News / Europe

    Pope: Church Can't Be Obsessed With Gays, Contraception, Abortion

    Pope Francis greets people as he arrives to lead his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican, Sept. 18, 2013.
    Pope Francis greets people as he arrives to lead his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican, Sept. 18, 2013.
    Reuters
    Pope Francis said the Catholic Church should not allow its bans on gay marriage, abortion and contraception to dominate its teachings, but must be a more welcoming Church where priests are understanding pastors and not cold, dogmatic bureaucrats.

    In a dramatically blunt interview with Civilta Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit monthly, Francis said the Church had locked itself up in "small things, in small-minded rules". It 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..."

    Francis, the first non-European pope in 1,300 years and the first from Latin America, did not hold out the prospect of any changes soon to such moral teachings.

    In the long interview with the magazine's director, Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, he 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.

    In an remarkable change from his predecessor Benedict, who said homosexuality was an intrinsic disorder, 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 re-stated 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 released on Thursday, he added: "By saying this, I said what the catechism says. 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."

    Church should be 'field hospital'

    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."

    John Gehring, Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, a liberal advocacy group in the United States, said: "This pope is rescuing the church from those who think that condemning gay people and opposing contraception define what it means to be a real Catholic. Francis is putting a message of mercy, justice and humility back at the center of the church's mission. It's a remarkable and refreshing change."

    The interview of some 12,000 words took place over three sessions in August in his simple quarters in the Vatican and was released on Thursday simultaneously in translations by Jesuit journals around the world.

    "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," said the pope.

    "But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the Church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the Church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time," he said.

    Speaking specifically of homosexuals, he said, "We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing."

    The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual tendencies are not sinful but homosexual acts are.

    But in several parts of the interview, which took place in his simple quarters in a Vatican guest house where he has lived since his election instead of the spacious papal apartments, he stressed the need for mercy and understanding by priests.

    "The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord's mercy motivates us to do better," he said.

    The pope also spoke about the role of women in the Church, saying their "deep questions must be addressed".

    "We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the Church. We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman. Only by making this step will it be possible to better reflect on their function within the Church," he said.

    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. 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," he said.

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Thomas P. Oberst from: Boston, Massachusetts
    September 22, 2013 7:01 AM
    There are two "cornerstones" to the Roman Catholic Faith, as I was taught at Our Lady of Fatima Elementary School and Archbishop Stepinac High School. These were the "Sanity of Human Life" and the "Sanity of Marriage". In one interview Pope Francis has sweep those cornerstones away. Our Popes are supposed to represent Jesus Christ on earth. Jesus was brave and courageous. He knew that the actions he took would get him crucified, yet he went ahead with them anyway. The beliefs that he preached were not designed to win him a popularity contest, they were beliefs that were designed to express truth. He was willing to die for those truths. Pope Francis has taken a giant step in cowardliness and it will emptying the pews. Because he was a Jesuit, a religious order which many American Catholics believe has betrayed the Church, he has been suspect and many Roman Catholics have withheld their judgment. No longer ..... he is one of "them".
    So abortion and gay marriage does not matter .... I hope my LOrd and Savior saves a special place in hell for Pope Francis.
    My new religion is X-Catholic
    In Response

    by: Jeff De Loach from: vancouver
    October 27, 2013 9:27 AM
    I couldn't agree with you more. I am sickened with the New Pope and what is happening to the Church. I come from a long line of Catholics and the decision was hard but I now join the growing numbers in saying I am an X Catholic.

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    September 20, 2013 6:10 AM
    Well and good, it's a message of tolerance. However, we must be cautious about it. For before the election November 6th 2012 there was a prophecy that the next antichrist is coming from America -and Francis is from America (South). Maybe the gradual softening/soft-pedaling may be a tacit approach to it. It goes also to the use of same issue to determine cooperation between peoples and among countries; in football fiestas, in athletics, in politics and diplomacy, to name just a few. The issue of gays and women always crop up as if the earth depends only on sex. While we agree it is part of life, the peddling of it in preference to subjects that pose existential threat makes one wary of the intentions of the curators.

    For instance, in FIFA and IAF events, people go to watch games and events not to go make sex. But over time we have seen FIFA officials and athletes come under fire for trying to downplay the issue of sex in their programs. This leaves much to be desired from the proponents and supporters of this gay marriage issue. Their intentions become questionable therefrom so that those whose lifestyle it offends feel threatened.

    by: Cranksy from: USA
    September 20, 2013 12:35 AM
    As an ex-Catholic, Pope Francis, you're messing with my mind.

    by: Lynne Adams from: Melbourne, FL
    September 19, 2013 10:34 PM
    What a breath of fresh air! I could get behind a church that focuses on the big issues, not small-minded, judgmental, and intolerant pettiness. And this applies to protestant churches as well as Catholic. Don't we have enough institutions trying to live our lives? (Forgive the string of adjectives ;-))

    by: MeMoiandI from: Halifax
    September 19, 2013 6:28 PM
    It's a good start at coming out of the dark ages. Come on, let's keep this going. You'll get there one day........ um, maybe not.

    by: dane from: usa
    September 19, 2013 6:19 PM
    to compromise God's Word of truth like this Pope is doing is SIN!

    by: Martha G from: Holland, MI USA
    September 19, 2013 5:25 PM
    The Pope's statements seem close to the philosophy of the Salvation Army. He is absolutely clear on what a church should be.

    by: Robert Hussein from: Kuwait
    September 19, 2013 5:15 PM
    I was delighted at the prospect of the Pop taking on the noble duty

    by: Iva Biggin from: Minnesota
    September 19, 2013 5:13 PM
    First, I`m an athiest. But it is refreshing to see a pope pull his head out of his ass and see the world as it is.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.