Pope Francis believes it is time for the Catholic Church to find a new balance, with the focus being less on social issues and more on “healing the wounds of it’s faithful.”
In what is one of the longest interviews he has given since he ascended to the papacy in March, Pope Francis expressed concern over what he believes is the Catholic Church’s “obsession” with social issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and birth control. The 12,000-word interview, which was conducted by Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, editor in chief of the Italian Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica, was published on Thursday in Jesuit journals in 16 countries, including America Magazine in the US.
The pope’s statement about these issues is in sharp contrast to many of the other leaders in the Church, a significant number of which have recently been pressuring him to take a stronger stance on those, and other global social issues. But the Pope told Father Spadaro, “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time. The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent.” He also said that the Church needs to “find a new balance” on which moral teachings it prioritizes. He explained, “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.”
Pope Francis said that he believes the Church should be like a “field hospital after battle,” with the priests focus being on “healing the wounds of its faithful and going out to find those who have been hurt, excluded or have fallen away.” Francis said:
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.
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.
Senior correspondent with the National Catholic Reporter, John Allen, told CBS Radio News that the pope, “is not changing church policy but makes it clear that he wants a less judgmental church.” He said, “I think he is conscious that he’s at a sort of make-or-break moment where the kind of pope he wants to be – if he wants to affect real change – he’s got to be explicit about it.”
Allen believes there will be a “mostly positive response” from the more than one billion Catholics worldwide. He said, “It’s going to be seen in most quarters as an inspirational, kind of breath-of-fresh-air statement from a pope … I think there are going to be many Catholics who find this kind of language from a pope refreshing and encouraging, what they’ve been waiting for for a long time.” However, Allen also admits that there will be others in the Catholic Church who will “probably be upset by it.” Those “others” could include bishops in the US who feel they are on the “front lines” of the culture wars concerning abortion, contraception and homosexuality.
While some may see Pope Francis’ statements as being too “soft” on social justice issues, he believes that the key is “for the church to welcome, not exclude and show mercy, not condemnation.” He said, “This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity.”
Photo: AP File/Dmitry Lovetsky