ROME — In an article published on Thursday by the Italian magazine La Civilta Cattolica, Pope Francis explained that he believes the Roman Catholic Church needs to find a “new balance” in reaching unbelievers, rather than focusing predominantly on the issues of homosexuality and abortion.
During the lengthy piece, which covered a variety of topics, from being a Jesuit to the role of women in the church, Francis pointed back to comments he made last month when asked how Catholics can reach out to people who are divorced or involved in same-sex relationships.
“In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this,” he said. “During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro, I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.”
“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,” Francis continued. “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.”
Francis also stated that Catholics need to be more diverse in the issues that they address to attract more people to Roman Catholicism.
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible,” he said. “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.”
Francis asserted that men should “proclaim the Gospel on every street corner,” but in a more general sense, rather than harping on moral issues.
“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,” he opined. “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.”
However, Mike Gendron of Proclaiming the Gospel Ministries, a former Roman Catholic, said that the pope is not thinking Biblically in making his assertions.
“The pope needs to know that abortion and gay marriage are serious sins against a holy God. They must continually be condemned by the preaching of His word,” he told Christian News Network. “All sinners, including homosexuals, are condemned by God until they repent and believe His Gospel. Only then is there legal status before the holy judge changed from condemnation to justification.”
Gendron advised that it is the duty of every Christian to call the world to repentance, and to turn to Christ to find victory over the power of sin and the flesh.
“The pope does not know the word of God, which reveals that every unbeliever is held captive by the devil to do his will, only the truth can set us free,” he advised. “The purpose of the church is to lovingly confront people in their sin with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and then call them to repentance.”
“This is a great time to evangelize Catholics since they don’t know who to believe,” Gendron declared. “We need to point them to the infallible word of God for truth!”