Thursday, September 19, 2013

More Reasonableness from Pope Francis

In a perfect world the fact that the leader of one of the world' largest religious denominations said something reasonable wouldn't be news, and in fact in his first year Pope Francis has excelled at making such statements. His latest is a pivot on emphasis that I find long overdue in the Roman Catholic Church. The Church's policies on sexuality are well-known, so its seemingly monomaniacal obsession with them for so many years always confused me. Jesus said almost nothing about sexuality in the Gospels and a whole lot about compassion and charity for the poor, but listening to the statements of previous Popes it would be easy to assume that those teachings were the other way around. Francis is different, sounding more like a genuinely spiritual man than a mere moral scold.

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” he told La Civiltà Cattolica. “This is not possible. 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, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.” Following up on comments he made in July, Francis said LGBT individuals had told him they felt “socially wounded” by the Church’s oftentimes vitriolic denunciations of homosexuality. He said this was something the Church should not be doing.

“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality,” he told La Civiltà Cattolica. “I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy.” Francis’ words do not deviate from official Catholic teachings, but his tone towards LGBT individuals is notably different than his predecessors. Pope Benedict XVI, for instance, said same-sex marriage threatened the future of humanity itself.

As a Thelemite I'm not going to find myself in agreement with Roman Catholicism any time soon, but I appreciate the Pope's recognition that other issues are far more central to the mission and teachings of Christianity than the condemnation of private sexual behavior between consenting adults. Now if only certain Evangelical Protestants could figure out the same thing.

UPDATE: Slate has an article up today analyzing additional statements from Francis in which we find even more reasonableness. As has been noted by a number of commenters, the policies of the Church remain as backward and oppressive as always, but the new Pope sure puts a good spin on the religion. We'll have to wait and see the extent to which he's willing to take up the mantle of reform and implement real doctrinal changes to match his reasonable rhetoric.

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