Pope Francis: Church Must Shake “Small-minded Rules” on Abortion, Contraception, Divorce, Homosexuality
Stephen: I have placed the link to the English translation of the full interview Pope Francis gave to La Civilta Cattolica at the end of this story.
From Reuters, ABC Online – September 20, 2013
Pope Francis said the Catholic Church must shake off an obsession with teachings on abortion, contraception and homosexuality and become more merciful or risk the collapse of its entire moral edifice “like a house of cards”.
In a dramatically blunt interview with an Italian Jesuit journal, Francis said the church had “locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules” and should not be so prone to condemn.
Its priests should be more welcoming and not cold, dogmatic bureaucrats. The confessional, he said, “is not a torture chamber but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better”.
His comments were welcomed by liberal Catholics, but they are likely to be viewed with concern by conservatives who have already expressed concern over Francis’s failure to address publicly the issues stressed by his predecessor Benedict.
Francis, the first non-European pope in 1,300 years, the first from Latin America and the first Jesuit pope, did not hold out the prospect of any changes soon to such moral teachings.
But in the 12,000-word interview with Civilta Cattolica, he said the church must find a new balance between upholding rules and demonstrating mercy.
“Otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards.”
In the interview with the magazine’s director, Jesuit father Antonio Spadaro, the Pope also said he envisioned a greater role for women in the 1.2 billion-member church but suggested it would not include a change in the current ban on a female priesthood.
Church should not make homosexuals ‘socially wounded’
In a remarkable change from Benedict, who said homosexuality was an intrinsic disorder, Pope Francis said that when homosexuals told him they were always condemned by the church and felt “socially wounded”, he told them “the church does not want to do this”.
He restated his comments first made on the plane returning from Brazil in July that he was not in a position to judge gays who are of good will and in search of God.
In the interview he added: “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.”
The church, he said, should see itself as “a field hospital after a battle” and try to heal the larger wounds of society and not be “obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently”.
Francis’s approach contrasts starkly with that of his conservative predecessor, who stepped down in February and now lives a withdrawn life in the Vatican grounds.
The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual tendencies are not sinful but homosexual acts are.
The interview took place over three sessions in August. The Pope alluded to criticism of him within the conservative Catholic establishment.
“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,” he said.
Pope says church needs ‘feminine genius’
The interview was not didactic and formal, in the way of past popes, but easygoing, familiar and friendly. Pope Francis even spoke of his favourite author, Dostoevsky, painter, Caravaggio and composer, Mozart.
The Pope spoke about the role of women in the church, saying their “deep questions must be addressed”.
“We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman,” he said.
“Only by making this step will it be possible to better reflect on their function within the church.”
He hinted that he was open to giving women greater decision-making roles in the church.
“The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions,” he said.
“The challenge today is this: to think about the specific place of women also in those places where the authority of the church is exercised for various areas of the church.”
Read the English translation of the complete La Civilta Cattolica Exclusive Interview with Pope Francis, titled “A Big Heart Open to God” now online at America Magazine:
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