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

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid