Pope Francis: It's Time For The Catholic Church To Be More Inclusive
In an interview released Thursday, Pope Francis said the Catholic Church has gotten itself wrapped up in "small things, in small-minded rules", when it comes to the church's hard-line aversion to homosexuality, contraception and abortion. If the church does not change its ways, the Pope says, "the moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall like a house of cards."
"We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods," the Pope added. “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.”
On the issue of homosexuality, the Pope made it clear that condemnation of those who are gay is not something in which the church should take part.
“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,” Pope Francis said.
“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," he continued. “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality,” he continued. “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.”
The Pope also touched on the role of women in the church, hinting that it is time to carve out a true place for females in the Catholic Church.
“The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role,” he said. “The woman is essential for the church. Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops ... We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the church. We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman. Only by making this step will it be possible to better reflect on their function within the church. The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions.”
The Pope's words in the interview, which was conducted over three meetings in August and published in the Italian Jesuit monthly La Civilta Cattolica, is being applauded by liberal Catholics.
"This pope is rescuing the Church from those who think that condemning gay people and opposing contraception define what it means to be a real Catholic," said John Gehring, Catholic program director for the liberal group Faith in Public Life. "Francis is putting a message of mercy, justice and humility back at the center of the church's mission. It's a remarkable and refreshing change."
But the candid words of the 76 year-old Pope, who said he "has never been a right-winger", will likely not sit well with conservative Catholics. Last week, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island said he was upset that Pope Francis had not yet spoken out on the "evils of abortion" as a means to discourage activists who support reproductive choice.
Despite the hard focus many Catholic conservatives have on the social issues of homosexuality, abortion and contraception, Pope Francis, who has invited the needy in to the Vatican for a meal and personally called a rape victim, insists that it is time for the church to put energy towards attacking some of the world's real problems, like hunger and homelessness.
“This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people," Francis said in the interview. "We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity.
Full Interview Here