Pope warns church must find new balance or fail

Published: Thursday, September 19, 2013 at 12:13 PM.

Nothing Francis said indicates any change in church teaching. But he has set a different tone and signaled new priorities compared to Benedict and John Paul — priorities that have already been visible in his simple style, his outreach to the most marginalized and his insistence that priests be pastors, not bureaucrats.

"Mercy has been a hallmark of his papacy from its earliest days," said the Rev. James Martin, editor at large for America magazine. "The America interview shows a gentle pastor who looks upon people as individuals, not categories."

Two months ago, Francis caused a sensation during a news conference when he was asked about gay priests. "Who am I to judge?" about the sexual orientation of priests, as long as they are searching for God and have good will, he responded.

Francis noted in the latest interview that he had merely repeated church teaching (though he again neglected to repeat church teaching that says while homosexuals should be treated with dignity and respect, homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered.")

But he continued: "A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. 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. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing."

The key, he said, is for the church to welcome, not exclude and show mercy, not condemnation.



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