The MSM and catholic left and the squishy center is running with Francis’s jump-out quotes (traddies could maybe call them “scare quotes”). If you look at MSM headlines, you take-away will be that Pope Francis is saying that abortion isn’t a big deal or that homosexuality is okay and that the Church doesn’t have a right to tell anyone what to do.
I don’t think that that is what he thinks or what he is doing or saying.
Let’s take a look at a portion of the interview in which Francis talks about homosexuality. Pay attention to the vocabulary, even though this is a translation. I haven’t yet verified the translation against the original. My emphases and comments:
“We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner,” [That’s the public square.] the pope says, “preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing, even with our preaching, every kind of disease and wound. [Something that needs healing is not a good thing. Then he leaps immediately into the issue of homosexuality… ] In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this. [Which has been made abundantly clear in documents issued during the time of John Paul II from the office guided by Joseph Card. Ratzinger. The Church does NOT condemn homosexual people! The Church sees the actions as sinful and the orientation as a wound. I won’t use the word “disease”, because that gives absolutely the wrong sense of the wound. I’ll go with Francis’ point that it is something that needs “healing”.] During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, [Where, Holy Father, where? On every street corner: the public square.] but God in creation has set us free: [We have FREE WILL. We can choose to go against God’s plan and law.] it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person. [God doesn’t use mind control. The Church doesn’t use mind control. The Church proposes and we either freely embrace it or freely reject it.]
“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ [Which is exactly what the Church teaches. God loves everyone.] 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. [Well… maybe He does. I hope and pray that is what happens.]
So, the Pope starting by talking about the healing of what is wounded. He immediately went into the subject of homosexual persons. He talked about the pain they feel. He talked about our compassion and God’s love. Now, in talking about homosexuality he says:
“This is also the great benefit of confession as a sacrament: [What happens in the Sacrament of Penance? First and foremost you confess your own sins.] evaluating case by case and discerning what is the best thing to do for a person who seeks God and grace. The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better. [Confession is the “tribunal” in which you are simultaneously the accused and the prosecuting attorney. The Church’s role, in the person of the mercy is to act as, simultaneously, minister of justice and minister of mercy. You accuse yourself of sins and the Church helps in the healing. Remember, Francis is talking about homosexuality. Now he pivots to other great issues where there is a disease or wound to be healed.] I also consider the situation of a woman with a failed marriage in her past and who also had an abortion. Then this woman remarries, and she is now happy and has five children. That abortion in her past weighs heavily on her conscience and she sincerely regrets it. She would like to move forward in her Christian life. What is the confessor to do? [If a confessor is involved at this point in her life then that is because she is confessing the sin she committed in procuring an abortion and for her parts or failures if any in the breakup of the marriage. Those are diseases or wounds that need healing. What does the confessor do? He HEALS, first by absolving the sincerely confessed sin, and also by talking of God’s love and mercy. He reconciles the women with the society of the Church as well. So, let’s go on and see if Francis is only saying that the Church shouldn’t talk about abortion or homosexuality or that the Church doesn’t have a right to tell anyone what to do….]
“We cannot insist only [only] on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. [In other words, we cannot a) limit ourselves to talking just about these burning issues and b) just talk about the sins and messes people get themselves into.] This is not possible. [We have a lot of things to talk about, in addition to those issues. For example, the flipside of the issues, such as the joy of healing and returning to grace and life in God.] I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. [Right. Some people want to hear more from Francis about these burning issues on which the Church’s voice is being snuffed out.] But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. [YES! In a context. The context is that we are all sinners. The context was established by Jesus: He told the woman taken in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.” (John 8:11) He did NOT approve of the sin. He called the sin what it is: SIN. At the same time He did not condemn the woman. How is this difficult? That is exactly the Church’s position on homsexuals and homsexual acts which are sins.] 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. [That, folks, is the take-away.]
Let me repeat:
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.
This is what I think Francis is up to.
Francis’ pontificate is going to be about evangelization and putting a motherly face on the Church.
I suspect that, while he is Pope, Francis doesn’t want to see the words “Vatican condemns” a-ny-where.
I think that Francis thinks that constant correction and condemnation does more harm than good. BE CAREFUL NOW: Francis said “all the time”. He did not say “we should not talk about these things”.
Also, I did not say that I think Francis thinks that it is only harmful to correct and condemn, etc. It does some good, but it also does harm. I think he thinks that, right now, the harm to the Church’s message and motherly character outweighs the good that the correction does. (At least considering the way we have been doing it.)
That is also why he thinks things need to be done more at the local level than by him. He doesn’t want to see “Vatican condemns” or “Pope Francis condemns” all the time. That’s just about the only way that the MSM chooses to pay attention to Popes. If they are not calling for peace, Popes are only reported on when they exercise one of the most important dimensions of their office: saying “No!”
To recap: People who focus just on the comments that Francis made about compassion for homosexuals and “social wounds” or about not talking about abortion all the time or that the Church has no right to “interfere” with people (as if to say that Francis thinks homosexuality is okay or that the Church should be silent in the public square or that we mustn’t talk about abortion) without also underscoring that Francis was talking about things which need healing and that they are matters for confession (read: sins) have distorted his meaning.
Some of you are saying “But Father! But Father! Should any Pope talk this way? Doesn’t he understand that people take him out of context? Should he say any of this?”
I respond that, when I am Pope, I’ll have a different style. Headlines might read something like “POPE NOT SEEN IN PUBLIC FOR 100 DAYS! STILL ALIVE?” But that’s a different can of chowder. Francis is the one in the chair and he gets to speak and act with the freedom of the Vicar of Christ in a world that hasn’t been welcoming the Church’s message for a long time. We shall see what results.
I read what the Pope says. Then I try to figure out what he is really saying, apart from my own preferences about how he should say it. But, hey!. He talks about the Devil in stark terms, more than Benedict ever did. Francis might not talk in philosophical terms about beauty and mystery, and truth – no, wait he did in Lumen fidei…. well… as much as Benedict did…. no, wait… Benedict wrote what Francis signed… well… as often as we might prefer. Instead, Francis talks about things like damaging gossip and the sort of ambition that hurts people. Oh, Lord, how I have suffered from both gossip and the machinations of the ambitious clerics during my years as a priest. I welcome Francis healing words about these sins! These are concrete sins that are going on even more than homosexual acts or abortions, which are also sins. These sins deserve attention also. We know what the sins are. Even people who deny that certain things are sins know that they are sins deep down. Therefore, we can use lots of attention on healing the wounds of sin.
Dear readers, don’t focus only on the jump-out quotes or the scare quotes.
Read the whole context. Let it sink in. Think about it.