. I don’t know anyone who obsesses only over those issues. And I certainly don’t know any pastor of any parish who spends much time on them, in his homilies.

    I feel strongly that the Church is in a fight for its life, and the General of the Army is telling his front line troops not to fight back.

    I don’t understand who the Holy Father is addressing, or what he’s saying. And I’m quite sure I’ll get no guidance of it from my parish pastor when I go to mass on Sunday.

    This is what scandal looks like.

    But thank you, Darwin, for doing your best to clarify things. I’m just not getting it.

  24. So which is it? The laity should talk about abortion, marriage, etc.? Or we shouldn’t? I’m still confused.

    I think that everyone should talk about it (though not exclusively about it) but that it’s primarily the laity’s job to make the secular case in the public square while the job of pastors and other religious leaders is first and foremost to bring people into the faith and then to instruct them in what living out that faith morally means.

    I feel strongly that the Church is in a fight for its life, and the General of the Army is telling his front line troops not to fight back.

    Running with the analogy, I guess I’d say that that General of the Army is saying: Our number one priority is to have a bigger army.

    The way I’ve been taking it is that the pope is looking around and saying: We’re reaching a point where fewer and fewer people even believe in God, or think that believing in God requires anything from them in terms of actual conversion of life. Our first message to people needs to start being that God exists and that they need to repent and follow him in order to have eternal life. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how brave a rearguard action we fight against the culture on hot button issues, soon there will be no army left.

  25. At the same time, let me just say: One of the reasons I’ve been hitting this issue so hard is because some of the responses and summaries I’ve seen from leftie dissident Catholics have had me saying unprintable things and wanting to reach out through the computer screen to punch somebody. Some of these people hate us and hate the Church’s teaching, and seeing them use the pope’s words to try to drive people away from God’s truth has had me wound up all yesterday and today.

    So it’s not like I’m not feeling the frustration at a lot of the coverage we’re seeing out there.

  26. “So it’s not like I’m not feeling the frustration at a lot of the coverage we’re seeing out there.”

    Bingo. The Pope’s statement on abortion today was excellent:

    “Every child that isn’t born, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ, has the face of the Lord,” he said.”

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57603897/pope-francis-denounces-abortion-after-decrying-churchs-focus-on-rules/

    I find it hard to imagine a statement more pro-life statement than that. However, I can see why many people are confused and find it easy to conclude that the statements from the Pope are contradictory. From a tactical standpoint I think the Pope is making a mistake. He is confusing and demoralizing his strongest supporters with his statements and delighting those who oppose Church teaching. Message control is always a problem at the Vatican, but Pope Francis seems to have more of a problem with it than most Popes. Off the cuff remarks of a Pope should never seek to convey complicated thoughts. Save the deep thinking for the encyclicals.

  27. I just want to reiterate one point I made late in my earlier comment, because I earnestly believe that it is Francis’s real point.

    But first let me say: In no way during his Jesuit interview did Francis give any basis to the idea that moral issues and church doctrine have or will ever change, nor did he in anyway claim that the people who earnestly and passionately support and work for the Church’s eternal position on these issues of protection of life and sexual ethics are on the wrong side of the issue. Of course his statements didn’t do that, not would they ever. (It is worth emphasizing that today, before a captive audience of OBGYNs, he forcefully reiterated the Church’s doctrine on the evil of abortion. And I, myself, am thankful that he did so, and did so at the first available opportunity before the best possible audience.)

    Nevertheless, the things that he said in regard to contraception, homosexuality and abortion in the interview published yesterday are not devoid of purpose or meaning. Maybe some people want (or wish) that we can just dodge his statements, or refuse to accept that the Vicot of Christ in his pastoral role and as the primary and constitutional (small “c”) teacher of the faith, a faith that, as Christ proclaimed, plays an integral role in human salvation and the imposition of sanctifying grace, didn’t really say those things, and didn’t really use the words “obsess,” and “small-minded” and “The dogmatic and moral teaching of the Church are not all equivalent. The Church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”

    But he did say those things, and they are not without meaning and lesson.

    His most ardent detractors seem to be Catholics who are especially passionate about the scourge of abortion. I’m not seeing as loud a cry against his expressions about homosexuality (and to be fair, after reading the interview, the bulk of his “progressive” comments seemed to be aimed at issues related to homosexuality.) Nonetheless….

    Is he saying that we should dismissively retreat in our opposition to abortion? Of course not. Is he saying that we should cease to actively oppose abortion? Of course not. Is he saying that the proliferation of abortion and abortion rights in the world should no longer be a blip on our moral radar? Of course not.

    What his is saying is that people who are passionately consumed with these issues to the exclusion of others are not fully appreciating the Church’s pastoral ministry. Those eternal doctrines related to sexual ethics and issues of life do not exist in a vacuum. They are integral parts of a whole, but not the whole, in and of themselves. Those issues, Francis teaches, taint the moral edifice of the Church when they are pursued to the exclusion of the whole of Catholic social teaching. And equal time and dedication must be made for all the other issues related to Church’s social justice teachings (e.g. economic equality, an end to the “culture of money,” the right of workers to organize–a long held Church doctrine of social justice, passionate pursuit of the needs of the poor and the dispossessed, an emphasis on austerity and a rejection of materialism.) These things all are interrelated, philosophically and practically.

    I think that he is suggesting that if you spend your days fighting and rallying against abortion, or stigmatizing homosexual conduct, or urging an end to contraceptives–all correct positions of the Church–but you live in a million dollar house and drive a Cadillac, and ignore the plight of the homeless, the unemployed, people stricken with HIV, and others unable to access quality healthcare, you’re missing the real point of why abortion is evil and homosexual conduct is “gravely disordered,” as the Catechism puts it.

    Forgiveness, mercy, and charity are the foundation of ALL these social justice teachings of the Church, and must all be faithfully and forcefully emphasized in equal and appropriate measure by the Church as a whole, and each individual Catholic in his daily life.

    Is that so controversial and outrageous? Not in the least.

  28. What his is saying is that people who are passionately consumed with these issues to the exclusion of others are not fully appreciating the Church’s pastoral ministry.

    If that’s what the Holy Father is saying, I think it’s a calumny against good Catholics.

    Pro-lifers are constantly being challenged by their opponents to think and talk about something else, such as crisis pregnancies, or poverty, or hunger, or overpopulation, or even global warming, or anything to distract them from their pro-life work.

    For the Holy Father to suggest that pro-life Catholics need to think less about abortion and more about other things makes him appear to be taking sides with abortion supporters.

    It’s a damn hard pill to swallow.

  29. Jeff,

    What his is saying is that people who are passionately consumed with these issues to the exclusion of others are not fully appreciating the Church’s pastoral ministry. Those eternal doctrines related to sexual ethics and issues of life do not exist in a vacuum. They are integral parts of a whole, but not the whole, in and of themselves. Those issues, Francis teaches, taint the moral edifice of the Church when they are pursued to the exclusion of the whole of Catholic social teaching.

    No, actually, I don’t think that’s what he’s saying at all. What the Pope explicitly did not do at all in the interview is emphasize the need for a more seamless approach to social issues. Indeed, surprisingly, he barely mentioned poverty and justice in the interview, and not at all really in the section that everyone is fussing about.

    What he did emphasize is the priority of the basic message of salvation over any moral message — that as a church we need to be known first and foremost for preaching salvation through Christ and the sacraments, and the following from that for how to live out a moral life. His point about a disjointed multitude of doctrines is that if Christianity is presented to people as a behavioral checklist and not as following Christ, it won’t win converts.

    In that sense, his critique applies just as much to those who obsess over poverty or obsess over capital punishment to the exclusion of the basic message of salvation. And indeed, this is a real problem. I have many times had leftie Catholics tell me that atheist democrats have a more “Catholic sensibility” than their fellow Catholics simply because they have similar economic priorities. Francis’s comments are very much a broadside against that kind of thinking.

  30. “Every child that isn’t born, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ, has the face of the Lord,” he said.” Why did Pope Francis use the modifier “unjustly”? I’m hoping it’s a bad translation into English. Otherwise the statement could be interpreted that there are “just” abortions.

  31. The Pope’s remarks about contraception and abortion, notwithstanding the pro-life statement he made today, may help pave the way for Catholic institutions’ capitulation to the HHS Mandate.

  32. I agree with Darwin in substance. But I fear others are quickly using this to advance their agenda and will be very effective in their efforts. I fear this analysis will be correct:

    “Francis’s papacy may not so much move the Church into the future as back to the recent past, circa 1970. Quarrels over the proper interpretation of Vatican II are more likely to explode than end. Emboldened liberal bishops under him may seek a reform of the “reform of the reform,” and they may push for a revisiting of settled moral, theological, and disciplinary stances. None of this repositioning will take place at the level of official teaching but at the murkier levels of tone, emphasis, and appointment.

  33. I have to say that when I read Francis, I feel I am reading the comments of an adult with ADHD. I think he is somewhat impulsive and imprecise in his comments. Thus later statements that clarify the matter (such as today’s address to physicians.)

    We have to remember also, that not everything the Pope says is infallible. So I think we can hold his comments here with some reserve.

  34. “Those eternal doctrines related to sexual ethics and issues of life do not exist in a vacuum. They are integral parts of a whole, but not the whole, in and of themselves.”

    Or as St. Paul put it in 1 Corinithians 12:

    “15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.”

    The Pope is talking about the Church as a whole, not necessarily giving personal instructions or advice to every single individual or group within it. If you belong to a pro-life group or apostolate devoted to, say, full-time sidewalk counseling, obviously, you will be preoccupied with pro-life issues above all else. This does NOT, however, mean that people who do not take part in that particular apostolate are necessarily “less Catholic” than you are. Nor does it necessarily imply that you personally are inordinately “obsessed” with the abortion issue. It simply means that you are doing the particular task that YOU feel called to do, while others do other things. The Pope is NOT saying you should stop doing pro-life work, but simply to remember that it is not THE primary mission of the Church, which is to proclaim the Gospel and save souls.

  35. “Do You Really Believe Pope Francis Said The Church Needs To Stop Talking About Abortion and Gay Marriage? ”

    Of course not. The MSM’s response to the pope’s interview was predictable. But equally predictable was our side’s response to the MSM’s response. It’s like our side spends more time responding to what the MSM said about what Pope Francis said that what Pope Francis said. Of course, this phenomenom long predates this pontificate. To wit, B16’s comments about condoms.

    Look, even the most ignorant knows no pope would say what the MSM said he said. But yet, they are still able to put our side on the defensive and drive the conversation.

    I think our side should simply talk about what the pope actually said and basically ignore the MSM.

  36. Reading this article and the blog comments of good and thoughtful people (by which I mean everyone who has posted here) are causing me to be even more confused than I was when I first read the Pope’s interview.

    I would recommend that everyone watch the impressive interview of Fr. Matt Malone, S.J,, editor of America magazine that originated and published the interview in the U.S., and Fr. Joseph McShane, S.J., President of Fordham University, that aired on “The Charlie Rose Show” on Friday, September 20. It’s available on Hulu and on pbs.org. In the television interview, Fr. Malone relates some interesting facts about how and when the papal interview was conducted and how carefully it was personally reviewed by the pope and translated from Italian.

    I think this is clear: Pope Francis’s comments were not off-the-cuff or impromptu or improvised. The interview was conducted over three sessions all before World Youth Day. The printed article was given to Francis to review and edit before it was published. This wasn’t a “gotcha” interview. Francis had every opportunity he could have wished to change his answers, retract he statements, or omit his responses to any question. It is only fair to say that his interview answers were thoughtful, carefully made, and subject to any revision he would have wanted.

    But here is what confuses me: What do people believe the pope meant with the following statements? (He must have meant something by these statements.)

    1. “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”

    Imposed insistently? What does that mean?

    2. “We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”

    A new balance? What needs balancing? And why does there need to be a NEW balance?

    3. “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context.”

    We cannot “insist only”? What are we insisting on that we shouldn’t be, or what are we not insisting on that we should be?

    Particularly, with respect to that last quotation, what does he mean by “context”? What is the context in which these issue should be considered or discussed, and what is the present failure of proper “context” that he is addressing? And how would a proper context effect actual “feet on the ground” pastoral ministry?

    Thoughts?

  37. Jeff,

    I’ll do my best to respond to your questions in the thoughtful manner they deserve. (I apologize for the quick cut-and-paste methodology as I’m stealing time before I need to make dinner.)

    I think this is clear: Pope Francis’s comments were not off-the-cuff or impromptu or improvised. The interview was conducted over three sessions all before World Youth Day. The printed article was given to Francis to review and edit before it was published. This wasn’t a “gotcha” interview. Francis had every opportunity he could have wished to change his answers, retract he statements, or omit his responses to any question. It is only fair to say that his interview answers were thoughtful, carefully made, and subject to any revision he would have wanted.

    I would agree with this. I think that the interview was carefully asked and answered, and that Francis’s answers say exactly what he meant them to say. I don’t fault the interviewer or Francis for anything in there, though I do very strongly fault a lot of the media sources who have proceeded to cut small pieces of the interview out of context and try to make it serve their own ends.

    1. “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”
    Imposed insistently? What does that mean?

    I think that Francis sees Catholics as being in danger of retreating into a defensive crouch. The culture is increasingly post-Christian and strongly objects to our understanding of morality, and so we find ourselves under attack from every side. The culture calls what is evil good and what is good evil.

    Because our moral beliefs are constantly being contradicted and misunderstood by the culture, and so we naturally argue back and re-state our beliefs. However, what I think Francis is saying here is that we can’t allow ourselves to become known only for defense of these constantly assailed beliefs — not because we should not be stating these beliefs, but because if we allow the culture of unbelief to control the argument we will never articulate the reason for these beliefs, which is our faith in Christ and our need for his redemption. If we are only hear insisting on these moral doctrines, but we are not at the same time explaining the belief in Christ from which they stem, we will not make converts because people will hear from us only a multitude of rules and not an overarching belief in Christ and our need for his salvation.

    2. “We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”
    A new balance? What needs balancing? And why does there need to be a NEW balance?

    Obviously, this is not a “new” balance in terms of changing Church teaching or ceasing to talk about it’s importance. Francis himself made this clear when yesterday he delivered some of his strongest anti-abortion rhetoric yet in an address to gynecologists. Nor is Francis saying that the Church has got things wrong in the past. He’s talking, rather, about perception and about the need for the Church to be heard differently, not to believe differently. The question from the interviewer that he is responding to is how he believes we must address people who feel themselves excluded from the Church because of homosexuality, abortion, contraception, etc. Francis is responding that if all people are hearing is “if you are homosexual, Catholics don’t want you” then a new balance must be struck in what those people are hearing. They need to hear first that their entire purpose as human being is to accept Christ’s redemptive grace, to become Christians, to seek forgiveness through the sacraments. Only once those people have heard this message that they need Christ will they be open to accepting Christ’s message as to how they must live their lives.

    3. “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context.”
    We cannot “insist only”? What are we insisting on that we shouldn’t be, or what are we not insisting on that we should be?

    We cannot insist only that people must follow these rules, we must insist also (indeed primarily) that they must become Christians, that they must accept Christ, that they must seek forgiveness for their sins. That is what we must insist on more — so much more that we’re known even more for that than for our stand on “hot button” issues. Not because it’s nor important to oppose abortion, but because people who don’t support abortion still risk not enjoying eternal happiness with God if they do not embrace Christ.

    Particularly, with respect to that last quotation, what does he mean by “context”? What is the context in which these issue should be considered or discussed, and what is the present failure of proper “context” that he is addressing?

    The context is that we are not justified by following moral laws but by Christ’s grace. Thus, every call to good works (without which faith is nothing) must be made in the context of faith (without which works cannot save us.)

  38. Also, it’s worth keeping in mind that this concern that the Church not become known only for proclaiming moral truths and not the central message of salvation is hardly new. Here’s Pope Benedict XVI back in 2006 saying something very similar:

    “We should not allow our faith to be drained by too many discussions of multiple, minor details, but rather, should always keep our eyes in the first place on the greatness of Christianity. I remember, when I used go to Germany in the 1980s and ’90s, that I was asked to give interviews and I always knew the questions in advance. They concerned the ordination of women, contraception, abortion, and other such constantly recurring problems. If we let ourselves be drawn into these discussions, the Church is then identified with certain commandments or prohibitions; we give the impression that we are moralists with a few somewhat antiquated convictions, and not even a hint of the true greatness of the faith appears. I therefore consider it essential always to highlight the greatness of our faith – a commitment from which we must not allow such situations to divert us.”

  39. Here’s a good analysis, especially about all “teachings not being equivalent.”

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/359042/christ-centered-pope-george-weigel/page/0/1?splash=

    “I think that the interview was carefully asked and answered, and that Francis’s answers say exactly what he meant them to say.”

    I have to disagree. Clearly he could have said it differently so that it didn’t lead to the ability to distort his words in such a way. As you point out, Benedict said the same thing but in a much more nuanced, balanced and pastoral way.

    Francis’ words were not truly pastoral for he did not take into account the depth of the worldwide situations. As Weigel points out, in Argentina, such words needed to be said and in that way. But in other parts of the world, they smack those who are acting to end abortion who are acting out of a deep, personal relationship with Christ. It may have been for pastoral for a bishop in Argentina with its cultural context. But not for a Pope where his words go beyond that setting. This is something he will have to learn more (as every Pope does) about the exercise of his office. A man of bold gestures he is – impulsive ones at times that are not well thought out.

    Again, not every word of the Pope is infallible.

  40. As noted on Vox Nova, Pope Benedict’s first homily as Pope had this:

    “There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him. The task of the shepherd, the task of the fisher of men, can often seem wearisome. But it is beautiful and wonderful.”

    Exactly the same, more poetic and, excuse the expression, less marginalizing of those who have taken up Christ’s relationship in defense of the unborn or real marriage.

  41. Phillip, bingo! That’s what I’ve been expressing in a G+ thread. Some believe this is a slight on the Pope Francis. It’s not. Everyone has different gifts. Communications is not Pope Francis’ strong suit. He is more Moses than Aaron.

    I didn’t care for his “Who am I to judge?” answer on homosexuals. Implied in that response is we’ve been judging. That’s how the public and general lay Catholic is going to interpret.

  42. I think the interview says what Francis wanted it to say — that it doesn’t represent an off-the-cuff statement or a “gee, that’s not quite what I meant to say” kind of thing.

    That doesn’t necessarily mean that it was worded in the best possible way in terms of avoiding any possible misinterpretation. I may be wrong, but I’m starting to get the impression that Francis has decided that he’s simply not going to worry about cautious phrasing and trying to make sure that he’s not misquoted. He seems to have decided that he’ll say exactly what he thinks in the style that comes naturally to him and count on somehow the message getting through because he’s genuine and speaking from the heart.

    Now, I honestly don’t know if that’s the best approach. It’s certainly not how I would go about things. I’m root a very defensive communicator, and I’d much rather get mired down in all sorts of explanations and qualifiers than leave myself open to being misinterpreted. I would feel more of a connection with a pope who had that same approach — in part because I really, really hate hearing the truths of the Church perverted by people (both dissident Catholics and non Catholics) running around saying things like “Pope changes teaching on abortion and homosexuality!”

    But I think that, rightly or wrongly, Francis has clearly decided that the way that he’s going to communicate as pope is what he sees as simply and from the heart, without being careful, so I don’t think that we can expect to see him learn how to protect himself from the media. I think he’s decided he doesn’t care how the media interprets what he says and he’s counting on people to somehow get his real message — whether by inspiring the Catholics who do get the whole message to turn around and echo his message, or just because he’s convinced that somehow if he’s true to what he sees as genuine it will come through to people.

  43. “But I think that, rightly or wrongly, Francis has clearly decided that the way that he’s going to communicate as pope is what he sees as simply and from the heart, without being careful…”

    As I said, that is impulsive. Not that impulsive always means off the cuff, but rather also without regards to the consequences.

    Whether that’s best or not I don’t know. But it is my point.

  44. Wow! A lot has been said since I last checked. Please all of you, let me know your secret. I have three children and a wife, and as much as I am impressed by many of you comments, where do you get the time? Even when I disagree it is very heartening to see such interest about something other than football. In this case, something infinitely important. Now I’ll add just a few short comments:

    It might help to think of the Mary and Martha story. I think the Pope’s comments reflect the truth Christ was teaching us by it. I am not about to improve upon it.

    Joy. Where’s the joy? Some, too many sounded negative and nursing wounds. I’ve been in the pro-life trenches, even ran the pro-life office for an archdiocese, and nothing the pope said should discourage you.(No offense intended,) Here he reminds me of Cardinal Newman. We are called to live the whole truth, to balance it, and not the particular point that attracts or consumes us. It is not easy to do. It’s probably not easy for the Pope. Focusing in too exclusively on one truth can lead to many problems, from heresy to neglect.

    Another meaning I gleaned reminds me of Chesterton. It is time to paint the fence. Our beliefs aren’t changing but we need to give them a touch up job. One reason I like to call myself an Orthodox Catholic and not a conservative one. We don’t want the fence to stay the same – just what it is made of.

    Finally the prime objective is to get others to believe in Christ – then the rest can follow.

  45. For all my cherished friends and fellow Christians that have read and posted on this blog:

    I have finally read a piece (from the First Things website) that I believe fully understands and beautifully articulates the meaning and wonder of the Pope’s interview.

    Whether you’re liberal or conservative, a fan of the Pope or cautious and concerned about the tone of his papacy, READ this!! I think all my brothers and sisters in Christ will be enheartened by it.

    http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2013/09/prophet-pope

  46. So I open my Sunday morning paper today, and there is an article about the local AIDS walk. Olympic athlete Greg Louganis and his fiancé Johnny Chaillot were there. Apparently, Pope Francis’ comments about “Who am I to judge?” concerning homosexuals came up in conversation.

    There was also an article concerning the Pope lamenting the Church’s focus on the “small minded rules” concerning abortion and contraception, and then (hypocritically, of course) turning around and giving a harsh speech condemning the same to a group of Catholic doctors the next day.

    What matters more? What the Pope really said? Or what the majority of people think he said?

  47. Pope Francis’ remark, “Who am I to judge?” was doomed to be taken out of context and he did those who oppose the abomination of homosexual unions no favors.

    The LameStream Media will take what any pontiff says and twist it. Benedict XVI was careful and measured with his words and still he got lambasted. What Pope Francis says to select audiences when he has a chance to explain himself is deep. His off the cuff remarks show a lack of sophistication and sort of a devil-may-care attitude.

    I don’t like when he does this…and I really don’t like how his pontificate handled the FFI.

  48. “I didn’t care for his “Who am I to judge?” answer on homosexuals. ” Pretty much sets the homosexuals to be responsible for themselves for it is their free will choice and Pope Francis has been witness to nothing.

  49. Some of these comments leave me flabbergasted. How quickly we turn on our own…I do not think our Pope is a naive or ignorant man.

    ““Every child that isn’t born, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ, has the face of the Lord,” he said.” Why did Pope Francis use the modifier “unjustly”? I’m hoping it’s a bad translation into English. Otherwise the statement could be interpreted that there are “just” abortions.”

    Seriously? This seems to me to reach a new level of hair-splitting.

  50. Mary de Voe

    The pope explained his remark very clearly in the present interview: “During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.”

    Thus, the prophet says, “Make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!” (Ez 18:31) but he also says, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.” (Ez 36:26) This is the great mystery of grace and free will. Thus, St Paul says, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” but he adds, “for it is God who is producing in you both the desire and the ability to do what pleases him” (Phil 2:12-13) Not the ability only, but the desire too, for “the will is prepared by the Lord,” (Prov 8:35)

  51. Sorry I am late in commenting on this post. Right after St. Paul condemns homosexual behavior in Romans 1:18-32, he writes the following in Romans 2:1-10 (it’s important to read Romans 1:18-32 and Romans 2:1-10 together as one reading):

    1 Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. 2 You say, “We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.” 3 Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: 7 to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.

  52. “but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.”

    So stop praying for each other! 😉

    That quote sounds like this…
    “God gave us free will, so don’t try to interfere by advising turn away or admonishing one’s sin.” :-\

  53. Michael Paterson-Seymour: If Pope Francis had said: “It is not possible to inspire others in their spiritual life.” It would have been wrong. “it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.” “to interfere” is to bully, impose, and coerce and interference would be counterproductive. It is a matter and choice of words to express the Pope’s opinion, or it is my interpretation of the Pope’s opinion.

  54. Kyle Miller wrote, “That quote sounds like this… “God gave us free will, so don’t try to interfere by advising turn away or admonishing one’s sin.”

    No, for in the preceding sentence the Holy Father says, “Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people ”

    But only God can turn from sin, because, as St Augustine says, “God has mercy on no man in vain. He calls the man on whom He has mercy in the way He knows will suit him, so that he will not refuse the call.” That is why Scripture says, “”the will is prepared by the Lord,” (Prov 8:35)

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