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.
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.

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Comment Sorting
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.

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