I really like this new Pope. A lot. From the NYT:
Pope Francis, in the first extensive interview of his six-month-old papacy, said that the Roman Catholic church had grown “obsessed” with preaching about abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and that he has chosen not to speak of those issues despite recriminations from some critics.
Pope Francis said the church needs to be a "home for all" rather than a "small chapel" sticking to a narrow set of so-called moral teachings.
“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.”
This is a tremendous shift from the two most recent popes, and especially from Francis's predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI . Although consistent with statements Francis has been making since becoming head of the Catholic Church, he definitely broke new ground in terms of emphasis with these recent remarks. The article's author argues, rightly I would say, that these remarks set up a clash between the Vatican and some U.S. bishops who have essentially focused just about all their public energy on the 'holy trinity' of abortion, gay marriage, and contraception.
Rather than these issues, Pope Francis has focused his energies on other aspects of Catholic teaching that have been, shall we say, neglected in recent years by the church hierarchy. In particular, he has drawn attention to the plight of the poor and the deepening inequality in our world. Pope Francis is without question speaking the language of the 99%. In a July visit to Brazil, for just one example, Francis spoke out:
"No one can remain insensitive to the inequalities that persist in the world!" Francis told a crowd of thousands who braved a cold rain and stood in a muddy soccer field to welcome him. "No amount of peace-building will be able to last, nor will harmony and happiness be attained in a society that ignores, pushes to the margins or excludes a part of itself." (snip) Francis blasted what he said was a "culture of selfishness and individualism" that permeates society today, demanding that those with money and power share their wealth and resources to fight hunger and poverty.
I don't think any of us imagined that, when Benedict stepped down, we'd get a new pope like this one. While he will never declare himself pro-choice or pro-gay marriage, I wouldn't expect him to. But his focus on economic inequality -- the fight against which is a core Catholic value -- is truly a wonderful surprise that I am hopeful will have a real effect on our politics. Many thought that liberation theology, once predominant in Francis' home continent of South America, was dead. However, whether he embraces the term or not, if it walks like a liberation theologist, and talks like a liberation theologist, well, you get the picture.