IN HIS FIRST full-length and wide-ranging interview, Pope Francis has criticised his own church for becoming “locked up in small things and small-minded rules”, admitting that he has avoided certain topics on purpose despite being reprimanded for doing so.
Speaking to Italian Jesuit journal, La Civilta Cattolica, the pontiff said there is no need to talk about abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraception “all the time”.
The pastoral ministry should not be “obsessed” with the a “disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently”, he added.
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. 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.
“We have to find a new balance,” he continued. “Otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”
The interview was published in 16 Jesuit journals today, including the New York-based America journal, which translated the entire 12,000 transcription into English.
Much of the content focused on being a Jesuit and the future direction of the church.
On those who do not go to Mass:
Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent. The ones who quit sometimes do it for reasons that, if properly understood and assessed, can lead to a return. But that takes audacity and courage.
We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing, even with our preaching, every kind of disease and wound. 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. 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, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.
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?” We must always consider the person.
On abortion and failed marriage:
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?
On women in the church:
The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. The woman is essential for the church. Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops. I say this because we must not confuse the function with the dignity. 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. 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.
First published 4.50pm
Read the full 12,000 word interview here>