In an interview that was published on Thursday, September 19, Pope Francis I expressed a desire for members of the Roman Catholic Church to be more accepting of gay and lesbian people and others who have been traditionally looked down upon for religious reasons.
Ed Pilkington of The Guardian offered highlights from a series of interview the Pope recently gave that appeared in an Italian Jesuit journal called La Civilta Cattolica on Thursday, September 19.
According to Pilkington, "Pope Francis has set out his desire to find a 'new balance' in the Catholic church, calling for greater involvement of women in key decisions and a less condemnatory approach towards gay people, divorcees and women who have had an abortion.
"In a wide-ranging interview with an Italian Jesuit journal, the Pope calls for the Catholic church, the world's largest Christian church with 1.2 billion members, to face up to the need for reform. Offering a dramatic contrast to the traditional conservative approach of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, Francis says the first reform must be one of 'attitude', adding that unless a new balance is found, 'the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards.'
"The Pope urges Catholics to show 'audacity and courage' in their approach to people who, in the past, have been given short shrift by the church, including those who 'do not attend mass, who have quit or are indifferent'."
According to Gryboski, "The Pope's remarks have already been interpreted by some LGBT activists as setting forth a new more gay-friendly agenda for the Catholic Church. Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), said in a statement released Thursday that the Pontiff's remarks are a 'reset button' on LGBT issues.
"'With these latest comments, Pope Francis has pressed the reset button on the Roman Catholic Church's treatment of LGBT people, rolling back a years-long campaign at the highest levels of the Church to oppose any measure of dignity or equality,' said Griffin.
"'Now, it's time for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to catch up and drop their opposition to even the most basic protections for LGBT people', [Griffin said]. 'Otherwise, they risk being left far behind by American Catholics and this remarkable Pope.'"
In the La Civilta Cattolica interview, the Pope made some comments that probably don't allude to a new LGBT-friendly agenda, but do indicate a willingness to show people of different sexual orientations more love and understanding.
According to Pope Francis, "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.
"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."
He then went on to discuss how the Catholic tradition of confession could be used to show more love to others who may also have been "socially wounded," such as women who have had abortions.
According to Pope Francis, "This is also the great benefit of confession as a sacrament: evaluating case by case and discerning what is the best thing to do for a person who seeks God and grace. The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better.
"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?"
The Pope then went on to make a comment about church catechism that may be very refreshing for some people and troubling for others with more conservative views about the Bible and Catholic doctrine.
According to the Pope, "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."
The Pope seems to be saying that it is more important to focus on the gospel of salvation through Christ than on specific types of behavior that are described as sin in the New Testament. He talks a lot about forgiveness and the Biblical teaching that we are not supposed to judge other people, so he could be saying that Catholic believers get too bogged down sometimes by legalism and they need to be better at showing all people the love of Christ.
If there are specific doctrines the Pope would like to get rid of, such as the Catholic Church's traditional stance that homosexuality is wrong, there could be interesting times ahead for members of the church.