For the sake of the person
Pope Francis right in setting a new direction for Catholic Church
Published: Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 19:09
Pope Francis has ignited a much-needed conversation. But a conversation is hardly what is needed. What isneeded is change. Change that means embracing inclusivity over exclusivity, change that means acceptance over condemnation, change that means adopting the actual message of Catholic doctrines un-obscured by a set of moralistic imperatives unlikely to stand the test of time.
Some may remain doubtful. After all, we have heard only words thus far – when we see action is when we should really take notice. But it is important to note that often words are actions. And Pope Francis’ candid and humane words last week have directional inferences – that he is different, open-minded, non-conforming and willing to go against pressure. It is certainly possible that he may become a reformer.
In an interview with La Civilta Cattolica, an Italian Jesuit journal, Pope Francis indicated that he did not believe the church should be so intensely focused on the issues that have dominated its concentration for years now.
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible,” he said. “I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. 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.”
The church’s primary focus, he said, should be “the proclamation of the saving love of God.”
His comments have been making the right wing of the church uneasy, according to Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia. This is understandable; it goes against the direction the Church has long pushed for. But Pope Francis’ aim seems intended for changing the direction more in tone than in belief structure.
And with good reason.
The Catholic Church has been suffering from a shortage of priests steadily over the last 50 years, according to the Center for the Applied Research of the Apostolate. There has also been a sexual abuse crisis and mounting opposition from those who support same-sex marriage and abortion rights.
Well, the pope is not going to change the religious or political traditions of the church. And we don’t think it would be appropriate for him to work to change its stance on these issues. But what he can do is work to transform the Church’s structure so that it is more welcoming of those who have felt alienated in the past.
The Catholic Church needs to recreate its relationship with the public and begin the process of alleviating a global climate of division based on ideological differences.
Both progressive and conservative Catholics have wondered why Francis had been so reticent in the past to discuss his feelings on abortion and gays. It seemed more than adequate he had pronounced social justice and caring for the poor as his top priorities.
But Francis has presented himself as more of a humanist thinker recently, speaking theoretically in public concerning religious doubt and ontological uncertainty.
“If one has the answers to all the questions – that is the proof that God is not with him,” he said.
This coming from a pope who, when asked his feelings on gays, said, “Who am I to judge?” When asked if those who do not follow the doctrinal teachings of the Church deserve rejection and condemnation, he responded: “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? We must always consider the person.”
That is the direction in which Pope Francis should take the church – a direction that is empathic and “always considers the person.” Because that would be a good thing.