Boy, what is with the mainstream media? They just can not accept that our current Pope, Francis, isn’t going to change the Church’s Teachings. Oh, sure, Pope Francis is considering allowing married priests; but that is a discipline, not a teaching. There is nothing in Scripture which indicates priests must be celibate. Heck, the first pope was married! True, St. Paul says that it is better to be celibate than married, but both St. Paul and Jesus are clear that not all are called to such a lifestyle. So, Pope Francis changing the rule on clerical celibacy is not really a big deal.
Then we have the “ultra-conservative” Catholics who think that everything Pope Francis says is heretical. They see him as a liberal, and they believe-like the mainstream media-that Pope Francis is trying to change Church Teaching. The only difference between the mainstream media and the “ultra-conservatives” is that the mainstream media sees the perceived changes Pope Francis is making to Church Teaching as a good thing. The Catholic Church is “catching up with the times”. We’re becoming progressive. The “ultra-conservatives” see this as a bad thing. But is Pope Francis really changing Church Teaching?
The simple answer is no. Pope Francis has yet to change a single teaching of the Catholic Church, and he will not. Just look at the man’s past history. Pope Francis is no heretic. Actually, he has spent his whole life defending Church Teaching. In any case, we have Jesus’ promise that the gates of hell will not “prevail” against the Church. Hence, the Church must always teach truth. We also know the Roman Pontiff has a special protection of the Holy Spirit. Throughout 2000 of Catholic history, no pope has ever taught error when acting as head of the Church; speaking on faith and morals; and speaking ex cathedra.
People really need to take a deep breath and a step back, and then carefully examine what Pope Francis is saying. He didn’t say that priests who practice their homosexuality are not committing a grievous sin. What Pope Francis was saying was that we can not judge a priest just because he may struggle with same-sex attraction. Everyone struggles with something. Some people struggle with addiction to drugs or alcohol. Some struggle with a heterosexual addiction to sex. Some (like me) struggle with their temper. We can not judge people for struggling with certain temptations. After all, temptations aren’t sins. Willfully giving into them is.
Pope Francis did not say that abortion, same-sex marriage, or artificial contraceptives were now acceptable. What Pope Francis was saying is that these are not the only issues that the Church and its members must address. Sometimes people spend too much time on these topics; as if they’re the only ones that matter. Sure, abortion is one of the most heinous sins, but we must realize that we can not spend all of our time combatting this issue alone. There are many issues that require our attention.
Pope Francis also said that we can not be too fixated on “small-minded rules”. He wasn’t saying opposition to abortion, or excommunicating supporters of abortion is “small-minded”. He was making it clear that some Catholics get too wrapped up in small issues. Let’s have an example.
I know a lot of Catholics who get irritated when they see priests and laypeople holding hands during the Our Father. It is true that the Rubrics don’t explicitly forbid the holding of hands during the Our Father, but one gets the since in reading the Rubrics that such isn’t really supposed to take place. Yet, this is a small issue. It does not make or break us. If people hold hands during the Our Father it will have absolutely no effect on the truth of Catholicism. It is a “small-minded rule” that we really don’t need to focus on.
Pope Francis is really just trying to refocus Catholics. We need to loosen our grip a little on legalism, and focus on the things that really matter. Like G.K. Chesterton, we need to get to the heart of matters. We need to reacquire a wholistic view of humanity’s problems. Yes, contraceptives, abortion, same-sex marriage, etc. are very big problems. But, as Pope Francis reminded us today, there are other issues. Money is the root of all that kills. Many of our problems stem from a too great concern for money.
Think about it. Many women get abortions because they don’t want children. Why don’t they want children? Maybe they want more time to work on their career. Maybe they aren’t “financially ready” (as if there is such a thing when it comes to children). Some women and men don’t want children because they don’t want the responsibility, or they simply want the time for themselves. If you think about it, money is often at the heart of all these excuses.
That is all Pope Francis is doing. He is trying to get Catholics to refocus. Remember, humanity has many problems. We must solve all of them, not just some. In this world of consumerism, waste, and greed, people need to remember that the oppression of the poor is becoming worse, not better. This is all Pope Francis is saying.
So, everyone calm down. Everything is going to be fine. At the end of the day, at the core, we still be the same old Church. Under Pope Francis, however, we will simply be a bit more vibrant, and a bit more wholistic in our approach to our fellow man and to sin.
Peace in Christ,
David J. Pollard
American Catholic Solidarity