What Did the Pope Actually Say?
I’ve been struck this morning by the fact that last night and this morning the media is quite abuzz with quotes from an extensive interview given by Pope Francis and printed in sixteen Jesuit theological journals. I wondered if just maybe the media was lifting sound bites out of context. And, I think they have. I would encourage you to read the entire interview, for it is really very interesting, but here I’m providing the extended comments the Pope made from which the little snipped were lifted. You can judge for yourself if in fact the Pope is declaring a new teaching on homosexuality, divorce, etc. I do not think so. I simply hear the Pope saying that the main focus of the Church should be on proclaiming salvation in Christ and from that clear proclamation then comes catechesis during which moral instruction comes. Am I being too generous in my evaluation? I would encourage all my fellow Lutheran pastor to take the time to read Pope Francis’ interview, for I believe it is important we stay informed about what the Bishop of Rome is saying. The interview makes clear that Francis is a formidable intellect in his own right. Here is a link to the official English translation of the entire interview: http://www.americamagazine.org/pope-interview
Here is the longer context of the “sound bites” you are hearing in the media this morning.
“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?
“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.
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. “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.
“I say this also thinking about the preaching and content of our preaching. A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation. There is nothing more solid, deep and sure than this proclamation. Then you have to do catechesis. Then you can draw even a moral consequence. But the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives. Today sometimes it seems that the opposite order is prevailing. The homily is the touchstone to measure the pastor’s proximity and ability to meet his people, because those who preach must recognize the heart of their community and must be able to see where the desire for God is lively and ardent. The message of the Gospel, therefore, is not to be reduced to some aspects that, although relevant, on their own do not show the heart of the message of Jesus Christ.”