Catholics should not try to ‘recover a past that no longer exists’, Pope Francis declares
Pontiff warns against ‘legalist’ Christian faith that seeks ‘doctrincal security’
Pope Francis: “The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules.” Photograph: Reuters
As if to deflect from countless headlines about his views on homosexuality and abortion, Pope Francis chose a far more personal theme for his daily tweet yesterday: “Christ is always faithful. Let us pray to be always faithful to him.”
The same certainty – what he calls his “dogmatic certainty” that “God is in every person’s life” – resonates through his interview with a Jesuit theologian, published this week.
As well as discussing hot political topics such as Vatican censorship, the role of women in the church and the Catholic stance on reproductive rights, the pope articulates a clear and somewhat challenging vision for Christians. “If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing,” he says.
“Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security’, those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists – they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies.”
Drawing on his background as a Jesuit, he extols the virtues of living “on the margins, on the frontier”, saying: “There is always the lurking danger of living in a laboratory. Ours is not a ‘lab faith’ but a ‘journey faith’, a historical faith. God has revealed himself as history, not as a compendium of abstract truths.”
Citing the example of nuns working in hospitals, he adds: “They live on the frontier . . . Laboratories are useful, but reflection for us must always start from experience.”
‘Warm the hearts of the faithful’
Asked what sort of reforms are needed in the Catholic Church, he replies: “The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds . . . And you have to start from the ground up.
“The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules.”
As for role models, he cites the founder of the Jesuits, Ignatius Loyola, along with his lesser known companion Peter Faber (1506-46) who is praised for his “dialogue with all . . . even the most remote and even with his opponents; his simple piety, a certain naiveté perhaps . . .” The pope adds: “I am rather close to the mystical movement. . . And Faber was a mystic.”