If there ever has been a pronouncement coming from Pope Francis, only six months into his papacy, that is giving instructive lessons to priests all over the world and refreshingly impacting on the Catholic faithful, both active and inactive, it is the result of his interview conducted by Rev. Antonio Spadaro, editor of La Civilta Cattolica, a Rome journal for the religious order.
In that interview that was compiled into a 12,000-word article, Pope Francis has warned that the Roman Catholic Church could lose its way if it focuses too much on enforcing rules against contraception, abortion, and homosexuality, instead of throwing open its doors and making the church more merciful.
Francis said, “The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”
“We have to find a new balance,” he said. “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.”
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible,” he said. “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.”
Surely, these are declarations that defer in tone and style from his immediate predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who were both intellectuals and for whom doctrine was paramount guide for priests.
What makes Francis also different, yet admirable, is his being human – practical and pragmatic – yet judicious, making sure that he does not veer away from the teachings of the church.
In the U.S., as in the Philippines, too, some ranking members of the church have shown dismay that the pope has not made emphatic his views on abortion, contraception and homosexuality.
Thus, in the U.S. the bishops continued their crackdown on American nuns, as it started during the time of Benedict, who were accused of letting doctrine take a backseat to their social justice work caring for the poor — precisely the priority that Francis is endorsing.
Not to be outdone, high ranking members of the Catholic hierarchy in the Philippines went agog fighting against the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill into law, to the extent that they even admonish the faithful attending church services who were supporters of the said bill.
“I think what Francis is doing when he’s talking about these hot-button issues, he’s not saying one side is right or the other side is right. He’s saying that arguing over these things gets in the way of the work that Catholics are supposed to be doing,” said David Cloutier, a theologian at Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland.
Exactly! The Catholic Church must work to heal the wounds of its faithful and seek out those who have been excluded or have fallen away and try saving them.
Talking about understanding, tolerance and respect of ones choices and beliefs.
“The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules,” Francis said. “The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all.”
How I wish the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) will support and follow the direction Pope Francis is taking the Roman Catholic Church and start preaching about his down-to-earth approach as he is doing it effectively by winning back adherents because of his own simple deeds that has endeared him to them and because of the respect he has shown for others, even those outside of his own religion.
To the members of the CBCP, I want to say this: To be more papist than the pope, as some of you guys are wont to do sometimes, is simply self-serving and won’t do good in the propagation of the faith and in saving souls.