News / Europe

Wide Praise for Pope’s Rejection of Focus on Sexual Issues

Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sept. 18, 2013.
Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sept. 18, 2013.
Pope Francis, who recently said he would not judge homosexuals, has once again stunned Catholics and non-Catholics alike.  He conceded in an interview this week that the Roman Catholic Church had become “obsessed” with sexual and reproductive issues.  And he warned that the Church’s moral authority could “fall like a house of cards” unless it offered a more loving approach to dissenters.  The message is winning widespread praise.

The interview given to an Italian Jesuit publication was titled “A Big Heart Open to God,” and in it Francis talked about his faith and his vision for the papacy.  But it was the pope's criticism of the Church’s focus on abortion, contraception and homosexuality that won over many liberal Catholics.

“Absolutely groundbreaking,” said Jon O’Brien of Catholics for Choice, who says the pope is rejecting the notion that Catholics who disagree with dogma have no place in the Church. “It’s not as though we’re talking about having a left wing pope.  It’s that Pope Francis is going back to Catholic teaching.  He doesn’t want the Church to be a small Church.  He wants the Church to be a broad Church that allows those who have different emphases on teaching to all be together.”

While Francis has spoken at length about poverty and social justice - especially during his trip to Brazil earlier this year, he has not been as vocal on reproductive issues.  But a day after the interview, in an apparent gesture toward conservatives, the pope issued a statement urging Catholic doctors to refuse to perform abortions.

Geoffrey Strickland of Priests for Life, a vociferous anti-abortion group, says he is willing to give Francis a chance.

“He’s breaking down some walls a little bit that might lead to a more coherent dialogue," he said.

Still, the shift is nothing short of dramatic, says Stephen Schneck of the Catholic University of America.  It reminds him of times in Church history when the hierarchy became too focused on doctrinal purity and a new pope saw the need for an opening.

"This isn’t a pontiff that wants to turn inward," he said. "This isn’t a pontiff that wants the Church to focus narrowly on rules and dogma and so forth, but wants the Church to be this wide-armed, welcoming mother - he would say - to everyone and that’s what’s so breathtaking about him and the interview that he’s done."

Francis is not only reaching out to dissenting Catholics.  He has also been making overtures to other faiths, notes Father Thomas Reese, a senior analyst for the National Catholic Reporter.

"Religion has been too divisive in the world today," he said. "And I think he wants to lower the volume, lower the rhetoric and call on people to travel together on this journey of faith, learn from each other, dialogue, have conversation, and seek God together, instead of excommunicating each other."

The pontiff's efforts seem to be having the desired effect, especially in his own faith.  A poll by the National Catholic Reporter found that only four percent of Roman Catholics in the United States are unhappy with Pope Francis.

It is a popularity rating, Reese points out, that politicians in Washington and elsewhere would "kill for."

Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

You May Like

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs