Pope Francis and His Critics

Pope Benedict XVI, according to the New York Times, wanted a smaller, purer Catholic Church. Pope Francis, if the Times is to be believed, is well on the way to making the first part of his predecessor’s putative vision a reality, by driving all of those who remain faithful to Christian moral teaching out of the Church.

Of course, when it comes to all things Catholic, the New York Times (and especially Laurie Goodstein, its designated hitter on stories involving the Catholic Church) is not to be believed. Up until March 13, 2013, most faithful Catholics in the United States knew that. But since the election of Pope Francis, a small but increasing number of those same Catholics seem inclined to believe every distortion that Miss Goodstein writes, and the Times sees fit to print, about the Holy Father.

The latest lie involves Pope Francis’s interview with the Italian Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica. As Steven D. Greydanus points out, the Times‘ breathless story went through at least three headlines on their website (and at least two versions of the opening paragraph) before settling on the one that upset so many American Catholics last Thursday morning, September 19: “Pope Says Church Is ‘Obsessed’ With Gays, Abortion and Birth Control.”

Of course, Pope Francis said nothing of the sort, as the full English translation of the interview, published by the U.S. Jesuit journal America, makes clear. Here’s a little tip to keep in mind when reading articles on the Catholic Church in the New York Times (or, really, any of the mainstream media): If the “gotcha” quotation is a single word, it has been taken out of context. Not sometimes, or even most of the time, but 100 percent of the time.

Just as Pope Benedict never said that he desired a smaller, purer Church, but rather that such a Church might well come into existence because of external forces, including the kind of persecution that the New York Times would not simply welcome but champion, so Pope Francis did not say that the Church is “obsessed” with homosexuality, abortion, and contraception. Rather, he declared, “The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.” Shorn from their moorings, the Church’s moral teachings threaten to become abstractions—the Law that condemns rather than gives life. Christian morality does not stand outside the Gospel but flows from it—from the real, lived encounter with Jesus Christ.

As Pope Francis put it in his interview, “The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.” Or as Christ answered when the Pharisee asked him, “Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” (Matthew 22:36-40),

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.

Reverse that order—make the Church’s opposition to abortion and homosexual “marriage” the two greatest commandments, and convince ourselves that the love of God and neighbor flows from them—and not only may we lose sight of the God Whom we are to love with our whole heart and soul and mind, but we may also find ourselves in danger of losing the battle to save unborn children and defend marriage. Indeed, that is where we are today, and that is why the Holy Father told his interviewer, “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.”

“But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumblingblock, and unto the Gentiles foolishness: But unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:23-25). This, the encounter with the God Who became Man and died for our sins, Pope Francis says, “is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus.” It is what made the early Christians burn with a zeal so strong that they were willing, in turn, to die for Christ, and, in the process, to bring the Roman Empire to the One, True God.

And a funny thing happened on the way to the Forum: Abortion and infanticide and even the practice of contraception and homosexual activity declined as love for Christ, and for their neighbor for His sake, grew in the hearts of men. Saint Paul would find a kindred spirit in a man whose experience of the power of Christ is so strong that he truly believes that “We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing, even with our preaching, every kind of disease and wound.” What are abortion and homosexual activity and the destruction of the marital embrace through contraception if not spiritual diseases and wounds?

What, indeed! They are the greatest moral issues confronting mankind today. They destroy millions of lives every year—not figuratively, but literally. Saving souls is essential; but saving lives is, too. Conversion takes time; lives are being lost today.

Yes, they are. And the Church must provide a moral witness on such matters of life and death, even to those who have not responded to the Gospel of Christ, who have not had the encounter from which Christian morality flows.

And She does provide that witness. The reason the New York Times is so obsessed with the Church’s teaching on abortion and contraception and homosexual activity is because that teaching is abundantly clear. It could not be more clear if every one of Pope Francis’s public utterances were like the address he delivered to the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations on Friday, September 20, the day after his interview in La Civiltà Cattolica was published:

The human fragility in each of us is invited to recognize the face of the Lord, who in his human flesh experienced the indifference and loneliness that often condemn the poorest, both in countries in the developing world, and in affluent societies. Every child not allowed to be born, but unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ, the Lord’s face, inasmuch as before he was born, and while born, he experiences the rejection of the world.

The Church’s teaching could not be more clear: but if every one of Pope Francis’s public speeches were like this, the Church’s teaching might well lose all of its force. As Frank Weathers notes, Pope Benedict, in an address to the bishops of Switzerland on November 9, 2006, explained why:

I remember, when I used go to Germany in the 1980s and ’90s, that I was asked to give interviews and I always knew the questions in advance. They concerned the ordination of women, contraception, abortion and other such constantly recurring problems.

If we let ourselves be drawn into these discussions, the Church is then identified with certain commandments or prohibitions; we give the impression that we are moralists with a few somewhat antiquated convictions, and not even a hint of the true greatness of the faith appears. I therefore consider it essential always to highlight the greatness of our faith—a commitment from which we must not allow such situations to divert us.

Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Pope Benedict reminded his fellow bishops, wrote to the Christians at Rome that “The Christian is not the result of persuasion, but of power”—the power of the encounter with the Risen Christ.

“[T]he proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives,” Pope Francis told his interviewer. “Today sometimes it seems that the opposite order is prevailing.” If we reduce the Christian Faith to a moral system, we rob it of its power—a power that changed forever the lives of men like Ignatius, who wrote those words to the Romans on the way to his own martyrdom.

Pope Francis, it is said (with more than a little justification), does not speak with the precision and clarity of his predecessor. And in the face of distortions by the New York Times and confusion among the faithful, precision and clarity are greatly to be desired. So let us leave the final words to Pope Benedict, from that same address to the bishops of Switzerland—words that, as much as the New York Times and Pope Francis’s critics in the Church might hate to admit it, have found an echo seven years later in the Holy Father’s interview with La Civiltà Cattolica:

I think that this is the great task we have before us: on the one hand, not to make Christianity seem merely morality, but rather a gift in which we are given the love that sustains us and provides us with the strength we need to be able to “lose our own life.” On the other hand, in this context of freely given love, we need to move forward towards ways of putting it into practice, whose foundation is always offered to us by the Decalogue, which we must interpret today with Christ and with the Church in a progressive and new way.

(Photo credit: Tony Gentile / Reuters)

Scott P. Richert


Scott P. Richert is the Senior Content Network Manager for Our Sunday Visitor and Editor at Large for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    “By grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

    In a fallen world, the law of nature has only one purpose: to make man inexcusable before God. Because the natural law manifests itself in the dictates of conscience, conscience, too, only serves to deprive man of the pretext of ignorance and to make him responsible before the judgment of God. This does not imply that unregenerate man can attain true knowledge of the divine will; as Pascal says, “without Scripture, which has only Jesus Christ for its object, we know nothing and see only obscurity and confusion in God’s nature and ours.”

    As Jacque Maritain observed, “Man is not in a state of pure nature, he is fallen and redeemed. Consequently, ethics, in the widest sense of the word, that is, in so far as it bears on all practical matters of human action, politics and economics, practical psychology, collective psychology, sociology, as well as individual morality,—ethics in so far as it takes man in his concrete state, in his existential being, is not a purely philosophic discipline. Of itself it has to do with theology, either to become integrated with or at least subalternated to theology. . . . Here is a philosophy which must of necessity be a superelevated philosophy, a philosophy subalternated to theology, if it is not to misrepresent and scientifically distort its object.”

    Maurice Blondel insisted that we must never forget “that one cannot think or act anywhere as if we do not all have a supernatural destiny. Because, since it concerns the human being such as he is, in concreto, in his living and total reality, not in a simple state of hypothetical nature, nothing is truly complete (boucle), even in the sheerly natural order”

  • lifeknight

    Well, another article attempting to “interpret” what the Pope really means. Even philosophers will be stymied by these interviews.
    I know the Pope cannot change matters of faith and morals, but I guess we aren’t supposed to talk so much about those matters? Say what?
    Please, please give us poor slobs in the pews a straight answer! Tell me what I am supposed to teach my high school children about protesting abortion? Tell me straight out (pun) what I am supposed to say about sodomites and marriage? Sex and contraception?

    What the Pope needs, in my humble opinion, is to stop chatting and start WRITING. Then we will have HIS exact words to ponder and not another interpreter’s rendition.

    • Scott Richert

      “lifeknight,” please go back and read the article again. I did not “interpret” anything. At no point did I write, for instance, “This is what the Pope really meant”; “This must be understood in light of . . . “; or any such formulation.

      What I did, instead, was read the entire interview, word for word, and not the New York Times or anyone else’s “interpretation” of it. I read “HIS exact words,” and I recognize exactly what he was saying, because those words were clear—just as Pope Benedict’s were back in 2006.

      If you don’t know how to teach your children the truth about abortion, contraception, and homosexuality, then the best place to start is with prayer. I’m the father of eight children, and I’ve never had any trouble explaining these matters to my children—neither before Pope Benedict made his remarks in 2006, nor after, or before Pope Francis made his remarks last week, nor after.

      • Pay

        Plenty of people read his exact words and are still troubled.

        • Scott Richert

          If they really read Pope Francis’s words (and not simply the cherry-picked excerpts in news reports and on blogs) and are “still troubled,” then they need to ask themselves why. Is it, perhaps, because the Holy Father is right, and the “simple, profound, radiant” message of the Gospel—the encounter with Jesus Christ from which “moral consequences then flow”—is being lost, as Christian moral teaching is being shorn from its moorings?

          • Pay

            No, that is not the issue at all. There are specific things he mentioned that are vague and can be interpreted in different ways. Small minded rules? As one example.

            • Marcellus

              Here is another: “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”
              When he talks about “small minded rules” or says that “the dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent,” I am afraid it will only confirm those Catholics who choose what teachings, moral or dogmatic, that they think are important.

              • Pay

                That is exactly the point. Theological distinctions are not clarified here at all.

            • MJK

              “the “simple, profound, radiant” message of the Gospel—the encounter with
              Jesus Christ from which “moral consequences then flow”—is being lost…”

              @ Scott not pay — It may have been lost or obfuscated because there are many who profess what you are asserting here — proclaim the Gospel and claim to have a radiant encounter with Christ — can justify all that the supposed small minded rules condemn.

              He could be more direct (less enthusiastic) and reconnect the moorings to the source. Speaking in flowery, purple prose has taken it’s toll and is partly responsible or the un-mooring of Catholic moral teaching from its Source.

              Given Benedicts’ pedigree and CV may be he had a more balanced approach that sought to reconcile the Source with the Rules. This is not to say that Benedict was always crystal clear, hardly. However, the current pope seems to have a talent to overemphasize certain aspects like “love” and nonjudgmentalism while completely de-emphasizing that phrase you fashioned the moral consequences of that flow…

          • Howard Kainz

            Scott, you seem to be skipping the quote that set off the skirmish: ““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

            • Scott Richert

              Howard, just because I haven’t quoted the five sentences that every other article on the Pope’s interview has doesn’t mean that I’ve “skipped” it. Rather, my article looks beyond that quotation to the Holy Father’s own explanation of those very words—which is something that both the New York Times and Pope Francis’s critics within the Church have simply not done.

              • John-O-Neill

                There is no doubt that following Benedict XVI this pope has brought an element of vagueness and lack of surety to the Church. Benedict XVI has written some great texts on the meaning and teachings of the Church; he has offered us an excellent explanation of who Jesus Christ is in his three volume dissertation on Christ. So far Francis seems to be courting the press and the mob with his flinging himself into the crowds against the will of his security officers and his insistent going on about taking care of the poor. The Church has always taught that we should take care of the poor but Francis is beginning to sound like Nancy Pelosi in that it does not matter whether you live your life in following the moral teachings of Christ as long as you provide welfare and head start programs for the poor. In a few words we offer them stones instead of bread.

              • MJK

                Unfortunately, Francis’ words need further explanation and clarity because he is terribly enthusiastic. Or, is his message crystal clear…? I beginning to believe he is saying what he means and meaning what he says…

          • Ty

            Thank you for the article. I like Pope Francis, and Benedict and JP II. I’ve read the actual interview, and overall got a very favourable impression. I found the Pope’s thoughts valuable, interesting, and certain phrases puzzling or troubling (as others have detailed here), which means I’ll read the interview again. There’s a lot of material to cover. I also compared the interview with the NY Times article on it, concluding that the NYT was definitely misleading. Last time I checked, there were 1488 comments on the NYT article. I read a few of them, and observed a common theme of “the Catholic church is hateful and rotten, but this Pope is going to change that, so hurray for Pope Francis.” One person said that for the first time in 50 years she felt proud to be Catholic. I wonder where she has been for the last 50 years? In a coma? Hers is not the Church I know. I hope that with 1488 comments many will take the trouble to read the actual interview and become more interested in coming to the Church.

        • shaggyk

          Many Pharisees continued to be troubled by Jesus’ words too. What is truly powerful about Christianity is the salvation of the sinner – all of us sinners. God’s mercy is more powerful than our sins. Pope Francis is reminding us that we need to love first, preach second.

          Remember Jesus told his followers to obey the scribes and pharisees, just not to follow their example. What kind of example are we setting?

          • Pay

            The Pharisee charge is the usual charge from the Left. This issue is not about the prudence of his pastoral reasoning. The issue is the vagueness of his words and the confusion it sews.

          • MJK

            Pope Francis is reminding us that we need to love first, preach second.

            What kind of love are we talking about? Today’s abstract, sentimental humanitarianism or real concrete love, which also involves informing people when they are on the wrong path. It isn’t love to lie to someone to tell them what they are doing is okay when point of fact it is not okay

            • shaggyk

              Pope Francis did not say we lie about sin. In fact, in the same interview he warned that confessors should not dismiss sins casually. He talks about taking responsibility for healing the sinner, not just putting a burden of rules on them. Evangelism is much more than just pointing out the sins of others. It must lead them to Jesus.

              • MJK

                “Lie about sin.” what does this even mean? It certainly misses the point made earlier.

                The point: There’s too much talk about love in the abstract today especially by those who claim to be religious.

                They tend to portray love as sentimental, soft, or immature. This description of love is weak, lazy, and superficial — lacking in aspirational necessity, and can be heard in many of the homilies offered by priest today. Concrete love of actual human beings engaged in actions can be otherworldy as well as quite harsh.

                I’m always concerned when people use clinical metaphors in religious contexts. It is absolutely not the vocation of a priest to “heal” any one; absolve for sure, but healing is not a priestly duty. Use of such language illustrates exactly what the issue is today: imprecision and lack of clarity…which helps no one in the end…

      • lifeknight

        Great. Let’s hope our children get some serious teaching from someone in the Church as well.

  • Randall Ward

    People that have a problem with the Pope and his message, have a problem with seeing their own sin.

    • Pay

      I do not see how you draw that judgement? People are asking why his Holiness speaks in such vague terms. You can claim he means anything you want. How is that helpful?

      • Scott Richert

        Or perhaps people have decided that the Holy Father is speaking in “vague terms” because they do not want to—or worse yet, cannot—grasp the fundamental essence of Christianity that he is conveying.

        • Pay

          I doubt that. First, Pope Benedict did not make the remarks you mention in the way this Pope has. We all knew What Benedict thought and said. Not true for this current Pope.

          Secondly, I have to think either some are being disingenuous, or willfully ignorant, when they can read his exact words and see they are vague. No matter the Pope’s intention his words in that interview were vague on some key points.

          First Things has a good essay on this topic right now. I do not want this to be simply harsh criticism of the pope but in all fairness I think people of good will can see he was too vague and that is borne out in all the questions and concerns that are going now as well as all the spin from Catholic websites all claiming to know what he “really” said.

          I doubt all the questioners are of bad faith.

          • Scott Richert

            “I do not want this to be simply harsh criticism of the pope but in all fairness I think people of good will can see he was too vague . . . ”

            “I doubt all the questioners are of bad faith.”

            But you have, apparently, no qualms about suggesting that those of us who find the remarks clear are not “people of good will.”

            • Pay

              I was responding to your charge that people who correctly find vagueness are being insincere. Is this not the pot calling the kettle black?

              I am pointing out that the assertion his words are vague is obvious. I am not the only one saying this. What is almost amusing is that 500 different para experts have to tell us what was really said even when the Pope’s own words are read. Can you not admit there is a problem given that so many find his words troubling? Really?

              • Scott Richert

                “I was responding to your charge that people who correctly find vagueness are being insincere.”

                I did not say that anyone was “being insincere.” Unwillingness to understand, much less the inability to do so, is something far different from “being insincere,” which requires that one understand and yet pretend not to.

                • Pay

                  Well, unwillingness to understand stems from something. What do you mean?

                  • Scott Richert

                    In a word, concupiscence.

          • Scott Richert

            “First, Pope Benedict did not make the remarks you mention in the way this Pope has.”

            Except that I offered specific quotations that show that he did.

            “We all knew What Benedict thought and said. Not true for this current Pope.”

            And there, I think, is the rub. Benedict and Francis can make the very same point in very similar words, and the New York Times would damn Benedict and praise Francis, while certain Catholics would do the opposite.

            • Pay

              He spoke them yes. But that is one time and you had to search for It. As I said everyone knew what Pope Benedict said and stood for. It was never vague or questioned as it is today. There is a difference.

              I do not take your charge seriously. First, this constant blame the press is over done. They are reporting what they see. They interpret as you do. Both are spinning.

              Now, it is not about not giving our Holy Father the benefit of the doubt. It is that he often uses vague words that are not followed up with clarification. Note Benedict said things that were misinterpreted yet they were mostly clarified quickly.

              • Scott Richert

                “Now, it is not about not giving our Holy Father the benefit of the doubt.”

                I never suggested giving the Holy Father “the benefit of the doubt.” I suggested that Catholics should read the entire interview so that they can understand what he said, not what the New York Times and bloggers say he said.

              • MtMama

                Everyone knew what Pope Benedict said and stood for because he was a very public figure for many years in Rome and wrote many books. “Everyone” knew who he was and what he had done and said before he even stepped onto the balcony at St. Peter’s. It’s hardly fair to compare him to Pope Francis.

            • Marcellus

              You gave one quote by Benedict which seemed similar to something Francis said. That hardly proves anything. Pope Benedict did not cause the kind of turmoil among orthodox Catholics that the current Holy Father has caused in his short reign.
              You say that they both made the same point in very similar words but that Benedict was damned and Francis praised. Why is that?

        • Bob

          But why Scott can’t the pope with great clarity state when interviewed on these subjects “Before I answer your questions, let me remind you of clear Church teaching, that homosexual acts, abortion, and contraception are immoral and sinful and never acceptable…” then discuss it in respect of Christ’s mercy, love, healing and forgiveness? Read how a writer in today’s USA Today spun what the pope has said and states a “civil war” has broken out in the Church!?

          • Scott Richert

            Yes, why couldn’t he have said something as simple as “The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church . . . “

            • Bob

              ……but that was lost somewhere in the middle and all people heard was the Church is “obsessed” with sin, and on the plane from Brazil “who am I to judge?”

              Look…..I consider myself a well catechized, constantly educating myself Catholic and I get what he was trying to say. But he tossed out enough “juicy bits” sound bites to the secular vultures to spin and for the poorly catechized Catholics to be confused on.

              • Scott Richert

                “all people heard was the Church is ‘obsessed’ with sin”

                Exactly my point: Pope Francis didn’t say that; the New York Times did. If people are willing to accept the testimony of the New York Times so that they don’t have to trouble themselves to read what the Holy Father actually said, there’s really not much that can be done about it.

                • Bob

                  I do love this pope and I get what he’s saying, and it’s beautiful. And maybe there’s far more anti Catholic biased press (and the Internet) than days gone by that are too willing to parse anything the pope says.

                • John

                  But Pope Francis DID say: “The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules.” What small-minded rules was he referring to? Isn’t it possible some could take this to mean that some of the important teachings relating to – abortion, sacramental marriage, misuse of sexuality in its many forms – are really just “small-minded rules” imposed by an out-of-date, out-of-step patriarchal Church?

              • Michael Paterson-Seymour

                But the Pope did explain his remark, “Who am I to judge,” in this very interview, “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.” There is no ambiguity here.

                • Marcellus

                  “Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free.” You find this statement to be clear? Please, explain.

                • Pay

                  What does that mean?

                • Bob

                  Before I respond, show me where in the Catechism does it say “it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.” And I’ll throw in the caveat, you possibly might be misinterpreting that section. Should we “counsel the ignorant and admonish the sinner” with the Truth of the teaching of Christ in His Church…..yes. This is charity and love that you might have actually redirected that person living a life of sin down the right spiritual path towards Jesus.

            • Randall Ward

              Scott, the teaching of the church are not simple, they are complex. You must come from one of the five verse churches.

        • michael susce

          To quote a wise man, “Pope Francis, it is said (with more than a little justification), does not speak with the precision and clarity of his predecessor. Thank you Scott for showing in your above quote in your article that one can believe in the essence of Christianity AND assert that the Holy Father speaks in vague terms. You did the same.
          Couple points:
          1) To say that a no one, including a “spiritual” director cannot interfere in the spiritual life of a homosexual is simply unbelievable.
          2) after perusing comments from readers from both NCR and Crisis, there is enough proof that both the secular media AND the faithful are getting “it” wrong. Therefore, Pope Francis has failed to communicate in an effective way.
          3) We have been spoiled with the two previous excellent popes and must realize that not all popes will be as capable as the previous two.
          4) As an ex-evangelical who has seen this part of Christianity back down from the persecution of believing what is true, it is devastating for Pope Francis to make the statements he has made in light of the recent Supreme Court decision. His timing is horrible. And he has taken the direction of retreating.
          5) To say that the extermination of the most innocent is not fundamental to Christian faith is another stunning admission.
          Can one imagine if a Devout Jew would say that we need not be obsessive about the Holocaust!? Or we need not be obsessive about the sexual abuse of children because it is not fundamental to faith?! Who was it that said that whoever harms little children should have a rope tied around his neck and thrown into the river? Come on Jesus, stick with the fundamentals.
          6) Let’s go back to the early church and the Emmaus walk? This is 2000 years later?! Did they have the Church then? After 2000 years, this is his answer??
          7) The pope denied being a right winger. Should he not deny that he is a left winger also?
          Bottom Line: The most important man on the face of the earth, the leader of the spiritual world SHOULD NOT GIVE INTERVIEWS.
          8) I knew the interview was going to be worthless when the first question was asked: Who is..? This reminds me of the old Russian proverb: any idiot can ask a question that can keep 10 wise men busy for ages.
          9) If I am not mistaken, there was an article in Crisis about how the Pope was dead set against St. Ignatius of Loyola and the Jesuits.
          10) No one has mentioned the fact that the Pope is speaking extemporaneously (sp?) and not ex-cathedra.
          11) If Pope John Paul II can live through both the Nazi’s and Communists and still remain faithful, then so can we.
          God bless, Michael

        • MJK

          You have pointed out more than once that Francis hasn’t said anything that Benedict hasn’t uttered. I guess it’s just a style thing…but it’s probably more than that…really.

  • AcceptingReality

    Still, I wonder who, within the Church, the Pope thinks is overly focused on Her moral teachings. Abortion is rarely mentioned from the pulpit. Contraception is never, ever mentioned. I have heard homosexuality mentioned recently but it was in the context of an insinuation that such a lifestyle was equivalent to traditional views of marriage and in no way effects ones eternal disposition. So, while I agree with the Pope that true morality flows from conversion, I wish the moral teachings could be heard from pulpits on occasion.

    • The Truth

      Am we expected to call sin , sin or not? That goes for our own actions too. But if we don’t call sinful acts sinful then we are enablers and leading others to sin. There is a large difference between being trapped in sinful behavior and declaring it justified.

      • Robert

        A sin’s a sin’s a sin; but if your adult daughter told you that she will be moving in with her boyfriend, would you be as upset as would be if she told you she was a lesbian?
        Would you tell your daughter that you will never visit her as long as she lives with a man she is not married to? Would you refuse to acknowledge him?
        I think it is more likely that you would simply tell her that you disapprove of her choice but otherwise continue to treat her courteously and her boyfriend courteously. This is what most parents today would do.

        A sin’s a sin, but there are different ways to approach them and I think his Holiness was suggesting that perhaps too much has been made of homosexual behaviour and contraceptive.

        • lifeknight

          Wow. Yes, I would be horrified if my daughter moved in with a man. Extremely horrified if she proclaimed to be lesbian, and yes, we–as a family would not accept or acknowledge the relationship. Different ways are not always the right way—The first spiritual work of mercy is “admonish the sinner.” Why? Because eternity is a long time. If you have mortal sins and you die, you are not going to heaven. What if your child dies in mortal sin?

          • Bob

            EXCELLENT point on the spiritual work of mercy to “admonish the sinner!” If a friend confided to you that they were committing adultery, or stealing from their workplace, as a friend that loves them wouldn’t our first response be “Fred/Sue…..what you are doing is wrong AND A SIN!!”

          • Fritz DuJour

            And yet, you are called to treat the sinner with charity. If you permanently close the door, you will never draw the sinner back to the light.

        • Adam__Baum

          Cohabitation by an opposite sex couple is a widespread social pathology, however in the individual circumstance, while it is illicit-it maybe a disordered transitional situation – it can be regularized by a valid marriage (even if as my Pastor pointed out this weekend, such a marriage appears to face an increased chance of divorce).

          A homosexual relationship on the otherhand, can never be regularized except by a hyperactive state and can never produce grandchildren.

        • Marcellus

          Perhaps too much has been made of homosexual behavior and contraception? What Church to you belong to? When have you heard homosexual behavior or contraception spoken against in a Sunday sermon? Or divorce, which the Roman Catechism says is a “grave offense against the Natural Law?” For that matter, have we ever heard the Holy Father say, in the various contexts in which it is addressed, that homosexual behavior is wrong?

          • Robert

            It is true that I have heard little of that kind of admonishment in the pews, but on Crisis magazine I have read little else. I am genuinely surprised that so few commentators here have realized how much much they think about gays and abortion.
            There is so much resistance on this page to the Holy Father’s comments; it shows how well we deserve them.

            • Adam__Baum

              Did it ever occur to you that if these verities were discussed by Pastors more frequently on Sunday, they would be discussed less frequently here?

            • Marcelus

              Agree with that Robert.The world of Catholicism goes far beyond that. we are making a world out of each and every little comment the Pope makes, and he makes a lot!Francis when he was in Argentina, is and has been a man who will not just stand and preach from the pulpit. and he is not a Pope to just talk about the issues that readers here may consider principal-
              When this man talks about poverty, believe me , He knows what is is talking about. And on the gay issue, in all humility, what do you think the Lord would do to gay people? Burn them? Condemn them? cast them aside? He went on to answer that in similar words after this interview saying that very often in Buenos AIres, gay people approached him for aide and confort, He referred to them as being “socially wounded” or “socially hurt”.
              In the other hand, on certain matter that worry our fellow readers He has been clear for years.

              PLease take some time as you would with other previous Popes, to look into his work before his election.
              And by the way, by electing Francis what do you think the Cardinals expected? He did not just parachute out of the Vatican Dome you know? Were they all wrong? and please do not go on with the “liberals and conservatives ” sides and all that…

              Crdn Bergoglio had been an extremely respected and heard man for decades within the Chuch, fighintg battles people in Europe or N America (and please I mean no offense by this) in Latin America and leading the Chuch here in my region. I am from Argentina.
              AS you may know Argentina is one of the first countries in the world to pass legislation on the so called “civil union” or gay marriage. Crnl Bergoglio FOUGHT as hard as He could against that. That does not mean he will not confort anyone of that persuation.
              On his ACTIONS against abortion, READ please.
              AND so on.- Read “the Jesuit” by Sergio Rubin
              Otherwise we’ll only have what the sunday press picks from some of his MANY comments and make a world of it.
              Soe may say “Oh the Pope does not need to talk so openly or loosely and this and that” or may be used to the style of previous Popes and asume they all have to be that way.
              Francis in not. And not all Catholics expect the Pope to talk about Theology, or similar mattters ALL THE TIME, and not all catholics will understand this the way the learned readers of Crisis will. Many would find confort , support and fatherly love in his simple words and figure,
              Our Lord spoke in paraboles for a reason remember.
              Catholics have many views on different issues and our Chuch must and will be inclusive.

              • schmenz

                “in all humility, what do you think the Lord would do to gay people? Burn them?”

                I do seem to recall that the Lord did do something of that nature in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah.

            • Glenn M. Rickettts

              I wonder then, what an appropriate response would be to the aggressive, in-your-face onslaught from gay activists that one encounters just about everywhere else: in public education, in popular culture (TV shows, talk shows, etc.) in the fact that the Boy Scouts are now dismissed as a “hate” group on many college campuses, “queer studies” programs whose vitriol is in a class apart? We certainly weren’t looking for this fight.

              Against all of this, I have heard countless homilies on climate change and social responsibility, women’s ordination, corporate greed,why Occupy Wall Street actually reflects the authentic gospel teaching, the need to welcome illegal immigrants, the fact that God loves everyone all the time, please be ‘tolerant” etc., etc.

              We certainly weren’t looking for this fight. Crisis, however, is one of the very few venues that hasn’t dodged it.

        • The Truth

          If you truly love your daughter you will visit her and love her. But that doesn’t change the fact that she is living in sin, I wouldn’t hound her on it, but according to church teaching’s if she knows the truth and turns her back on it, isn’t her eternal soul at risk? I find there to be a big difference between homosexual acts and heterosexual fornication. But the thing is, I’m not seeing a fornication pride parade or a political movement making living together “equal” to marriage. It’s not the sin itself, it’s the promotion of it and the the forced acceptance of it. Adam_Baum stated it better than I could. God loves everyone, all sinners and we are all sinners. But we must acknowledge sin.

    • Steve Frank

      You are quite correct of course. The Church is not nor has it ever been focused on contraception, abortion or SSM. The media is fixated on these things. It’s the press that keeps putting microphones in the faces of Christian leaders demanding they explain their views on abortion, contraception and SSM. Then when a politically incorrect response is given, the media accuses the Church of being obsessed with these matters. It’s all part of a political agenda to “scare” the public into believing Catholicism and Evangelicalism are fanatical, dangerous, etc. In any case, we have to stop apologizing to the media for the caricature of the Church which they have created.

      • Dorothy

        Steve, whenever I blog about homosexuality on a Catholic online publication such as this one, I send a link (for the article) to a folder on my computer. Since August 23, 2012, I have commented on 143 articles just on homosexuality alone. These have appeared on conservative Catholic sites like Crisis, MercatorNet/Conjugality, The Catholic World Report, National Catholic Reporter, Catholic Exchange, CatholicCulture.org, Spiritual Friendship, and LifeSiteNews. My impression is that Catholic writers are more than eager to express their views about homosexuality. Let’s not forget, too, that the Catholic Church invested a lot of money in fighting California’s Prop 8 and is still a very visible opponent of all the state efforts to legalize same-sex marriage.

        Your name looks familiar. Don’t you also spend a fair amount of time blogging about homosexuality? If so, you can hardly blame the press for being “fixated” on these topics. They sell. They bring in the clicks. You’re here, I’m here, and articles like this one sometimes get hundreds of comments. It’s hot stuff. I think Francis is correct in stating the obvious: Homosexuality has become an obsession. I realize he did not say that in so many words, but look at the paragraph preceding the one where he does use the word “obsessed.” (The author of this article, Richart, ignores it.) Francis says, “…it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.” Talking about an issue all the time is obsessive. That’s why Francis says, just two sentences later, “The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”

        • Pay

          Gee, I cannot imagine why so much interest in the topic? Not like it affects children and family and all of civilization.

          Instead of obsession perhaps we can say too many do not care?

        • Adam__Baum

          “whenever I blog about homosexuality on a Catholic online publication such as this one, I send a link (for the article) to a folder on my computer. Since August 23, 2012, I have commented on 143 articles just on homosexuality alone.”

          Don’t you also spend a fair amount of time blogging about homosexuality?

        • Steve Frank

          Dorothy, I don’t have a blog. This is the only place I comment regularly on this matter (aside from an occasional comment on an online newspaper article).

          I agree with you that homosexuality is a hot topic right now and there are lots of opinions out there. But which side started the fight? Which side decided that it was time to change the definition of marriage as it has stood for thousands of years? Which
          side wants to completely re-engineer the definition of family as it has stood for centuries? Why is the Church being treated as the aggressor on this issue? All she wishes to do is maintain the status quo. Activists have come along and asked to change the definition of marriage and the Church is just saying No. What are Christians supposed to do, roll over and saying nothing? It’s the culture that is obsessed with the issue, not the Church. The Church is merely responding to the culture. Her posture is defensive.

          • musicacre

            Any attention at all is more than what abortion got. The bishops realized they dropped the ball on abortion and contraception about 40 years ago, so they are hopefully fighting this one.(homosexuality). The world IS a battleground, to retain morality, and Christ himself told us that. (Not to mention earlier scriptures.)

    • concerned

      I too would like to see more emphasis on explanations of reasons for certain morals to be upheld, eg. many people do not realise that the homosexual agenda (in their own literature) is to APPROPRIATE the TITLE of “Marriage” specifically in order to create their own version; to “water-down” the understanding and importance of traditional Marriage, thus destroy it. Their goal is to create a world according to THEIR wishes, regardless of the negative impact on the nation. They forget that the most important role of Marriage is the protection of children. Then, and only then, is it about the married couple.

      Yet “Gays” in France seem a little wiser, having accepted that traditional Marriage must be maintained for the “greater good” of culture, otherwise the new “arrangement” make it open to abuse (“marriage” between two or more people, part-time/open “marriage”,etc). These “gays” also have stated that 99% of “gays” want no part of marriage anyway.
      These are their stated reasons the “gays” themselves joined the march in France AGAINST the changes (recognition of same-sex ‘marriage’) that had just been passed.

      Yes, we need more clarity in the teachings of the Church … and the reasons.

  • Mary

    The interview the Pope did has the potential for harming the church that needs a clarion call for repentence for the crimes against the unborn, against God’s Laws on human sexulaity and marriage now more than ever. Most of these issues are routinely left out of our homilies all together. We have been fed too much a diet of worms—feel good, luke warm talks on Sunday that hardly address the needs in our world. I know I am not alone in saying that often it is the pro-life Catholic that feels a bit unloved in the pew because the presence of the orthodox believer is the sometimes the only reminder that we have these teachings in our Church and they make other feel a tiny bit uncomfortable. The tendency sometimes is to be glad when they move on perhaps to a more conservative Parish. I don’t want my Church to be another Congregational Church, I want it to be thorougly Catholic. As I remember it one of the seven spiritual acts of mercy is to correct your brother. There is far too little of that in the Parishes! Isn’t that going out and finding the lost sheep! Most Catholic do not have a clue why the Church teaches what it does on these important issues. Yesterday I was at a gathering in remembrance of Our Lady of La Salette and the message was read to us about “people will go to Church just to make fun of religion”…and isn’t that what we do when we go there and don’t not want to be confronted with Truth. The great directive of Christ was to “. [19] Go therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. [20] Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” Mathew 28: 18,19 I am glad the Pope about the unborn in a comment after the interview, but how many will hear that? And everyone will be relieved that the Pastors have been given the permission not to talk about such things.

    • Bob

      Agreed. The pope being murky (regardless of what he said on Friday) on abortion has hamstrung all the dedicated Catholics standing in front of abortion mills praying the rosary and trying to persuade young girls from walking inside and slaughtering their babies.

      We are the Church Militant. Not the Church, wimpy, squishy, and spineless. The pope needs to clearly call sin,sin. If not, Satan and his minions will continue to dominate.

      • tom

        Yet, he asked Catholics NOT to participate in abortions.

        • Adam__Baum

          Consent is participation, silence is consent.

  • Marguerite

    Catechism of the Catholic Church, Profession of Faith, #89:
    There is an organic connection between our spiritual life and the dogmas. “Dogmas are lights along the path of faith; they illuminate it and make it secure. Conversely, if our life is upright, our intellect and heart will be open to welcome the light shed by the dogmas of faith.”
    #95: “…in the Supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others. Working together, each in its own way, under the action of the one Holy Spirit, they all contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.”

  • Frank

    There’s a whole lot of talk about the Church loving sinners. What’s new about this? Hasn’t the Church always loved sinners through the Sacrament of Confession? What about our having a discussion about sinners loving the Church through keeping God’s commandments? That would be novel.

    • shaggyk

      Our love of sinners has never been limited to the Sacrament of Confession. They will not come to confession unless they know Jesus, and they won’t know Jesus without love.

      If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And
      if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all
      knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have
      love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
      Corinthians 13:1-3

      • MJK

        I would submit that when speaking of love please refrain from simplistic references to Paul’s Letters to the Corinthians.

        Unfortunately, the term love as understand today and as used in this citation are completely alien and utterly different…

      • Marguerite

        What about the many professed Catholics who know Jesus and still don’t go to Confession?

    • MJK

      Spot on!!

  • The Truth

    I left the church after returning from a 30 yr. absence. After 2 yrs. a Protestant asked me why I go to a “catholic” church when “catholics” believe what Protestants do. And it finally dawned on me I may have attended “catholic” school and had a “catholic” family, but after reading the actual teaching’s of the church I realized that I was never taught Catholicism! If abortion and homosexual marriage are over emphasized by Catholics then what’s left? It doesn’t get any more basic than that. Mother Teresa said if abortion isn’t morally wrong, what is? Someone needs to educate the Pope.

    • Scott Richert

      “If abortion and homosexual marriage are over emphasized by Catholics then what’s left? It doesn’t get any more basic than that.”

      Actually, it does. The encounter with Christ, through the Sacraments of the Church, is the fundamental basis of Christianity, not the teachings on abortion and homosexual “marriage” that flow from that encounter.

      • Martin

        I agree with you completely. 50 years ago abortion and homosexuality were not considered pressing issues for the Church, they were simply two more sins in a long list. 50 years ago, when secular society treated homosexuals with genuine hate, Catholics and other religious groups were considered “enlightened” because they showed compassion and understanding towards them, rather than violent rejection. Pope Francis is showing us how to recalibrate our encounters with sin.

    • Dorothy

      “Someone needs to educate the Pope.” Wow! That’s quite a statement. Are you suggesting that the Pope is out of step with Church doctrine or that he somehow “remiss” in not emphasizing the right things? Have we the makings of a schism here? Who are the “faithful” Catholics now?

      • eusebius

        I do think he could be more prudent, more measured, in what he says, less given to ad hoc comments, and should perhaps say less rather than more. To suggest that the Church is “obsessed” with certain teachings when they’d never be mentioned were society not mindlessly obsessed with sex seems scarcely ingenuous or helpful.

        • MJK

          Well stated…

  • Elena

    All you need is love
    All you need is love
    All you need is love, love
    Love is all you need
    All you need is love, all together now
    All you need is love, everybody
    All you need is love, love
    Love is all you need
    Love is all you need
    Love is all you need
    Love is all you need – The Beatles
    “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. (John 5:2-4)
    You choose.

    • Ty

      Thanks for making me laugh.

  • Steve Frank

    It’s true that the media will always spin the Pope’s words in a way that favors it’s own agenda. But I have a hard time believing that the Pope doesn’t realize that. I think what’s going on is that this Pope has an agenda to prove the media’s caricature of the Church wrong (that the Church hates gays, women, etc.). He is not out to change any church dogmas. But he is out to soften the Church’s image.

    The problem is not that the words Pope Francis has spoken are wrong. He’s correct that we can’t talk about morality apart from the Gospel. The gospel is central. But it’s also true that whether we like it or not, homosexuality is one of the hot button issues of our day. The secular Inquisition will not allow any Christian leader to be silent or obfuscate on the issue. So the Pope might as well come right out and plainly explain the Church’s FULL teaching on the matter. Because the questions will not end. The Pope is only kidding himself if he thinks he can continue to give beat-around-the-bush answers to the question “what is your view of homosexuality”. Yes, right now the media and liberal churchmen are downright giddy over this Pope. That’s because they see hints that he might be starting to “evolve” on the issue of homosexuality. But one thing you have to understand about the Left and “evolution”. In order to maintain your liberal cred, you need to KEEP evolving. Do you think five or ten years from now (if Francis is still Pope) that the media will still be happy with him if he hasn’t evolved any further? Mark my words, in a few years you’ll start reading things in the NYT like “Pope Francis’s pontificate started out so hopeful. But here we are X years into it and the Church still is no closer to granting full equality to gays by granting them marriage rights…yada yada”

    And as far as all the nominal Catholics who Francis seems to think will come running back to Mass if the Church would just stop talking about “culture war” issues, it’s just not going to happen. Liberal Protestantism has been trying that for 50 years. And it’s in a demographic death spiral. All of Protestantism has been dying for 50 years except for Evangelicalism, the one part of the Protestant Church that has not completely surrendered when it comes to “culture war” issues. Yes, Francis will continue to make a lot of cafeteria Catholics happy by trying to soften the Church’s image. Yes, they will start responding more favorably about the Church in poll questions. But will they start going to Mass every week because they think the Church has become less mean to homosexuals? No way. If Francis is worried about Mass attendance he should be more worried about the loyal Catholics who are experiencing a crisis of faith because they feel like they are losing their Church.

  • JERD

    Remember, the Church is involved in a long siege – an eternal fight. In contrast, the New York Times has a horizon that ends at next Sunday’s edition.

    Francis is fighting the battle using a different battle plan than Benedict.

    “Start with Christ crucified!” says Francis. When the heart and mind are in union with Him, the Church’s teachings on morality will flow naturally and be easily accepted.

  • You gotta love it when the leader of secular humanism/atheism in this country tries to interpret the actions of a Catholic pope. One can be sure the whole truth will not be printed- just the parts that fit the ideology. Once one steps away from the truth all is permitted. The truth is complete in all its parts – Seneca

  • Robert

    “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.”

    On Crisis magazine, most of the articles published in any given week will be about abortion, gay rights, on contraceptives. Any quick scan of the home page will show that.

    “Yes, in this quest to seek and find God in all things there is still an area of uncertainty. There must be. If a person says that he met God with total certainty and is not touched by a margin of uncertainty, then this is not good. For me, this is an important key. If one has the answers to all the questions—that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself.”
    “The risk in seeking and finding God in all things, then, is the willingness to explain too much, to say with human certainty and arrogance: ‘God is here.’ We will find only a god that fits our measure.”

    Scan an article on Crisis magazine which discusses abortion, gay rights, or contraceptives. What kind of language and tone is used? Liberals have been called “wretches,” Feminists have been called “harridans”. Anthony Esolen writes with the most incredible vitriol, full of snark and arrogant disdain for everyone he disagrees with. This is not the language of humility.

    Of course Pope Francis did not declare that homosexual behaviour and abortion is no longer a sin. But he suggested a real shift in tone away from the bad model this magazine and others create.

    • Adam__Baum

      Just last week a priest in his 50’s of the diocese I grew up in was caught in a car with a disrobed teen and his defense was that he made an inquiry into his age.

      It may not be necessary to “talk about these issues all the time”, but it is still clearly necessary.

      Good priests should be able to wear their collar in public without fear of “snark and arrogant disdain”.

      • Scott Richert

        “Just last week a priest in his 50’s of the diocese I grew up in was caught in a car with a disrobed teen and his defense was that he made an inquiry into his age.

        “It may not be necessary to ‘talk about these issues all the time’, but it is still clearly necessary to talk about these issues at this time.”

        I guess I’m missing something here—you don’t really believe that the priest did what he did because he didn’t hear enough about the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, do you?

        • Adam__Baum

          The problem with the phrase ‘talk about these issues all the time’ is that it is nebulous and subject to malicious interpretation as “not at all”.

          My concern with that phrase is that it presumes or concedes the validity of charges made by opponents of the Church, that is that “we” are “talking” about these issues all the time, when as it’s pointed out, it’s not.

          As for the priest in question, the answer is “yes” to the question about not hearing enough about homosexuality, but also he hadn’t heard enough about his role as a representative of the Church and the potential for scandal and what one might call “professional conduct”.

          The response attributed to him seems to indicate that he was more concerned about the legality of the act, than the morality. Whether or not the other individual was “of age”, he was acting immorally and predatorially-just as he’d have added to his sin if the other party was a a female thirtysome odd year age younger.

        • schmenz


          I like you, and I like your writings, but with all due respect you need to sit down, stop and think about what you are saying. Despite your many responses to those who are pointing out the problems with this calamitous papal interview you are not convincing anyone. You love this Pope. Fine. God bless you for it. But love should not be blind to problems. And, yes, Scott, I did read his every word and despite all verbal gymnastics to the contrary he clearly gives precisely the impression that the more honest reporters at the NY Times and elsewhere have noted.

          There is an old saying among salesmen, a saying that came about in an effort to keep salesmen aware that in dealing with contractual agreements they needed to precise: “It’s not what you said; it’s what people THINK you said that is important.” In other words, be precise. This Pope might do well to have that old saying emblazoned on the wall of his office.

          I would respectfully urge you to read a post written by Anthony Fraser on Cardinal John Henry Newman and his warnings about episcopal vacillating. You’ll find it at http://www.apropos.org.uk

          • Scott Richert

            “schmenz,” if you believe that Laurie Goodstein is a “more honest reporter,” then I guess we have nothing more to say to each other.

            Except for this: “all due respect” (not to mention simple Christian charity) normally includes not accusing your interlocutor of dishonesty.

            • schmenz

              Dear Scott:

              Thanks for your reply. I believe you have misinterpreted what I have said because after reading my response over again I am non-plussed as to why you should think I accused you of dishonesty. Naivete, yes; dishonesty, no. As for Miss Goodstein, all I wished to convey was that she, like most other mainstream reporters, took away from the Pope’s interview exactly what everyone else did, except those who do not wish to face the unpleasant fact that some Popes can be less than sterling leaders. In 2,000 years the Church has had great Popes, good Popes, average Popes, mediocre Popes and villainous Popes and has survived them all.

              This Pope has some very troubling aspects to him as well as some exemplary aspects. Which means we have to be discerning. In the case of this interview it is a disaster for the Church which is going to take years to undo. Let us therefore hope that he takes more wonderful actions like his September 7th initiative of prayer and fasting for Syria, and less Rio hooplas.

              • MJK


        • Marcellus

          And you think that the priest in question has forgotten the two greatest commandments because he didn’t hear them enough and therefore we need to talk about them all the time rather than talking about sin?

      • Robert

        I suppose “vitriolic” is too strong a term to apply to Professor Esolen;s writing, but his rhetoric is disdainful and tends to feed off of the disdain of his presumed audience.

        He lobbies labels such as “stupid” or “insane” far too easily; he dismisses secular society as just “filth” as if goodness and kindness were totally alien to it.

        He makes pithy insults which are just expressions of contempt; example:
        “For the purposes of this Constitution, “education” shall comprise the following: The capacity to read a short novel mass-marketed to adolescent females.” (“A US constitution for our dystopian present’).

        As rhetoric these tactics aren’t exceptional, and of course all rhetoric is outrageous to those who disagree. But this language in no way reflects the ideal of humility called by Pope Francis.

        • Adam__Baum

          Conceding the excess of a single term, but retaining the same judment (and adding to and amplifying it) hardly seems humble to me.

        • Bob

          What Professor Esolen is showing is what all of us who love Christ and His Catholic Church (and its teachings) show when non Catholics and cafeteria Catholics attack the Church: righteous anger.

          I personally get sick and tired of people who attack the Church because the Church’s doctrines and teachings on sin don’t fit their personal self centered, narcissistic lifestyle. The “I want my condoms, abortion and gay marriage” crowd should either leave the Church or ignore it, but stop arrogantly claiming that they know more about how Christ wants us to live than the 2000 years of authoritative teaching given by Christ Himself to the Catholic Church.

          So show some humility that you are “spiritually poor” and follow Christ’s teachings in the Church. Don’t be so arrogant to warp, twist and pervert Christ’s teachings to justify sinful lifestyles.

        • Ty

          Professor Esolen’s style of writing is enjoyable. “Stupid” and “insane” are aptly chosen words. There is too much touchy-feely behavior going around.

    • Crisiseditor

      Crisis is an issues-oriented magazine. It addresses controversies on a regular basis because Catholics have a right and a duty, like other citizens, to speak up on moral issues that affect the culture. We address subjects that the episcopacy is reluctant to address. It is hardly the case that the official Church is obsessed with abortion, homosexuality and contraception. The laity speaks when the official organs of the Church are silent. It is the prerogative of the laity and we take our responsibilities seriously. You are quite dishonest about the content of our articles but I expect that from an enemy of Christ. If you prefer to read homilies that make excuses for sin, and ignore the destruction that sin produces in lives and communities, then you’re on the wrong site.

  • poetcomic1

    The Holy Father talks too much. Almost daily, never very clearly.

  • Bill

    In reading many of the posts here, it is clear that we are not being given the proper catechesis by our priests in their homilies. How is that going to be corrected? They appear to be afraid of speaking out against the debasing morals prevalent in society. How can they be imbued with the guts to preach the entire gospel and not only the one of love, which I am tired of hearing. Get with it priests.

  • BM

    I am largely sick of the one-note-samba routine found in many Catholic circles, but the dichotomy being emphasized in recent days between Christ or his love and morals or rules is false. Who was it, again, who said, “You will live on in my love, if you keep my commandments”???

    • Adam__Baum

      Same Person that said “go, and sin no more”.

    • MJK

      AMEN, BM!!!

  • Go tell it on the mountain

    Mmm, I don’t think a «smaller and purer» Catholic Church would be a bad idea whatsoever, do you?
    Catholics are elitists. It’s the only religion which needs from yourself a real sacrifice.

    • Adam__Baum

      And Robert is a troll. But I suppose saying that is a terrible breach, although saying “Catholics are elitists” is perfectly above reproach.

  • newguy40

    Here is some advice that I have found very useful.
    If Drudge, CNN and the NYT have a story about Pope Francis or ANYTHING concerning the Catholic Faith, don’t read it. Heck, don’t read / watch those anyway.
    Second, don’t read the comments section. 🙂

  • proscientia

    Although not for Catholicism (he dislikes the doctrine), Bruni presents a balanced interpretation of the content in the interview. He even praises Pope Francis’ humility

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  • jacobhalo

    Acceptin reality. I attend the Traditional Latin Mass, and everything that you said that is not mentioned at the Novus Ordo mass, IS mentioned at the pulpit at the Latin Mass. Since Vatican II, the Novus Ordo clerics have become mush-mouths-afraid to offend their congregations. Not at our church.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      “Then there are particular issues, like the liturgy according to the Vetus Ordo. I think the decision of Pope Benedict [his decision of July 7, 2007, to allow a wider use of the Tridentine Mass] was prudent and motivated by the desire to help people who have this sensitivity. What is worrying, though, is the risk of the ideologization of the Vetus Ordo, its exploitation.”

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  • AnthonyMa

    Pope Francis, having risen to such dizzying heights as he has, must be an intelligent man. I think, however, he may not understand the game he is playing, trying to pretend basic tenets of the Christian faith are not important. I’m sure he’s a smarter guy than me, but if he thinks he’s going to appease the Satanic left with obscurity, I believe he’s dead wrong. There are practicing homosexuals prancing around churches all over the place who actually believe they are Christians. In direct contradiction to the most basic teachings of Christianity some once Christian churches now say that’s okay. It seems to me, he needs to stand up and be clear as to the teachings of the Christian faith.

  • tom

    Luckily, the NYT is living on borrowed time. It shouldn’t be given a Christian burial…just dump it on the curb.

    • MJK

      Sure…this is all on the NYT…really? c’mon…

      • tom

        They’ve been misreporting everything good, like the Catholic church, and everything bad, like Stalin’s mass murders, for 80 years. Should we applaud when journalists lie? c’mon!

        • MJK

          In this particular context, where did the Times reporter lie? It’s a ridiculous assertion.

  • michael susce

    A scenario:
    A petite young naked Jewess and her two young children are on their way to be
    gassed. When she realizes what is going on, she screams at the young strong tall Nazi who towers over her.
    Jewess: Why? What you are doing is wrong. Why?
    Nazi: Why not? Anyway, I am wounded and in need of healing, therefore, you can’t judge me. Also you can’t interfere spiritually for the reasons why I am forcing you to do this. I am a person of good will trying to seek God. Anyway, what I am doing to you is not fundamental to my faith….so move along you vermin. Can’t you give me time to discover the love of Jesus….in the meantime…proceed to your death.
    Jewess: Oh! Forgive me and my obsessiveness with my right wing beliefs and morality not
    fundamental to your faith. Thanks

    • shaggyk

      That’s what you get from reading Pope Francis’ interview? It makes me worry about how you might interpret the Bible.

  • Don Campbell

    Scott, no matter how you cut it, it’s clear that giving this interview was imprudent and unwise. Whether they should or not, many Catholics feel wounded and confused. You are unfair in presuming that most of the posters here who have issues with the interview have not read it.

    This was all so unnecessary. Pope Francis was already clearly leading the Church toward his desired “new balance”. That was clear to anyone with eyes. Now, as a result of this misguided interview, we need some real healing. It won’t be easy for Pope Francis to get many of these folks back on the bus. They need some reassurance, and quick.

  • Giovanni A. Cattaneo

    I read this post on Father Z’s website and on this he was more than crystal clear. I would like to say that I echo the opinion of the original poster.

    “Pope Francis said:

    “Vatican II was a re-reading of the Gospel in light of contemporary culture,” says the pope. “Vatican II produced a renewal movement that simply comes from the same Gospel. Its fruits are enormous.”

    What hope is there in a man who can look at a devastated vineyard and see a bumper crop?”

  • vito

    Hardly ever anyone talks about homosexuality or abortion from the pulpit and I have never met a priest who would have anything to say against contraception. So the fact that the Pope still thinks the Church is obsessed with those issue really says a lot. I think his message has been understood correctly.

    • MJK

      Vito you are absolutely spot on!!!

  • FrankW

    I appreciate the author’s article and clarification on the Pope’s comments. These are helpful, as is the realization that the mainstream press will either unwittingly or willfully misinterpret the Pope’s words more often than not.

    But I do hope that Pope Francis understands just how serious the culture wars are, especially in this country and in Western Europe. For the Church or the Pope to even be
    perceived as giving up ground on these issues would be very disheartening to many devout Catholics who have labored for decades for the rights of the unborn and in defense of traditional Christian marriage and sexual morality.

    We have been directed by our Lord to teach the truth in love; we cannot teach truth without love, or love without truth. Any attempt to disconnect one from the other will be used by the enemies of the Church to spread a false and misleading message about Catholic teachings.

    I would humbly suggest that both Pope Francis and the USCCB would benefit from a press office with a bit more savvy in terms of navigating our current media culture.

  • smokes

    On a Gregorian chant high note: Raymond Cardinal Burke has announced that Democrat, Pelosi, is barred from the communion rail. Now, if we can only get her out of congress.

  • drgreg

    Thank you for your post! I have also posted on this at Catholic Exchange, found here: http://catholicexchange.com/the-pope-the-sinner-and-i/

    I think it’s very sad and a little disturbing that so many of the Church’s faithful totally missed the point of this interview, and are so confused about the Vicar of Christ. Pope Francis doesn’t need a “press office with a bit more savvy,” he doesn’t need to “consider his impact on our culture and the media” any more than he already does. Pope Francis is clearly a man of great prayer, great wisdom, and he was CHOSEN BY THE HOLY SPIRIT TO GUIDE THE CHURCH! Why is it that when Catholics are prompted to look in their own hearts and maybe even change something they find there to become more like Jesus, the best response is to disagree with the Pope? Is this Catholic?

    It all comes down this- what is the mission of the Church, the mission of Jesus? The mission is the conversion of hearts. I’ve heard a lot of conversion stories in my life, but I have yet to hear one that starts off with “I came to the church because of a debate with a Catholic who proved to me that my behavior was sinful.”

    John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis are saying the same thing: We must propose something to the culture that is better than what they have. We must propose Love. Choosing a moral life flows OUT OF love, not the other way around. As I commented to Hadley Arkes in his recent article on The Catholic Thing, Jesus loved the woman caught in adultery – even before she agreed to live a virtuous life. He reached out to her, loved her, and did it in opposition to the religious of his day who wanted to condemn her. He wrote their sins in the sand and dared one of them to throw the first stone. He also did not care what other adulterers might think about his action. He wasn’t scared of the local paper misinterpreting his action as acceptance of adultery. He didn’t make sure to “call a sin a sin” and preach to her first before he reached his hand out to her. Jesus simply loved her. And BECAUSE of this love, as a CONSEQUENCE of this love, her heart was converted. Moral virtue follows from the Love of God. Anyone who thinks it happens differently is deeply confused about their own prayer life and their own faith. This is the mission of Jesus, and the mission of Pope Francis.

    • Pay

      The problem is no one disputes that. What has caused problems is the vague words thrown in that can be interpreted in many ways. Including phrases like “small minded rules” and other terms.

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  • James

    I don’t think that JP2 or B16 ever received an endorsement from NARAL. I love Papa, but sometimes Papa needs to be a little more careful on how he explains our faith.

    • Bob

      Is this real????

      If it is….oh no…..Blessed Mother, we need your presence….please…..

    • Bob

      Yea Scott, you’re right. Everyone clearly understood what the pope was saying, even NARAL.

      • musicacre

        The Pope is new to his Pontificate; why are so many good Catholics so quick to judge him?

        • Bob

          I love the pope too, musicare, and I do understand what he is trying to say. But really……a “thank you” from NARAL??!!! That doesn’t send alarm bells and red flags off in your head?

  • Debra Kish

    Does anyone even come close to understanding that the Pope is guided by the Holy Spirit? He says and does what he says and does, that is it. We are not humble enough to keep our mouths shut

    • musicacre

      Thank you for saying that; it should be first and foremost on Catholics’ minds, instead of being armchair critics. Everyone has the ability to pray; not everyone has the ability to to properly interpret , and comment respectfully, on the Pope.

    • Pay

      It is not about criticism but concern these people write as they do. Not every word from any Pope is protected by the HS. And I might add how is telling others they are not humble or should keep their mouths shout in keeping with the Pope’s call to show mercy? Ironic.

  • HFH1

    Scott, this is just brilliant and inspired. Your comments, I mean. Thanks so much.
    The NYT is simply one of the more “attractive” faces of evil. In actuality, they are hideously ugly, like sin always is.

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  • Joe Fitzgerald

    Pope Francis has some powerful messages in this interview and needs to be read in its entirety at least twice if not more.. The MSSM (Mainstream Secular Media) with its bias and intellectual laziness/shortfall has again demonstrated its inability to grasp the core messages and report objectively. Pope Francis spoke of Jesus Christ, God’s Incarnate Son, as the central focus and that salvation comes from God alone. He urged individuals to better form a right conscience, to experience the Mass(real presence), to ask for forgiveness at confession because we are all sinners. He urged priest/bishops to improve/sharpen their homilies(almost the only place now where individuals can hear “the light and the truth”) and also become more expert as confessors. He warned of the continued tough times for the church and its people without this renewed loyalty.

  • Pope Francis is not downplaying pro-life and pro-family activism in the Church. His words in the secular media were, again, taken out of context. Father Levis, my mentor and co-host of the original Web of Faith on EWTN, often said “a text taken out of context is a pretext.” This is precisely what the New York Times and others in the press have done.

    In the actual interview, the CONTEXT of the Pope’s words are:

    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.

    This is true and Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul the Great and even Pope Pius XII would have agreed. The whole deposit of faith is not limited to particular moral issues. Faith and morals encompass human sexuality and issues of human life, marriage and the family, but they also include the dogma of the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Real Presence, Papal Infallibility, the Immaculate Conception, et al. The Catechism covers all four pillars of faith: CREED (doctrine), SACRAMENTS (worship), COMMANDMENTS (morality), OUR FATHER (prayer)

    Pope Francis did not discount the efforts of the pro-life, pro-family and pro-marriage movements and organizations. What he was saying was that the universal church has a three-fold mission or mandate: to TEACH the truth (Magisterium); to SANCTIFY the People of God (Sacred Liturgy); to SHEPHERD the sheep in love (Hierarchy). All three come from the one and same Jesus Christ Who founded Holy Mother Church. As Christ was Priest, Prophet and King, so His bride continues His work of sanctifying, teaching and governing. I did not read anywhere in the entire interview where the Pontiff was denying or diminishing the Church’s three-fold munera. He was placing everything in CONTEXT, however.

    Saving Souls is the supreme law of the Church. The last canon in the 1983 Code of Canon Law says so. Getting folks to heaven. One essential element is TEACHING and defending the revealed truths of doctrine. That is not enough, however. The rational intellect seeks the true and the free will seeks the good. Original Sin, however, has wounded human nature and that extends to the soul itself. Concupiscence is the darkening of the intellect, weakening of the will and disordering of the lower passions. Only divine grace can remedy that to enlighten the intellect and strengthen the will. Sacrament are necessary for salvation in addition to revealed truth. The formula is not complete, however, without the other component. Sheep need a shepherd. The People of God need leaders. Not overlords and masters, but pastoral leaders who govern with charity and love, compassion and mercy.

    Salvation involves the intellect, the will and both body and soul. It is personal and it is communal. Baptism makes us a child of God and a member of the Church. The Church is necessary for salvation for she has been entrusted with the fullness of grace (all seven sacraments) and the fullness of truth (Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition). Pope Francis did not negate these realities in any way, shape or form.

    When Jesus met the woman caught in adultery, He did not condemn her but He did save her, not just her physical life but He saved her immortal soul when He said “go, and sin no more.” This is what Pope Francis is doing. Not throwing stones but showing mercy. Mercy is NOT cooperating with evil, formally or materially. Mercy is not being tolerant nor permissive of immorality. Mercy is being patient and forgiving with sinners who are in need of repentance and forgiveness. Like the father of the Prodigal son, the Holy Father is merely saying the Church, as a good mother, waits for her wayward children to come home. The father does not pursue the son and drag him home kicking and screaming. He does welcome him back after the son expresses his regret and asks forgiveness.

    Pro-life supporters keep defending the innocent lives of the unborn. This must be done. All the Pope was asking is that we lovingly, mercifully and compassionately encourage those who have had abortions to REPENT and be RECONCILED with God. We can and must CONDEMN the sin without condemning the sinner. People are not evil but they can do evil deeds. Those deeds must be judged and evaluated against the natural moral law and the divine law of God as found in revealed truth. The persons who commit evil need prayer. They need love. Their evil actions are not who they are. They are children of God who have gone astray. They are prodigal children who need to come to their senses.

    Pope Benedict XVI said so often and so aptly, Catholicism is not a religion of EITHER/OR, she is the religion of BOTH/AND. We can love the sinner and hate the sin. We can be pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-family and still show mercy and compassion to those who disagree and who even work against us. Defending the defenseless is not an option, it is a moral imperative. HOW it is done is just as important as DOING it.

    The Catholic Church is 100% pro-life, pro-family and pro-traditional marriage. Her doctrines on faith and morals will not and cannot change. The entire package, the truth, the grace, and the HOPE that the Church provides is what Pope Francis is accentuating. He is not throwing the Church under the bus. He is not denying nor diluting the faith and he is not asking the faithful to stop working for justice, especially for the end of abortion and euthanasia. He is just reminding us of the WHOLE BIG PICTURE of Salvation. Preach the truth, make grace available and lead the people by good example. Unlike some who are trying to make Pope Francis a seamless garment pontiff, he already said not all church teachings are equivalent. There is a HIERARCHY of truth. The right to life is the most fundamental and foundational issue of our time. It is not the only issue for religious liberty is close behind. CONTEXT is crucial. Our faith is a tapestry of teachings, devotions, spiritualities, traditions, rituals, rites, etc. It is not an alphabet soup, however, where everything is chaotically mixed up. Saving souls is the bottom line and the more we save the more we please God. Sharing the truth is one step but there are more that are needed. We just need to follow the lead of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. She was unabashedly and unequivocally PRO-LIFE and PRO-FAMILY. She defended Humanae Vitae and she taught NFP. She saved babies from abortion but she also helped pregnant women, people suffering AIDS and all other kinds of diseases. She helped the poor wherever they were and she helped the those who were spiritually poor as well as those who were materially poor. All done in love, charity and mercy. What threat is that to the faith? Pope Francis did not give a carte blanche to commit fornication, adultery, homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia, et al. He is reaching out to the fornicators and adulterers as did Our Divine Lord and urge them to abandon their sins and follow the path of virtue. He reminds clergy (bishops especially) that ordination is not a career nor a job, it is a vocation and a mission. Teaching and defending the truth is one of our mandates but we are also ordained to offer sacrifice, to console, to counsel, to advise, to solace, to bless, to sanctify, to absolve and to lead. If these are done with mercy and compassion, they can be done without compromising the truth and without cheapening grace.

    • slainte

      Would that your words could be spoken by every priest from every pulpit throughout the world this Sunday.
      You have admirably and faithfully defended Pope Francis and the Catholic faith. Thank you Father.

      • thank you and please keep all us priests, deacons and bishops in your prayers so we can all serve Holy Mother Church to the best of our abilities

    • Bob

      Beautiful, Father!

  • Phil Nguyen

    … And the persecution surprises us??? What, then, do we expect???

  • America magazine is known for its dissenting agenda, so its translations should be taken with a pound of salt.

    What did the Pope really say? He said: “La Chiesa a volte si è fatta rinchiudere in piccole cose, in piccoli precetti.” How did America translate it? They said: “The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules.” But I’d translate it as: “The Church sometimes has closed on itself in small things, in small precepts.”

    An Italian saying says: “traddutore, traditore”, or “translator, traitor.” Could America be betraying the Pope’s words in their translation, in spite of the Jesuit special vow of fidelity to the Pope?

  • Sharon Bennit Jefferson

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  • Horatio

    Two months down the road, I too would like a progressive new way of interpreting the commandment “You shall not commit adultery.” My mistress would also like it.

  • MacLeslie

    any thing is permissible for a pope, but is everything prudent? after a few years of hard-won battles in these life issues, is it an opportune time to neutralize them as issues in societies that already tend to laxity in their regard? similarly we have a younger generation that has just been taken in by obama’s view of social justice and the free enterprise system is not only undefended, its unexplained! is it a prudent time to re-enforce the young against important values we wish to teach them? if some alarm bells are sounding off here, its for the good!

  • This article is relevent to this discussion. It suggests that the Pope’s popularity is attributed not to who he actually is, but to who fans are making him out to be.


  • stagebarn

    You have to remember that when Benedict XVI resigned he said he would wear black shoes instead of red. Yeah, well… God gave us a pope in Francis, and not a silly pseudo-intellectual glitter box.