Friday, September 20, 2013

Pope Changing Church Teaching?

The full text of the interview is copyrighted, except for quoting portions.  For the purpose of this article I will be quoting only the section which has been taken out of context by many "reporters" who are trying to make it sound like the Pope is changing her teaching on homosexuality, marriage and contraception.  So, first that quote and then my comments:

The Church as Field Hospital

Pope Benedict XVI, in announcing his resignation, said that the contemporary world is subject to rapid change and is grappling with issues of great importance for the life of faith. Dealing with these issues requires strength of body and soul, Pope Benedict said. I ask Pope Francis: “What does the church need most at this historic moment? Do we need reforms? What are your wishes for the church in the coming years? What kind of church do you dream of?”

Pope Francis begins by showing great affection and immense respect for his predecessor: “Pope Benedict has done an act of holiness, greatness, humility. He is a man of God.
 “I see clearly,” the pope continues, “that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as 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. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds.... And you have to start from the ground up.

“The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person. The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, ‘This is not a sin’ or something like that. In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds.

“How are we treating the people of God? I dream of a church that is a mother and shepherdess. The church’s ministers must be merciful, take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the good Samaritan, who washes, cleans and raises up his neighbor. This is pure Gospel. God is greater than sin. The structural and organizational reforms are secondary—that is, they come afterward. The first reform must be the attitude. The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost. The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials. The bishops, particularly, must be able to support the movements of God among their people with patience, so that no one is left behind. But they must also be able to accompany the flock that has a flair for finding new paths.

“Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent. The ones who quit sometimes do it for reasons that, if properly understood and assessed, can lead to a return. But that takes audacity and courage.”
I mention to Pope Francis that there are Christians who live in situations that are irregular for the church or in complex situations that represent open wounds. I mention the divorced and remarried, same-sex couples and other difficult situations. What kind of pastoral work can we do in these cases? What kinds of tools can we use?

“We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner,” the pope says, “preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing, even with our preaching, every kind of disease and wound. In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this. 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.

 “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. 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. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.

“This is also the great benefit of confession as a sacrament: evaluating case by case and discerning what is the best thing to do for a person who seeks God and grace. The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better. I also consider the situation of a woman with a failed marriage in her past and who also had an abortion. Then this woman remarries, and she is now happy and has five children. That abortion in her past weighs heavily on her conscience and she sincerely regrets it. She would like to move forward in her Christian life. What is the confessor to do?

“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.

 “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. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. 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. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.

“I say this also thinking about the preaching and content of our preaching. A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation. There is nothing more solid, deep and sure than this proclamation. Then you have to do catechesis. Then you can draw even a moral consequence. But the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives. Today sometimes it seems that the opposite order is prevailing. The homily is the touchstone to measure the pastor’s proximity and ability to meet his people, because those who preach must recognize the heart of their community and must be able to see where the desire for God is lively and ardent. The message of the Gospel, therefore, is not to be reduced to some aspects that, although relevant, on their own do not show the heart of the message of Jesus Christ.”

So, first off let us be clear - the Pope is NOT changing the Church's teaching on homosexuality, marriage and contraception!  Allow me to take the "snippet approach" to show a more contextual presentation of this portion of the interview:
 I see the church as 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. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds.... And you have to start from the ground up.
So, in short, he's NOT saying we change our teaching, but rather - look at the whole person first, heal wounds first - "Then we can talk about everything else."  He still wants to talk about these things, he just doesn't want the initial focus to be on peripheral issues - let's get them "into the hospital" first, then work on these things.  Next snippet:
The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules.
 The "small things," as Pope Francis calls them, are these individual sins.  Read on...
 The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you.
Note, the "most important thing" is the matter of salvation.  Jesus Christ came to save you.  He has done all that is necessary for your salvation - we need to put more emphasis on saving the sinner instead of focusing on the sin in "the first proclamation."  Again, this is not avoiding the 800 pound gorilla in the room, it's just saying "first things, first."  In speaking about those who minister he says:
The first reform must be the attitude. The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost. 
The emphasis is on the attitude of how we approach the sinner.  Do you just pronounce judgment upon them and then expect them to follow us?  No!  Pope Francis is telling us to be like Jesus!  Get out there in the trenches with the sinners - but be prepared.  Know how to dialog and descend into their "dark night" without getting lost in it yourself.
“We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner,” the pope says, “preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing, even with our preaching, every kind of disease and wound. In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this. 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. 
This part I have some concern with, but really only with the last part of the last sentence.  It is our responsibility to "interfere spiritually in the life of a person" especially when the spirituality of that person is taking them on a path to hell.  We don't need to present it in such a way that we're threatening them with hell (though sometimes that too is a good method!) but, as Pope Francis said, confront them first with the Gospel message that Jesus came to redeem them.
We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. 
And that is the sentence most taken out of context!  But read it again, even out of context!  It is saying that we cannot insist only on these issues - not that we can't talk about them!  Note as he continues:
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. 
Again, not that we cannot talk about these issues, just let's not talk about them all the time.  He even says, "when we speak about these issues..." so he is saying we can talk about them - but keep them in a context.  He goes on to say that "the teaching of the Church, for that matter, is clear" and it is clear and it has not changed, nor has Pope Francis instituted a change in teaching.
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. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. 
Note, he is still emphasizing the Gospel of salvation FIRST and that is the important thing to stress - but not ONLY the Gospel, but what?  A "new balance."  You cannot JUST preach the happy, feel good message anymore than you should just preach fire and brimstone - but preach with a BALANCED approach.  This is made clear when he continues with:
It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow. 
Pope Francis is not ignoring the 800 pound gorilla, he's just saying that's not the only animal in the room.  Once someone has accepted the proposition of salvation it is THEN that they can consider the moral consequences of these other aspects which may be in their lives.  Again, get them into the "Field Hospital" first, then work on the tangential (but still important) issues.  Pope Francis drives the point home again when he says:
I say this also thinking about the preaching and content of our preaching. A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation. There is nothing more solid, deep and sure than this proclamation. Then you have to do catechesis. Then you can draw even a moral consequence. But the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives. 
He's not saying we are not to talk about the moral matters, but what he IS saying is that if we begin with "the first proclamation" then after some good catechesis we can draw an even more moral consequence - just put the "proclamation of salvation" at the forefront.   To focus and/or put undo emphasis upon these other matters does not speak to the heart of Christ.  THAT is the message which Pope Francis is putting out.  He's not changing Church teaching and he's not saying we don't speak about these moral issues (upon which, as he stated, "the Church teaching is clear").

So, what most of you are seeing in the media, especially the liberal media which seems to have a homosexual agenda to push, are out of context snippets to make it appear Pope Francis is, as at least one site calls him, "a flaming liberal."  An in context look at what he REALLY said exposes that he's not backing down one iota from the Church's moral position on homosexuality, the sanctity of marriage and the illicitness of contraception - he's only saying that was aren't to make these items the sole focus of our ministries or apostolates.

AMDG,
Scott<<<

(AMDG = ad majorem Dei gloriam - To God, the greater glory)

Fr. Z (Fr. Zuhlsdorf) also commented:
http://wdtprs.com/blog/2013/09/first-thoughts-about-the-francis-interview/

http://wdtprs.com/blog/2013/09/pope-francis-comments-on-homosexuality-in-the-big-interview/

And related, Fr. Z comments:
http://wdtprs.com/blog/2013/09/yesterday-msm-reports-francis-said-church-is-obsessed-about-abortion-today-pope-francis-talks-about-abortion/


5 comments:

  1. A canon lawyer's perspective: http://canonlawblog.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/does-the-church-have-small-minded-rules/

    ReplyDelete
  2. Steve Hays posted a link on Triablogue with no commentary other than the title Chaos in Catholicism, (and since my comments there seem to be getting moderated now, I'll respond here). The link he posts is to a blog called the "Mirror of Justice" subtitled, "A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory." The article is critical of Pope Francis' openness and willingness to speak his mind. Again, I say (as I've said a few times on Triablogue, some of which is not being posted) that it is truly sad to see fellow Catholics participating in scandalous discussion - especially since that interview said NOTHING which could be construed as a change to Catholic teaching. The main focus of Pope Francis' statement (PLEASE read the context above!) is that we are NOT giving up on preaching about the sin of homosexuality, homosexual marriage or abortion, rather that we balance our approach with a presentation of the Gospel that Jesus saves you!

    IMHO, the REAL reason Protestant apologists are repeating so often the talking points of the media (which took Pope Francis out of context) is that the REAL message of Pope Francis threatens the basis of their existence as "Protestants." It doesn't matter that, it seems, to them that they are propagating lies - so long as the message is anti-Catholic and/or presents an image of Catholic discord.

    Now, was the article Hays pointed to a dissenting view of Pope Francis by a professed Catholic? Yes, it was. Should dissenting Catholics be publicly venting such opinions? No, they should not. Does Hays and Co. make valid points in going to such dissident authors? No, they do not - however, they are likely keeping their choir happy.

    AMDG,
    Scott<<<

    ReplyDelete

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