Pope rejects Catholic ‘obsession’ with abortion, gay marriage
Francis seeks to set new tone for church, saying it should be a ‘home for all’ and not a ‘small chapel’ focused on doctrines
Pope Francis: ‘We have to find a new balance, 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.’ Photograph: Stefano Rellandini/Reuters
Pope Francis has criticised the Roman Catholic church for becoming “obsessed” with preaching about abortion, gay marriage and contraception and said he has chosen not to speak of those issues despite recriminations from some critics.
In the first extensive interview of his six-month-old papacy, Francis used remarkably blunt language as he sought to set a new tone for the church, saying it should be a “home for all” and not a “small chapel” focused on doctrine, orthodoxy and a limited agenda of moral teachings.
“It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” the pope told Fr Antonio Spadaro, a fellow Jesuit and editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal whose content is routinely approved by the Vatican.
“The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently,” said Francis.
“We have to find a new balance, 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 conducted during three meetings in August in the pope’s spartan quarters in Casa Santa Marta, the Vatican guesthouse. Francis has chosen to live there rather than in what he said were more isolated quarters at the Apostolic Palace, home to many of his predecessors.
The interview was released simultaneously today by 16 Jesuit journals around the world, and includes the pope’s lengthy reflections on his identity as a Jesuit. Pope Francis personally reviewed the transcript in Italian, said Fr James Martin, an editor-at-large of America, the Jesuit magazine in New York.
America and La Civiltà Cattolica together had asked Francis to grant the interview, which America is publishing in its magazine and as an e-book.
“Some of the things in it really surprised me,” Fr Martin said. “He seems even more of a free-thinker than I thought - creative, experimental, willing to live on the margins, push boundaries back a little bit.”
The new pope’s words are likely to have repercussions in a church whose bishops and priests in many countries, including the United States, often appeared to make combating abortion, gay marriage and contraception their top public policy priorities. These teachings are “clear” to him as “a son of the church,” he said, but they have to be taught in a larger context. “The proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives.”
From the outset of his papacy in March, Francis has chosen to use the global spotlight to focus instead on the church’s mandate to serve the poor and marginalised. He has washed the feet of juvenile prisoners, visited a centre for refugees and hugged disabled pilgrims at his audiences.