BY DAN VALENTI
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 25. 2013) — Finally, a pope who “gets” it. “Gets” what? He gets that it isn’t 1958 any longer and that “good” Catholics don’t expect or want the prelates to tell them what to do or to do their thinking for them. Finally, Catholics have a pope long on humility and short on the ridiculous, pompous, trappings that have kept previous popes — going back to the beloved John XXIII — looking like anachronisms and sounding like men out of touch with the lives of the ordinary people to whom they minister and for whom they serve.
In a few short months, Pope Francis’ openness, his clarity as a communicator, and his self-effacing presence has mitigated much of the disturbing, right-wing, militaristic pounding on marginal side issues such as abortion and gays. Under the previous two popes, especially JPII’s latter third, it seemed as if these two issues were the only ones of import, and it made the Church appear as intolerant if not hostile and abusive. Pope Francis has ripped the door of close-mindedness off its hinges, sending a message in words and actions of love, mercy, compassion, understanding, and forgiveness.
He has preached by example, following the classic advice of his saintly, spiritual namesake.
In honor of the pope, THE PLANET presents these two views:
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(AP) Pope Francis can’t seem to help but get good press recently, what with his humble new car, an endearing and sincere-seeming series of phone calls to random members of the public, public messages of tolerance, and the first papal selfie.
All that goodwill seems to have consolidated with his first long interview. The interview was conducted with Rev. Antonio Spadaro, editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, and translated in full by America Magazine.
It’s certainly a long read, but to give you the gist, many people are picking up on this one passage in particular:
“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. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. 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 proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.”
That message is likely to anger more conservative members of the clergy who had hoped that Pope Francis may use the interview to clarify his feelings on divisive issues like abortion, gays and contraception. Instead, he seems to be saying that the church shouldn’t focus on those issues but instead look at the bigger picture of how to make the Catholic Church a more inclusive place.
Here’s another passage that’s sure to upset the more conservative clergy members. While Pope Francis has spoken of acceptance for gay clergy members, this quote seems to suggest he wants a broader acceptance than many first believed:
“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. 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.”
At other points in the interview, Pope Francis seems to acknowledge the potential for a more involved female role in the church, though he doesn’t go into specifics.
After Jorge Mario Bergoglio was selected to become Pope Francis earlier this year, many people commented on what a “genius” investment in the Catholic Church’s future it was — Pope Francis comes from Latin America, the place where 40% of all Catholics currently live, and has largely remained outside of the Vatican’s notoriously resistant-to-change bureaucracy. He has a real opportunity to change the church.
With this new interview, Pope Francis seems to be laying out his vision for the Catholic Church clearly for the first time, and it does seem to be a distinct departure from that of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict. Perhaps this is all part of some big orchestrated PR push — who knows, it certainly could be — but regardless people seem to be really getting excited about this pope.
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