I ❤ Pope Francis

September 19, 2013

This new pope is going to win me over yet! If the New York Times is summarizing this interview accurately, I’m positively excited about some possibilities his words open up.

Here’s the part I like. When asked about the Big Three divisive issues of abortion, homosexuality, and contraception, the pope said:

“It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” the pope told the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, a fellow Jesuit and editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal whose content is routinely approved by the Vatican. “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.

“We have to find a new balance,” the pope continued, “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.”

As my regular readers know, I support our United Methodist Church’s doctrinal stance on human sexuality. And I oppose changing our church’s doctrine—as I’m sure the pope opposes changing Catholic doctrine.

But in my haste to argue “my side,” I can easily lose sight of the pope’s point here:

“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality,” he told Father Spadaro. “I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”

In my defense, the pope says these words in complete confidence that his church won’t change its doctrine, whereas my church nearly followed its mainline sisters over a cliff!

But that’s not my main point here. I’m zeroing in on these words:

The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent… We have to find a new balance…

Really? Does he mean it? Because if he does, I hope he brings this same congenial spirit to the Catholic Church’s relationship with us Protestants.

Maybe the Catholic Church’s dogmatic insistence on transubstantiation, for example, need not prevent Catholics and Protestants from celebrating the eucharist together? Or the Marian dogmas? Or papal infallibility? Or contraception?

Honestly, this pope has gone out of his way to reach out to non-believers. How about extending an olive branch to fellow Christians—according to Vatican II, we are fellow Christians—in our various “ecclesial communities”?

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