Halle-bloody-lujah!A third of the world are Christian and more than half of them Catholic (1.2 billion souls), and yesterday Pope Francis, head of Catholicism on planet earth blamed his own church for focusing too much on contraception, gays and abortion, saying his church has become “obsessed” with these issues to the detriment of its larger mission to be “home for all,”.
The church can share its views on homosexuality, abortion and other issues, but should not “interfere spiritually” with the lives of gays and lesbians, the pope added in the interview, which was published in La Civilta Cattolica, a Rome-based Jesuit journal.
“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,” Francis said in the interview.
“The church has sometimes locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules,’ Francis said. “The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials.”
The 12,000-word interview ranges widely, touching upon the pope’s personal faith, the role of women and nuns in the church, Latin Mass and even the pope’s favorite artists.
“He’s very open honest and candid like we have not seen in a pope before. He critiques people who focus too much on tradition, who want to go to time in the past that does not exist anymore,” said Fr. James Martin of America Magazine, which published an English translation of the interview. “He reminds people that thinking with the church, in obedience, does not just mean thinking with the hierarchy, that church is a lot bigger than its hierarchy.”
In the interview, Francis does not come out in support of gay marriage, abortion rights or contraception, saying that church positions on those issues are “clear,” but he added that the “the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives.”
“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality,” he said to Jesuit priest Fr. Antonio Spadaro, who conducted the interview for La Civilta Cattolica. “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.”
The comments on gays and lesbians follow up on remarks Francis made aboard the papal airplane in July when asked about gay priests. “Who am I to judge?” the pope then said, in a quote that made international front-page headlines. In Thursday’s interview, Francis clarified that those comments were about all gay people and not only priests.
Francis, 76, also touched upon where he falls within the political and theological spectrum of Catholics. Because of what he said was a purposeful avoidance of talking about sexuality and reproductive issues during the first six months of his papacy, some critics have said the pope has shifted from being more outspoken on conservative issues when he was a Jesuit province superior in Argentina and later was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires. The pope, who was appointed to the jesuit leadership position when he was 36, said his youthful lack of experience made him too authoritarian of a leader.
“But I have never been a right-winger,” he said.
Good on you Francis.
The freshness and fragrance of the gospel seem safe in your hands.