Pope Francis said the Catholic Church should not allow its bans on gay marriage, abortion and contraception to dominate its teachings, but must be a more welcoming Church where priests are understanding pastors and not cold, dogmatic bureaucrats.
In a dramatically blunt interview with Civilta Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit monthly, Francis said the Church had locked itself up in “small things, in small-minded rules”. It must find a new balance between upholding rules and demonstrating mercy, “otherwise even the moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall like a house of cards…”
Francis, the first non-European pope in 1300 years and the first from Latin America, did not hold out the prospect of any changes soon to such moral teachings.
In the long interview with the magazine’s director, Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, he also said he envisioned a greater role for women in the 1.2 billion member Church but suggested it would not include a change in the current ban on a female priesthood.
In an remarkable change from his predecessor Benedict, who said homosexuality was an intrinsic disorder, Francis said that when homosexuals told him they were always condemned by the Church and felt “socially wounded”, he told them “the Church does not want to do this”.
The Pope is not about to change the fundamental beliefs of the Catholic Church, but tone can be almost as important as substance, and his tone is doing wonders I believe for the image of the Catholic Church.