Abortion and Homosexuality –So What Did the Pope Actually Say?
When Two Jesuits Talk
|Today, October 4th, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of St. Francis of Assissi. Our Pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a Jesuit, made a bold gesture of love in adopting the name of St. Francis, patron of the Franciscans. St. Francis is commonly pictured with animals. He was renowned for his love, not only of animals, but more importantly, of all human beings. St. Francis lived his love to the extreme of adopting poverty himself. This discussion of Pope Francis’ controversial America Magazine interview is dedicated to this unbelievable Pope on his feast day.|
|St Francis of Assisi (1181 – 1226)
Francis was the son of a prosperous cloth merchant in Assisi. When his father objected to having his goods sold without his
consent to pay for the restoration of a church, the bishop commanded Francis to repay the money. He did. He also renounced his father and gave back everything he had ever been given, even his garments.
He began a life of perfect evangelical poverty, living by begging and even then only accepting the worst food that people had to give. He preached to all the love of God and the love of the created world; because, having renounced everything, he celebrated everything he received, or saw, or heard, as a gift.
A rich man sold everything and joined him in living next to a leper colony; a canon from a neighbouring church gave up his position and joined them also. They looked into the Gospel and saw the story of the rich young man whom Jesus told to sell everything; they saw Jesus telling his disciples to take nothing with them on their journey; they saw Jesus saying that his followers must also carry his cross.
And on that basis they founded an order. Francis went to Rome himself and persuaded the Pope to sanction it, though it must have seemed at once impractical and subversive, to set
|thousands of holy men wandering penniless round the towns and villages of Europe.
Because Francis was wearing an old brown garment
begged from a peasant, tied round the middle with string, that became the Franciscan habit. Ten years later 5,000 men were wearing it; a hundred years later Dante was buried in it because it was more glorious than cloth of gold.
There is too much to say about Francis to fit here. He tried to convert the Muslims, or at least to attain martyrdom in doing so. He started the practice of setting up a crib in church to celebrate the Nativity.
Francis died in 1226, having started a revolution. The Franciscans endure to this day.
Is the Pope Reversing the Catholic Church’s Ban on Abortion and Homosexual Marriage?
Recently there has been a media stir reflecting some confusion on Pope Francis’ position on abortion and on homosexuality, based on an interview he recently gave to America magazine.
Some in the media implied that the Pope is directing the Church not to concern herself with the issues of abortion and homosexuality.
ABC went so far as to say that Pope Francis wants the Church to shake off “small-minded” rules on abortion and homosexuality.
Bloomberg claimed “Pope Says Church Should Stop Obsessing Over Gays, Abortion.”
Reuters reported somewhat more correctly that the Pope is asking for a change in tone.
And yet, the same Pope Francis, in the same America magazine interview in question, in the same paragraph, two sentences later, stated “The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church,” thus confirming his loyalty to Catholic Church teaching.
A Pope who just excommunicated someone for their stance on gay marriage is not likely to announce any changes in Church teaching on gay marriage, as liberal media seems to hope. Excommunication by the Vatican is very rare; there have only been 5 since the year 2000, and this is the first one under Pope Francis.
So, What’s the Story?
So is the Pope for abortion and gay marriage, or against?
Is the Church changing age-old teachings, is the Pope a radical progressive, or is the media botching their reporting?
Short answer: the media is botching their reporting.
Longer answer? Keep reading.
Ignorance, Wishful Thinking or Deceitful Intent?
So the media is botching their reporting, yet again.
Out-of-context quotes from Pope Francis have gone viral a number of times already this year, and it’s hard to guess what the media is thinking by reporting so sloppily.
It’s difficult to determine whether the liberal media’s unprofessional reporting is due to ignorance of religion, to wishful progressive thinking, or to a deceitful intent to recruit more Catholics into the progressive political agenda, by leading them to think that the Pope approves progressive thought.
But far more interesting than speculating on media motivation is to ask what did the Pope actually say, and what is he trying to tell Catholics and the world?
Jesuits are not feebleminded. In fact, Jesuits are renowned for their scholarly talent.
When two Jesuits talk, not everybody can follow.
When two Jesuits talk, the discussion is rarely short.
The conversation in question here, the interview between these two Jesuits was 12,000 words long.
If we typed that up as a college paper, it would be 50 pages long.
In the age of tweets and texting, that’s TMI (too much information) for most people.
We need an interpreter, and the one-liner produced by the mainstream media might not be very representative of what the Pope was really trying to say.
When two Jesuits talk, the discussion is always quite intellectual. In addition to using theological references, biblical references, Latin phrases and Italian phrases, Jesuits also use references to the classics, to music, to literature, to history, and to numerous other things that leave most of us in the dust.
Pope Francis’ 50-page interview included references to Puccini, Alessandro Manzoni, Caravaggio, Chagall, Mozart, Beethoven, Prometheus, Bach, Wagner, La Scala, Knappertsbusch, Fellini, Anna Mabnani, Aldo Fabrizi, Cervantes, and El Cid, in addition to his theological and biblical references, and references to saints.
I’ll be up front and admit that I had to do some googling on more than a couple of those!
Bottom Line, When Two Jesuits Talk
When two Jesuits talk,
i.e. when Antonio Spadaro (Editor of the influential Jesuit journal Civiltà Cattolica) interviews Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Pope Francis),
we are not on the View with Joy Behar, Whoopi Goldberg, and Barbara Walters. Whoopi might give a brilliant performance in Sister Act, but in real life, she’s no Jesuit.
When two Jesuits talk, the conversation will be deep, it will be significant, it might take the rest of us some ploughing to get through it, but what we unearth will be worth the effort.
So my recommendation would be to read Pope Francis’ interview in it’s entirety. Pope Francis is inspired, and he’s delightful. I enjoyed the experience. The interview can be found at America Magazine.
Failing that, if you’re looking for some Cliff notes and an interpreter, where better to get that than from Jesuit #3, Madison’s Bishop Robert Morlino?
Bishop Morlino’s synopsis and observations on the Pope’s interview can be found at the Catholic Herald’s Bishop’s Column, September 26th, 2013. Bishop Morlino’s got it down to under 2,000 words, or about a 7 page term paper. Bishop Morlino is always a good read. And he’s very good at bringing it to our level.
Finally, if you want the perspective of one in-the-pew-Catholic like me, read on at your own (spiritual) peril. It will probably be way longer than Bishop Morlino’s version, and way less accurate. But here we go… thoughts from the pew…
The Controversial Paragraph
The media had to dig through half of Pope Francis’ 12,000 word interview, or through about 25 pages, before they could find one sentence that could be morphed by media into being “controversial,” albeit out of context. Here is the relevant paragraph (highlighting mine):
We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.
Note that the first highlighted item is the primary one reported by the media, while the second one, asserting that Church teaching has not changed and that Pope Francis is faithful to that unchanged teaching, was ignored by the media.
Rather then focusing on this out-of-context media implication that Pope Francis may be open to changing fundamental Catholic Church teaching, which is clearly disproved by the second highlighted sentence and by the recent excommunication, I’d like to focus instead on the title of the Pope’s interview, and on three points that leaped out at me when I read the interview document. These items illustrate very clearly and succinctly the message the Pope was trying to send us.
The title of the Interview, approved by Pope Francis, was A Big Heart Open to God.
O.K., the Pope is saying we must have a big heart. A big heart means love, self-explanatory. No small hearts in the Church, please. We do everything with love.
The Pope is also saying that we must be Open to God. What does that mean, to be open to God? Well, we should be listening and seeking what God wants of us, as opposed to demanding what we want from God. We should not ordering God, not ranting against God. Open to God means obedience to Christ’s teachings, obedience to the Church. Our hearts should be open, waiting to be filled.
A Big Heart Open To God.
In six words, the Pope has managed to teach lovingly to both extremes in his unruly Church. Disciplinarian dogmatists are reminded to have a big heart. No Pharisees, please. And liberal progressives are reminded to listen to God, to obey God. No rebellion against Christ’s Church.
Pope Francis, the good parent, has spoken kindly and gently to his unruly bickering children, calling for unity, and reminding us in six words what we have to do.
The First Question
The first question asked of the Pope was “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?”
Of all possible answers, Pope Francis chose “I am a sinner.”
Not “I am the grand high exalted holy ruler of 1 billion people.”
Not “I am a holy man.”
Not “I am a priest.”
Not “I am a Jesuit.”
Not “I am an Argentinian.” or “I am an Argentinian-Italian.”
Not “I am the son of Mario and Regina Bergoglio.”
This Jesuit was not faking humility. His words were carefully chosen, not to be about him, but to teach us.
The good gentle shepherd is reminding us “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7) By calling himself a sinner, he is reminding us not to throw stones at each other.
Pope Francis is telling us to treat sinners with mercy, because we are all sinners.
He is teaching gently by example, by announcing that he too is a sinner.
We must all remember that we are sinners, if we want to attract anyone to the Truth.
There is no room in the Catholic Church for holier-than-thou condemnation.
We must start with compassion, and not with condemnation.
In the interview, Pope Francis identifies his own calling with the calling of St. Matthew, the tax collector. Our Pope says “ I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.” Pope Francis wants to reach out lovingly to other sinners, and he wants us to do the same.
What Does It Mean for a Jesuit to be Bishop of Rome?
Early in the interview, Pope Francis was also asked “What does it mean for a Jesuit to be Bishop of Rome?”
The Pope’s answer, quoting Pope John XXIII’s philosophy and motto, jumped out at me as illustrating his loving and nurturing approach to exercising authority, and as illustrating what he is asking of us:
The Pope said See everything; turn a blind eye to much; correct a little.
Again, our Pope, like a good shepherd, guides gently and slowly, rather than overwhelming us with condemnation and criticism. He asks us to extend the same courtesy to each other.
The Pope also emphasized the importance of prioritizing discernment (discernment always done in the presence of the Lord). This means that time and prayer are the most appropriate means for approaching problems, and we must be wary of impulses and hasty decisions.
This is how Pope Francis sees the role of a Jesuit in the Chair of Peter.
The Church as a Field Hospital
I see clearly, that 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.
It’s pretty clear that the Pope is not advocating or approving high cholesterol, but he recognizes that wounds have to be prioritized over cholesterol concerns. He’s telling us to examine what we prioritize when we look at each other. Do we turn a blind eye to much, identify the biggest wounds, and tend to those, before launching into overwhelming criticism?
We are not likely to get our culture on board with giving up abortion and homosexual marriage by condemning them. It is by offering the love and peace of Christ that we will attract them, and the rest will follow in due course.
Respect for others does dictate kindness and a gentle approach. Which one of us would like to be approached first with recriminations about our sins? Who are we to decide that the degree of evil in the sins of others (gay lifestyle, abortion) is greater than the degree of evil in our own sins (pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth?).
Take Home Message
We could go on, quoting from and discussing the Pope’s interview. But then this article would become longer than the Pope’s interview, and you are much better served reading Pope Francis’ actual interview yourself.
The biggest take home message this Catholic found in reading the Pope’s interview was that when evangelizing, our Church needs to proceed with love, humility, and gentleness, and we need to prioritize humanity’s biggest wounds. We also need to work on obedience and on unity.
And what are humanity’s biggest wounds?
Our Pope, discerning carefully in the presence of the Lord, will help us to identify those.
He’s been remarkable so far, flooding the world with his love, and including all of humanity in his flock.
His outreach to atheists is symbolic of his profound love for all of humanity.
A Club of 1 Billion
The Catholic Church is a global club of of 1 billion people.
The person in charge of 1 billion people, in this case the Pope, should be a unifier, an educator and a leader, not a divider. He should not start with criticism, blame and attack. A good leader observes, waits, and corrects a little at a time; he breaks up job assignments into small manageable parcels.
This is what Pope Francis is doing, and his approach should not be taken to mean that he approves sin or that he has changed Catholic Church teaching.
The Pope has given us our marching orders in the gentlest manner: time for authoritarians to tone it down and to lead with love, and time for rebels to prioritize the will of God over their own will.
What Jesuits Do
What do Jesuits Do?
Jesuits were founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola, and are noted for their educational, missionary, and charitable works.
Then we should not be surprised when Pope Francis, a Jesuit, wants to teach, to teach the faith, and to teach the faith with love.
Pope Francis’s interview illustrates that he is a deep thinker, a compassionate shepherd, and a well-educated intellectual.
He’s made a great start in less than one year, with discernment, with humility, and with love.
The Best is Yet to Come
Few of us are qualified to judge a Pope.
Those of us who think we are probably have an issue with pride.
So when the Pope says something that surprises us, we need to examine what he said with an open heart, and have the humility to admit that his correction may be deserved.
In my judgement, this Pope is remarkable. As were the previous ones in my lifetime.
Pope Francis’ Global Adoration effort and his day of prayer and fasting for Syria are among his first official actions.
With these actions, the Pope illustrated to us the importance of bringing faith into life, and into public life.
Pope Francis demonstrated the urgency of interconnection between Church and State. Interconnection not from the top down, but from the bottom up. The State does not dictate the faith of the citizens, but the citizens must use their faith and their God-given conscience and must stand up for what is right.
The results global prayer and fasting combined with interconnection between Church and State are just beginning to roll in. The best is yet to come.
Not Just for Catholics
This is not just for Catholics. Everyone should get on board.
This Pope is reaching out to all of humanity, including atheists.
He seems to be getting a very positive response to his call.
Pope Francis’ interview can be summed up pretty simply-
- Drop the finger-wagging, get out the smiles, treat people with respect, pray hard, pray globally, and correct just a little at a time.
- Remember, respect includes not calling people out publicly for their sins, at least not as the first resort.
- We attract more bees with honey than with vinegar.
- Sin is still sin, what’s wrong is still wrong, but let’s not forget the beam in our own eye when pointing out the splinter in someone else’s eye.
Does that mean that we give up the struggle to eliminate abortion or to preserve marriage?
But those are not our opening efforts, before we break out mercy and love.
We don’t lead with those items while evangelizing.
Appendix: More VIRAL QUOTES from Pope Francis:
From the Washington Post: Pope Francis’ Viral Quotes on Wealth, Abortion, Atheists, War and Gay Catholics.