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

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    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.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.