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  • Sep
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Talking about Pope’s interview

Posted By September 27, 2013 | 11:41 am | Lead Story #1

By Tanya Connor

Catholics here this week reflected on Pope Francis’ interview, printed in America magazine and other Jesuit journals, and talked about interpreting and applying his message.
“It inspires an examination of conscience,” said Jesuit Father John Gavin, assistant professor in the religious studies department at the College of the Holy Cross.
“It isn’t comfortable to profess the faith in word and deed in today’s culture. He’s saying, ‘Get out there, don’t be afraid, and bring the message of Christ’s love and mercy.’
“Are we bringing that message to the world? What creative ways can I do that, remaining faithful to the Church’s teachings and the message of the Gospel?”
Some think the Pope changed doctrine or indicted those who fight abortion or address other controversial issues, but that’s not the case, Father Gavin said. He cited a Facebook message of NARAL Pro-Choice America as evidence that some people didn’t understand what the pope was saying. The NARAL message said: “Dear Pope Francis,Thank you. Signed, Pro-choice women everywhere.”
“He’s so committed to having the people on the margins come in,” said Jesuit Father William Reiser, Holy Cross professor of theology. “He wants an inclusive Church. … You get the idea … ‘We’ve got to keep pushing the wall of the Church out to embrace more people,’” not just open the door.
This Church won’t be perfect, he said; the pope begins: “I am a sinner.” The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, the Jesuits’ founder, point out, “You know yourself to be sinful, but loved by God.”
“I just find, if you listen and watch him carefully, any priest who’s trying to walk with the people – if you are a priest who’s been doing this – it’s so reassuring,” because he understands parish life, said Father Reiser, who does Hispanic ministry at Our Lady of Providence Parish in Worcester and St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Westborough.
“The world knows where we stand on certain hot-button issues,” he said of the Pope saying it is not necessary to talk about abortion, contraception and gay marriage all the time. “Enough for now. I think he’s redirecting the conversation.”
Father Reiser said “the first word that we want to be speaking today” is about God’s love and closeness in every human life.
The English translation of a phrase from the Ignatian Exercises – “thinking with the Church” – evokes the idea of accepting doctrines, which St. Ignatius did and Pope Francis does, Father Reiser said. But he said the pope has something more in mind. In Spanish the word used is “sentir” (to feel with the Church). “Somebody once used the expression: ‘When you say feeling with the Church it’s not overly conceptual, it’s not purely emotional, but cordial,’ the Latin word for heart – cor,” he said.
Monday Johanna Freeman, of St. John Parish in Worcester,  skimmed the 12,000-word interview. She said she thinks the Pope said abortion and gay marriage do not need to be talked about all the time because that’s true. Pointing to St. John’s soup kitchen, she added, “We’ve got to talk about the homeless people … the death and hunger of other people. … I’ve talked to people who hate gays. Where’s the love? Judgment and condemnation are not what Christians are about; we’re about helping these people.”
“This pope makes people sit up,” and is a challenge for Jesuits too, said Father James Corkery from Ireland, who is a visiting international Jesuit fellow at Holy Cross.
“The Good News is for everyone,” he said. “Focus first of all on invitation and inclusion. Basically Jesuits are happy with this.” It reflects the Jesuit spirit of going to places that may not have heard the Gospel or may have set it aside.
Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy was tidier; it looked at moral questions and setting limits, Father Corkery said. Pope Benedict wrote of “a leaner, purer Church,” with fewer members, members who live all its teachings.
“Francis doesn’t set aside any teaching, but his starting point is different: ‘I am a sinner,’” he said. “He knows that lots of people have difficulty with this or that aspect of Church teaching, but he’s inviting them not to feel like outsiders. … His motto: ‘Wretched or miserable and still chosen and loved by God, and therefore somehow gathered in.’” Within the community people can come to know Jesus better and will come closer to Church teaching, Father Corkery said.
“(Pope Francis) goes to slums … prisons … places where people are troubled,” Father Corkery noted.  “Jesuits are contemplatives in action – with Christ in the heart of the world. The sacred and the human, they’re not thought to be separate. God became man.”
Ireland faces empty churches, sex abuse scandals and questions about gay marriage and divorce and remarriage, said Father Corkery, who teaches at Milltown Institute of Theology and Philosophy in Dublin. The Irish feel less oppressed and more welcome with Pope Francis, he said. Father Corkery praised Pope Benedict as a great scholar who was also very conscientious, and worried about secularization of the Church. He was perceived as not being as accessible or pastoral as Popes Francis and John Paul II, he said. Knowing it was time for a change, he courageously resigned.
“Holy Spirit knows what he’s doing; we have the pope for our times,” Carol Lazarus said during a lunch-time discussion of the interview sponsored by the Office for Mission at Assumption College on Tuesday.
Assumptionist Father Dennis Gallagher, vice president for mission, replaced the usual brown bag lunch book discussion letting the group digest the Pope’s interview. People affiliated with the college, including Mrs. Lazarus, wife of provost Francis Lazarus, shared their thoughts.
Stephanie McCaffrey, associate director of campus ministry, said it was nice to hear a student say he’d read the interview, which she forwarded to student leaders. She also said it was good to see fallen away people thinking: “This is great.”
“He really is being more like Jesus,” she said of Pope Francis. “It’s just nice to see people remembering what the Gospel is about. This is positive press for the Catholic Church. His new way of being pope has been encouraging the people.”
“It makes me feel like he’s just a neighbor;” he talked about his grandmother, said Landy Johnson, from the provost’s office.
“Papal language is usually circumscribed,” said Mr. Lazarus. “He seems to get out there and lead,” clarifying later. “We’re in for” a different papacy.
Marc LePain, theology professor, called the shift from Pope Pius XII to Pope John XXIII more dramatic.
He marveled that, in the midst of work with the poor, Pope Francis cultivated an appreciation of culture, even distinguishing between musical performances, of which he spoke easily in the interview.
Father Gallagher noted that the pope decried complaining about a barbaric world. He said sometimes he finds himself painting the world as almost unredeemable.
He expressed curiosity about what the theology of women would look like – something that Pope Francis said needs to be developed.
Provost Lazarus wondered if Pope Francis will include women in Church bureaucracy.
“I’m intrigued by his developing a theology of women,” said Susan Bailey, chairwoman of the diocesan Commission for Women. She said she appreciates his saying people are obsessed about the wrong things, things that are not at the core.
“I think women are also hung up on certain issues,” she said.
The core is mercy, she said; “If … you see through that lens …  everything is lifted up.”
Whenever Pope Francis speaks, she said, “I feel this burning longing inside for God.”

– The entire interview with Pope Francis is available online at


By Tanya Connor

Pope Francis’ comments about abortion, contraception and gay marriage, in an interview with Jesuit journals published last week, have garnered a lot of attention. Put in context, those issues become an illustration of key points the Pope made in the interview.
When people have a true understanding of the Gospel, some things become unthinkable, said Allison LeDoux, director of the diocesan Respect Life and Marriage and Family offices that address abortion, contraception and marriage.
She said she thinks people are taking the Pope’s words out of context, interpreting them as a call not to talk about these issues, though he himself has made strong statements about life.
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” the Pope said. “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 … is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”
Mrs. LeDoux said she thinks Pope Francis’ message is consistent with the messages of previous popes; he’s proclaiming it in the way God called him to at this time in history.
She spoke of him seeing the Church as a field hospital after battle, where people’s wounds must be healed before other issues can be addressed, and about him saying that most important is the proclamation: “Jesus Christ has saved you.”
“What I read in this … we’ve got to get the message of salvation out to people,” Mrs. LeDoux said. She said the issues she deals with have to do with human beings’ most basic rights and responsibilities, and getting these things right has a lot to do with salvation.
There are wounds with abortion, contraception, and marriage, she said. Suffering after an abortion, people realize abortion is not good for them. For decades the Church has offered Project Rachel, a post-abortion “safe place to heal,” she said. The Church also helps those with crisis pregnancies choose life, she said, mentioning the outreach of Problem Pregnancy and Visitation House in Worcester.
“What’s behind the ‘no’ is a great big ‘yes’ … to the life that God wants you to live in all its fullness,” she said. “We can connect that to the marriage question. Most people that find themselves in crisis pregnancies may not have the marriage question right. The gift of sexuality belongs in marriage. … Marriage is the proper place for the raising of children by their married mother and father, for the good of society.”
Abortion, contraception and a lack of understanding of marriage all come down to a misunderstanding of love, and God is the source of love, she said.
“If we don’t put God first, that’s why we’re suffering all these wounds, this brokenness,” she said. “The confessional is the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better. …     “If we give people the Gospel, because it’s about salvation, if we’re focused on Christ, these other things become unthinkable, because we’re growing in our love for God. Why would we kill the unborn? Why would we be engaged in contraception, co-habitation, gay marriage, when they’re not expressions of love? … We need to propose anew the inviolability of the human person, to reaffirm that God-given dignity.”
So what is the pope calling Catholics to do regarding these issues?
“To offer the love and mercy of God in an attractive way, in such a way that it will heal the wounds of the culture,” Mrs. LeDoux replied. “If we’re leading people to Christ, on the path of salvation, that’s what it’s all about. The experience of Christ in the confessional can totally change their life. That’s why we emphasize confession in marriage preparation and Project Rachel … to heal the wounds and start anew.”


See Commentary section for Editorial.



Pope says focus on morality can obscure Gospel message

By Francis X. Rocca Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In a lengthy and wide-ranging interview with one of his Jesuit confreres, Pope Francis spoke with characteristic frankness about the perils of overemphasizing Catholic teaching on sexual and medical ethics; the reasons for his deliberate and consultative governing style; and his highest priority for the church today.

The pope’s remarks appeared in an interview with Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, editor of the Italian journal La Civilta Cattolica. The interview, conducted in August, was the basis for a 12,000-word article published Sept. 19 in the U.S. magazine America, and simultaneously in other Jesuit publications in other languages.

According to the editor of America, Jesuit Father Matt Malone, Pope Francis personally reviewed the article and approved its publication.

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” the pope said in the interview, noting that he had been “reprimanded” for failing to speak often about those topics. “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 pope added. “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,” he said. “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.”

The pope reaffirmed one of his major themes: the need for mercy rather than judgment when approaching sin.

“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,” he said.

“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,” the pope said.

“The confessional is not a torture chamber,” he said, “but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better.

“Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists — they have a static and inward-directed view of things,” Pope Francis said. “In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies.”

Pope Francis also spoke extensively about his approach to church governance.

“Many think that changes and reforms can take place in a short time,” the pope said. “I believe that we always need time to lay the foundations for real, effective change. And this is the time of discernment.

“Sometimes discernment instead urges us to do precisely what you had at first thought you would do later. And that is what happened to me in recent months,” he added, though without specifying the action in question.

The pope described the evolution of his governing style, starting with his appointment at age 36 as superior of the Argentine province of the Jesuits.

“My authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions led me to have serious problems and to be accused of being ultraconservative,” Pope Francis said, adding, “I have never been a right-winger. It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems.”

Later, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, he adopted another approach, meeting often with his auxiliary bishops.

“I believe that consultation is very important,” the pope said, noting his establishment as pope of the so-called Group of Eight advisory panel of cardinals. “I want to see that this is a real, not ceremonial consultation.”

With respect to the Vatican bureaucracy, whose reform he has made a clear priority of his six-month old pontificate, Pope Francis pointed to the need to devolve more authority to local churches.

Some Vatican offices “run the risk of becoming institutions of censorship,” he said. “It is amazing to see the denunciations for lack of orthodoxy that come to Rome. I think the cases should be investigated by the local bishops’ conferences, which can get valuable assistance from Rome. These cases, in fact, are much better dealt with locally. The Roman congregations are mediators; they are not middlemen or managers.”

In matters of belief rather than governance, Pope Francis said that the pope and bishops share authority with the laity.

“The church is the people of God on the journey through history,” he said. “Thinking with the church, therefore, is my way of being a part of this people. And all the faithful, considered as a whole, are infallible in matters of belief.”

The pope quickly added that “we must be very careful not to think that this ‘infallibilitas’ of all the faithful I am talking about in the light of Vatican II is a form of populism. No; it is the experience of ‘holy mother the hierarchical church,’ as St. Ignatius called it, the church as the people of God, pastors and people together.”

Among the other topics the pope addressed in the interview was the challenge of finding a more visible role for women in a church with an all-male priesthood.

“I am wary of a solution that can be reduced to a kind of ‘female machismo,’ because a woman has a different makeup than a man,” he said. “The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. The woman is essential for the church. Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops. I say this because we must not confuse the function with the dignity.”

Pope Francis, whose simple way of celebrating Mass has attracted criticism from traditionalist Catholics, also took up the controversial subject of liturgy.

Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 decision to lift most restrictions on celebrating the Tridentine Mass was “was prudent and motivated by the desire to help people who have this sensitivity,” Pope Francis said. “What is worrying, though, is the risk of the ideologization of the (old Mass), it’s exploitation.”

The pope also said that the liturgical reform that followed in the wake of the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council is “absolutely irreversible.”