In July, the pope’s remarks on gays captured headlines around the world. Speaking at a news conference aboard the papal plane, Pope Francis told reporters, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
Now, in a new interview, the pope has opened up further about his views on gay marriage and abortion – two topics some critics say he has not discussed enough.
“I’m a little bit disappointed in Pope Francis that he hasn’t, at least that I’m aware of, said much about unborn children, about abortion, and many people have noticed that,” Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, recently said.
Aware of the criticism he has drawn, the pope addressed the issue in his interview, stating, however, that he doesn’t intend to be more vocal on these issues.
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” he said. “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.”
In the interview, the pope seemed to advocate a shift away from addressing issues such as abortion and gay marriage, saying that the church needs to strike a balance.
“The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently,” he said.
The pope’s recent interview was conducted by the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, the editor of La Civilta Cattolica, a Jesuit journal based in Rome. Topics addressed in the interview ranged from the alleged “gay lobby,” to the role of women in the church, abortion, and homosexuality and the pope’s personal security.
In the interview, the pope expanded his comments on the issue of gays in the church, reflecting back on his ministry experience in Argentina.
“In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them,” he said. “But the church does not want to do this.”
Responding to further questions, the pope added, “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.”
He was quick to add, “By saying this, I said what the catechism says.”
The catechism, which stands as the Catholic Church's official book of doctrine, condemns homosexual acts, but states that gays and lesbians “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”
While the pope’s remarks do not represent a break from Catholic doctrine, they do seem to illustrate a shift in perspective for church leadership.
“The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful,” Francis described. “It needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle.”
“I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life,” he continued.
“Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else – God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is in a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.”
On the topic of women in the church, the pope said that “the door is closed” on women’s ordination, but stated that women should play a greater role in church decisions.
He advocated for a shift in perspective on spiritual and political missions, saying that the church needs to “find a new balance.”
Otherwise, he added, “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.”
Kristin Wright is a columnist and contributing writer at ReligionToday.com, where she focuses on global human rights issues. Kristin has covered topics such as bride trafficking in North Korea, honor killings in Pakistan, and the persecution of members of minority faiths in Iran. She has visited with religious minorities in Pakistan, worked with children at risk in Mumbai's “Red Light” district, and interviewed individuals on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Kristin recently returned from Turkey and the Syrian border, where she covered the plight of refugees fleeing the conflict. She can be contacted at Kristin@kristinwright.net.
Publication date: September 19, 2013