, Salem, MA


October 2, 2013

A look at what others are saying


— The Caledonian Record of St. Johnsbury, Vt.

Welcoming the new pope

You might think that Pope Francis had upended the teaching of the Catholic Church, given coverage of his recent interview with an Italian Jesuit journal. That is not quite the case, but he does seem determined to change what the church emphasizes.

In the interview, the pope seemed to signal a shift away from sexual politics, stressing that the church does not reject or condemn homosexuals or those who have turned to abortion or use contraception. “In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy,” rather than judgment, he said.

“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?” he asked.

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. ... 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 ... is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” Pope Francis said.

In short, context matters. People’s lives are messy. All of us are imperfect. Recent popes have spoken out frequently about what they consider great moral wrongs, including abortion, but Francis is stressing something different: the church’s role in connecting with people, helping them out of their misery, and accompanying them to a happier and more fulfilling place.

These are hardly radical new theories. In the Gospels, Jesus notably consorts with sinners and famously tells the accusers of an adulterous woman: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” When none does, Jesus wipes dirt from his hands and tells her: “Neither do I condemn thee: Go, and sin no more.”

— The Providence (R.I.) Journal, Sept. 26, 2013

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