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Pope Francis Continues Being Awesome. What’s Next?

Submitted by on September 20, 2013 – 9:24 amOne Comment

What are they putting in the holy water over at the Vatican? This week, Pope Francis continued to shatter centuries of convention and ideology when he proclaimed in a just released interview that the Roman Catholic Church is “obsessed” with social issues like abortion, gay marriage, and contraception, and should instead emphasize “the saving love of God” over “moral and religious imperatives.”

“We have to find a new balance,” he said in an interview with the Italian Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica, translated in the American Jesuit journal America.  “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.”

Wow. That’s a pretty far cry from the Church that believes it was “built on a rock” as ordained by Jesus, and still tosses around words like “infallible.”

It past months, the pope has also asked “who am I to judge” homosexuals who “[search] for the Lord and [have] good will.” Francis also wrote to an Italian newspaper that atheists and agnostics can receive God’s love and forgiveness if they “follow their own conscience” (though an earlier similar statement received a quick clarification from Vatican officials). And a close associate of Francis’ recently remarked that priestly celibacy is “not a dogma of the church” and could be discussed.

The pope has also made numerous attempts to minister to the marginalized and underserved, notably washing the feet of female prisoners.

It’s worth noting that Francis is not reversing Catholic positions on these issues- homosexuality, abortion, and gay marriage are still verboten- he’s just saying maybe they shouldn’t be such a big deal. But with an institution this size with issues this entrenched, these steps are a pretty big deal. Francis seems to imagine a Church fundamentally different than the small, fervent institution favored by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.

So maybe you should slow down there, Frank! You know you’ve got a lifetime appointment (recent history notwithstanding), so pace yourself. What other bombshells could the pope drop?

In all seriousness, one huge  group long marginalized by the Church is conspicuously absent from Francis’ progressive remarks: women. The Church has been embarrassed by high profile events of nuns and female lay leaders publicly disagreeing with priests, bishops, and cardinals, and being further silenced as a result. The Nuns on a Bus movement has brought further calls for an increased role for nuns in Church leadership. And of course, the thought of female priests is always a hypothetical.

Francis has called for a theology that recognizes the role of women- like Mary’s prominence in Jesus life. But in the same interview where he asked who he was to judge homosexuals, he firmly denied that women will ever be ordained ministers, in language that is surprisingly strong compared to his other comments.

“That door is closed,” he said.

[via NY Times]

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