Pope Francis has made some bold moves since becoming Pope. First, he shunned his elaborate palace-like apartment in the Vatican in favor of the guest house. Pope Francis also got rid of the Pope-mobile, has washed the feet of others (including women and children), placed phone calls to average, everyday people, and has become a prolific Twitter user. Pope Francis has also gone as far as stating that atheists are redeemed if they live good lives, and that gays should not be marginalized.
In a recent interview with Civilta Cattolica, an Italian-Jesuit journal, Pope Francis gave the world even more insight to his "controversial" beliefs. (By the way, the interview is 12,000 words. Apparently the Pope had a lot to get off his chest.) The Pope's main message: The Catholic Church needs to preach more mercy and less dogma.
Pope Francis says that he has often been criticized for not speaking out about the conventional Catholic hot-button issues of abortion, contraception, and homosexuality. However, Francis believes that "We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods...But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context."
Many conservative Catholics are concerned that the Pope is not spending more time talking about these dogmatic issues. Bishop Thomas Tobin, of Providence, Rhode Island, has publicly stated that he is disappointed that the Pope has not addressed "the evil of abortion". Jason Clendenen, a church administrator in California, has publicly criticized the Pope on Twitter for being too accepting of sinners such as gays and lesbians: "When we (believers) see sinful behavior that the Bible calls evil being called good, it should stir us to respond."
While Pope Francis asserted that "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," he still threw a bone to conservative Catholics today. Francis released a statement in which he stated that he sees abortion as a result of today's "throw-away" culture, and that he would encourage all Catholic doctors to refuse to perform abortions.
This statement does not contradict the beliefs professed in his interview, though. In speaking on the issues of abortion, contraception, and homosexuality, Francis states that "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." It's all part of the balance that he is hoping that Catholic church can find and establish.
Another part of that balance is making females more involved in the Church: "We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman. Only by making this step will it be possible to better reflect on their function within the Church." While Pope Francis still believes that women should not serve as priests within the Church (Based on the fact that Jesus did not have any female disciples. What was that you said about taking things in context, Francis?), he still believes that "The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions."
Whether it's the fact that he is the first Jesuit and Latin American Pope, or the fact that he is adapting to the ever-changing world rather well, it is fairly clear by this point that the "radical" Pope is here to stay. It will be interesting to note whether his influence spreads throughout the church and creates a more merciful Catholicism, or if his actions will provoke a backlash of conservative fervor. My wish is for the former, but my money is on the latter.
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