The Holy Father gave an interview with La Civilta Cattolica, which is generating a lot of headlines. I first caught on to this story at a Knights of Columbus meeting last night, when one of my fellow Knights mentioned the Holy Father’s comments. I had not heard of this story before that.
Whatever the comments actually were (and I will paste them below), what is coming through the media, is “Pope Says Church is ‘Obsessed’ With Gays, Abortion and Birth Control”. See the picture at the top of this post from the New York Times.
The complete interview is HERE. Following is the relevant text from Pope Francis’ interview, which is spawning these types of headlines. I included surrounding paragraphs so that they are placed in a good context.
“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.
“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. 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.
My thoughts on the Holy Father’s words.
First, the Holy Father is upholding the teaching on abortion, contraception. What he is saying is that the Church is not “just these issues”. The Holy Father does imply that the Church talks about these issues more than should.
The part of the Holy Father’s comments I want to concentrate on are: “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible.” and… “I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”
Okay, I agree with Pope Francis that the Church is bigger than these three issues. Absolutely. But it is not “all the Church” talks about, or what the Church talks about “all the time”. The Church speaks through the pulpit at every Mass, through the words of Tradition, through the Holy Father, through the bishops and their letters, through Catholic media publications like the National Catholic Register (the good one, not what Father Z calls the Fishwrap 🙂 ), Our Sunday Visitor, Latin Mass Magazine, Catholic Answers website, the Remnant Newspaper, etc. Not all of these publications see eye-to-eye on issues, but they all subscribe to the same doctrine and Holy Tradition of the Church. There are also many wonderful Catholic blogs and websites run by the laity. There are Catholic television stations such as EWTN.
I could go on for a very long time listing ways the Church “talks”.
And the Church “talks” about much more than abortion, contraception, and gay marriage all the time. I hear about these issues at the pulpit at times, but it is not the majority of the time. There is talking about the sacraments, prayer, the history of the Church, charity, helping those in poverty, the readings of the day, etc. The newspapers, blogs, and Catholic television has a wide range of topics, including the lives of the saints, the position of the Church today in the modern world, politics, Catholic authors, movies, and on and on.
So I think the premise for the Holy Father’s comments is false. Abortion, contraception, and gay marriage are not talked about “all the time”. They are definitely not all the Church talks about. In many Catholic parishes, you it is very rare to hear abortion mentioned. And the teachings on contraception have been very quiet for many many years. When is the last time you heard it mentioned in your church, at the pulpit?
Some of you have great priests who do reiterate the teaches, of course! But when the whole HHS mandate issue came up, there was some shock among Catholics that “The Church teaches contraception is wrong??? Really?! Why?”
Anyway, I think the Holy Father’s premise is false. The Catholic Church does talk about these issues. But not “all the time”, and definitely not to the exclusion of other issues.
Further, the Catholic Church needs to talk about these issues, loud and clear. The culture at large is declaring that abortion is fine, contraception is a great gift to women, homosexuality is nature, and gay marriage is about equality. Many Protestant denominations deal with some of these issues, but pretty much only the Catholic Church holds the correct view on contraception (which is at the root of the abortion issue, and gay marriage for that matter! See my post HERE). If the Church doesn’t talk about the contraception issue, we are never going to end abortion. And since abortion is murder, it deserves to be fought against heavily.
Now, onto “the media”, also known as the Mass Media, Main Stream Media. The secular media, on the whole, is evil. Much of it is coordinated. Some power, some organization, is behind it, or at least a whole lot of it. It lies. It outright lies, and often lies by including certain facts, while omitting others, to try to create a false reality. And the Mass Media is going to twist the Holy Father’s words, and the words of the Church, out of true, all the time. It is what it does. You do not ask the devil for his opinion about God.
A book that does a great job showing how the media (in the book, particularly television media) give a false sense of reality through omission is Television: The Soul at Risk. The Kindle version is HERE. The Media is not all the book talks about, but the points it makes are good. The author gives a couple of examples – one on the media doing a story on homeschooling (of her family), the other on a Sunday Mass – that she has personal experience with, and how reality is twisted in the news story.
My point is, it is not the Catholic Church that talks about the issues of abortion, contraception, and gay marriage “too much”. These things ARE what Mass Media obsesses about, when talking about the Church.
Here are a couple of questions: 1) When is the last time you heard a sermon on the saints, and holiness, in your church? 2) When is the last time you saw a news story on the saints, and holiness, in the media?
The Catholic Church does not “obsess” on abortion, contraception, and gay marriage. The media, and the culture at large, does.
It is almost as if the culture feels ashamed, or guilty, of where it is gone… and is constantly trying to justify itself.
[AC: I’ve run out of time…This post may be updated with additional thoughts/corrections].