If you believe the mainstream media, the Catholic Church finally has a Pope who is living in, well, at least the 20th Century if not quite the 21st. After all, in an interview which took place in August 2013, Pope Francis has said that divorce and remarriage is okay, that gay marriage is okay, that abortion is okay, and maybe even that the Houston Astros will be the surprise winners of this year's World Series.
The only trouble is he didn't say those things. He said, in a nutshell, that God loves everyone. He did not say that practicing homosexuals were all right in their behavior; he did not say that abortion was okay. In fact, he said that Church teaching was 'clear' on these and other things. He says that we must preach salvation first, as a start, not as a recognition of rights which do not exist or of sins which are not sinful. We must preach love first. We must get folks in the door first.
He calls the Church a 'triage' unit: as the sick go to hospitals, the spiritually sick go to Church for the Church's help and guidance. The obvious inference, especially in reading the whole article and reflecting on the Pope's digression about the a hypothetical repentant woman who had had an abortion, is that the Church must be open to active homosexuals not on their merit or the merit of their actions, but so that She can help them. It's really no different than Christ's remark that he came for the sinners and not for the healthy. So gay rights, abortion, divorce, and women's ordination are not on the table. There is no rational inferring that through this interview, found in full here: http://www.americamagazine.org/pope-interview
That the Church must be open to everyone is nothing new. If the door is eternally shut for those who at any given time are outside of the grace of God, then She cannot be of service. Note, however, that an open door doesn't mean that everyone will enter or that anyone must enter. It only means that access to the Church must be available to all who want access and that an open door requires courtesy and charity so far as they can be had. If she does not clearly and unequivocally have such open doors, She fails Her mission.
The tale of the prodigal son comes to mind. His father gave him everything, yet the boy squandered it. Yet when he came to his senses and saw the error of his ways, his father welcomed him back. What kind of father would not, if he is any decent sort? Likewise, repentant sinners today ought to be welcomed back.
It strikes us that what the Pope is doing too is reminding us that there are other sins in the world which also require attention and instruction. This is something which, perhaps, the conservatives within the Church need to hear. But such is not to say that we must drop our concerns about gay marriage and abortion, but only to remember that there are other evils in the world. It would be nice to hear a similar paternal chastisement of the liberal churchgoers who think that the only sins out there are hunger, racism, sexism, or the improper exploitation of the environment. Still, not every word from the Pontiff's mouth must cover every issue. If today Pope Francis is gently chiding the right wing (and don't bother about him not considering himself right wing; he should not, nor left wing either) because he feels the need, then our job is to reflect upon his cautions. Be fair: we can be overzealous, friends.
Remember as well that in this same interview he laments the prospect of an unrestrained populism. “And, of course, we must be very careful not to think that this infallibilitas (infallibility of the Church in belief) of all the faithful I am talking about in the light of Vatican II is a form of populism," the Pope says. To wit, the eternal ideals which the Church defends are eternal; there is no going back on them by way of whatever the currently fashionable thought may be.
Pope Francis reminds us that every human life has tremendous value. It is that value which the Church recognizes and wishes to both preserve and increase within the person. If a person squanders his life, if he does not accept the grace of God through the Church instituted for him, well, that's on that guy. Yet if he squanders in part because he does not find a loving Church who really has his best interests in mind, then we are answerable to God ourselves at least so far as that goes. We must love even when it is not returned; we must love even when our motives are questioned and the world frowns upon us. God Himself loves even the souls in Hell. Why ought we not show love to those souls around us?