Catholic Free Press

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  • Sep
  • 27

Making Pope’s challenge clear

Posted By September 27, 2013 | 11:45 am | Commentary
Father Richard Reidy
Vicar General
Diocese of Worcester
Father Richard Reidy Vicar General Diocese of Worcester


By his simple words and humble witness Pope Francis continues to challenge us to examine how we can better reflect the love of God and preach His Gospel in our world.
The Pope’s recent interview gained headlines, wide comment and varying speculation about Church teaching on delicate and difficult moral issues of the day. Given the Pope’s strong statement against abortion the day following the publication of the interview, it is clear that his comments were not intended as any change in Church teaching. Principles of the natural moral law are immutable. When he said in the interview, “it is not necessary to talk about these issues [abortion, same sex marriage and contraception] all the time” he’s not saying they shouldn’t be spoken about at all. As Cardinal Bergoglio he spoke clearly and strongly against same sex marriage when Argentina was debating the issue.
I believe the Holy Father is reminding us that, at its essence, the Christian faith is not first about any issue, no matter how important. The Christian faith is first about Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, and His Father and the Holy Spirit. The proclamation of the Gospel must begin with God’s saving love. This precedes moral and religious imperatives. We must first witness to God’s love and mercy for every human person from the innocent child in the womb to the convicted murderer in his cell, from the poor immigrant in our midst to the richest person in his mansion and from the people in the pew each day and week to those distant from the Church and disagreeing with her teachings. God loves them all. And so must we.
We must continue to witness to this for, as the Pope says, the Church should be like a loving mother or a field hospital after a battle, tending to the seriously injured and healing wounds. Then, Pope Francis says, “we can talk about everything else.” In the light of God’s love, everything else becomes clearer, including our ongoing need for personal conversion.
In his interview Pope Francis speaks of how God accompanies every person and how we have the mission to accompany them with mercy. In beautiful language he challenges ministers of the Gospel to do more than teach clearly. They must warm hearts and walk “into their people’s dark night, into the darkness, but without getting lost.”
What does he mean by not getting lost? I think the Holy Father tells us what he means when he speaks of being ministers of mercy but then warns of the dangers of being too rigorist (washing one’s hands of the person and leaving them to the commandment) or too lax (washing one’s hands of the person by saying “this is not a sin”). Neither the rigorist, nor what the Pope calls the “loose minister,” shows true mercy.
Who shows true mercy? Think of Jesus’ encounter with the woman caught in adultery. He doesn’t condemn her. But after having delivered her from those ready to stone her, Jesus then tells her to sin no more.
I think Pope Francis is reminding us of Christ’s pastoral approach. We must go and do the same.


Father Richard Reidy is Vicar General for the Diocese of Worcester