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Pope Says: Enough About Abortion, Gay Marriage and Contraception

Pope Says: Enough About Abortion, Gay Marriage and Contraception

Pope Francis recently called on Catholic leaders to lay off the preachifying against contraception, abortion and same-sex marriage. His statements are about more than silencing the din; they are an early move towards steering the entire Catholic ship down a more humane, accepting path.

The Pope said that priests have become “obsessed” with the sexual trinity (my shorthand for Catholic opposition to contraception, abortion and same-sex marriage). He suggested that it is relatively unimportant compared to ensuring that the church is a big, welcoming tent, and that the time may come when the church will reverse course on it.

This isn’t the first time the Pope has expressed progressive ideas that are at odds with those of previous popes and of the church’s leadership. One example was his homily last May, when he said that atheists and Jews may be redeemed by the Blood of Christ if they do good. Another was this heart-warming, humble statement: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

We learned quickly after his May statement that for Catholic power-brokers, the Pope’s infallibility ends where his disagreement with them begins. Handlers popped out of the woodwork to argue that he made an oopsie. I expect the same thing to happen again if he gets any more concrete about contraception, abortion and same-sex marriage, and maybe even if he doesn’t.

Here’s what he said during three interviews with a Jesuit writer, who published their conversations, with papal approval, in a Jesuit journal. Note: the headings and interpretations are my own.

1. Shut Up. Pope Francis called on the church’s pastoral ministry to quit talking “about these issues all the time,” The New York Times reported.

2. It Ain’t No Thang. “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent,” the Pope said. He compared the church to “a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars. You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else.” In other words, priests must practice triage and focus on the important issues — and the sexual trinity is, comparatively, not important.

3. Come Together. “Insistently impos[ing]” the sexual trinity on the flock sends a “disjointed” message. Either unify on one coherent message or watch “the moral edifice of the church…fall like a house of cards,” the Pope cautioned. This suggests that if the church doesn’t come into line with its members on moral questions, it will lose credibility among a populace that increasingly accepts homosexuality and artificial contraception.

4. Haters: Quit It. The Pope called the church ”the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity.” That means inviting in people who were once condemned, like gays and lesbians.

5. The Times They Are A’Changin’. The Pope said that Christian dogma develops over time and deepens with age. ”God is to be encountered in the world of today,” he said — that is, God is not in the musty rules of yesteryear. “God manifests himself in historical revelation, in history,” so we should focus “on starting long-run historical processes” — like, say, the process of accepting the sexual trinity. William Saletan’s analysis at Slate is consistent with my interpretation: church doctrines must “evolve toward truth over time.”

Though shocking to many, Pope Francis’s statements aren’t unprecedented. He appears to be laying groundwork to change the church’s course on three controversial issues, and while doctrinal changes are a big deal in Catholicism, they do happen. As Saletan notes, the church has changed its position on the cosmos and slavery. It’s hard to imagine that it would have so many followers now if it hadn’t.

The upbeat takeaway is that the new pope’s vision of the Catholic church is warm and fuzzy. The bigger, also upbeat, picture: social, political, historical and scientific changes can and do change religions. The church seems hopelessly backward for long stretches of time, but it can come around.

Related Stories:

Americans May Hate Atheists, But At Least The Pope Likes Them

Vatican: Atheists Are Going To Hell After All

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3:24PM PST on Feb 22, 2014

Im atheist and generally opposed to religious beliefs, but i like this guy. He's starting to realize we aren't living in a fairy tale anymore.

9:41AM PDT on Oct 10, 2013

Good job, Pope! It's about time these holier-than-though fools shut their pie holes and let people live their lives.

8:49AM PDT on Sep 29, 2013

I was so happy to hear this. The Church really should follow the example of St Francis rather than the direction it was pursuing for so long. This may attract back a lot of people who were driven away by all the criminal activity within the all the levels of the Church in recent history.

5:24AM PDT on Sep 29, 2013

His actions are SPEAKING LOUDER than his words!

Pope Francis excommunicates pro-gay marriage priest. He's not the liberal the media wants

The excommunication document – written in Latin and giving no reason – was dated May 31, meaning it comes under the authority of Pope Francis who made headlines on Thursday calling for a less rule-obsessed church.

Shame Shame DOUBLE Shame!

10:57PM PDT on Sep 28, 2013

thanks so much for sharing this

5:02PM PDT on Sep 28, 2013

I wonder why people put contraception, abortion and same-sex marriage together as if they were related. They are not related. Contraception is avoiding pregnancy, abortion is killing, and same-sex marriage is about love. Some may be pro some of these things and agaisnt other. I, for example, consider contraception extremely important. By the way, if people would care were smart and care a little bit, they would never think in abortion because they would have avoided pregnancy. Although I think marriage is a silly step even for differente- sex, I don't think I have the right to be against the sacred right to be free. So, if gays want to get maaried, why not? As for goes to a completely different direction. I say "no".

1:43PM PDT on Sep 28, 2013

thanks for sharing

8:43AM PDT on Sep 28, 2013

Wow, Matt P., sounds like YOU'RE filled with "divisive poison". This new man may just be the one to begin to change how "religion" works. Give guys with good moves a chance.

5:47AM PDT on Sep 27, 2013

Pope Francis is open minded, though some just will never give him a chance. Sad, how the world is at times

5:39PM PDT on Sep 26, 2013

bah paedophile hiding freaks~ islam, crosstianity and judaism BAN THEM all~ genital mutilating, homo/trans/bi hating misogynists! BAN RELIGION ITS DIVISIVE POISON!

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