Pope Francis, the wise and humble Leader of Catholics - image AP via NYTimes
Pope Francis is clearly a breath of fresh air, if one is an evangelical and holding that the way to life and God is through scripture – however, certain media and social groups have a tendency to take the Pope’s intent out of context: The New York Times is a prime example. In an article about an article in the Jesuit Journal the New York Times led with an article titled– “Pope Says Church Is ‘Obsessed’ With Gays, Abortion and Birth Control” – going on to imply that the Pope feels that the one who is involved in a gay marriage, or supports abortion is doing just fine.
The pope’s interview did not change church doctrine or policies, but it instantly changed its tone. His words evoked gratitude and hope from many liberal Catholics who had felt left out in the cold during the papacies of Benedict and his predecessor, John Paul II, which together lasted 35 years. Some lapsed Catholics suggested on social media a return to the church, and leaders of gay rights and gay Catholic groups called on bishops to abandon their fight against gay marriage.
In the actual interview available at Thinking Faith.org: The Pope’s meaning becomes perfectly clear – on all subjects – as it is rooted in the Gospels, and he relies on Hebrews, in part to form his opinions – read the entire article here. In interpreting the meaning of the Pope’s wording on the subject one finds that he is referring to the call of Christ, and the early Church fathers (including St. Paul) to heal the sinner, and not judge them, regardless of what they eat (referring to Paul-Romans). Clearly, Jesus came to call the sinners, as they were in need of healing. Clearly God, in whose image man is made, loves each one and offers each the opportunity of redemption in several levels – Therefore, looking at this humble and brilliant Pope’s stance on the issue, it is in common teaching within the biblical context. First one heals the sinner, then the sin. In speaking of the confessional – and the confusion that is caused by pastors who are either too strict or too lax in consoling those who are ‘confessing” their sins (think of pastoral therapy with a sacrament rolled in for good measure) – should an individual confess an abortion to a priest who is too rigid in doctrine, there will be no hope offered, and if the priest is too lax, there will be no chance to speak to the saving grace of God, should one renounce the sin, and seek to live a whole life.
Therefore, first, heal the rift between God and his child, and then heal the sin.
The man is brilliant and perhaps the world has a Pope who understands the Church and the Politics behind religion, which tends to get in the way of salvation.
The writer is a Catholic by birth, an Evangelical by logic and the gift of the Spirit.