Pope Francis said the Catholic Church shouldn’t be “obsessed” with preaching about abortion, gay marriage and contraception and should instead try to reach out to a broader congregation.
“It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” Francis told the Catholic publication, La Civilta Cattolica. “We have to find a new balance; 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.”
Francis, the first non-European pope in more than 1,200 years, distinguished himself from the start of his papacy by speaking out in favor of the world’s poor. In the first six months of his papacy he’s also made overtures to other faiths and attempted to root out corruption in the Vatican Bank.
“He is getting back to the real values,” Veronica Chambers, 68, a practising Catholic who lives in Los Angeles said in a telephone interview. “Those of us who have any brains, us modern Catholics who need it, want it, will welcome this message.”
His comments marks a contrast with that of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who struck a more conservative tone on sexuality and was criticized for not doing enough to root out sexual abuse in the clergy.
The Church should be “the home of all,” Francis said in the 12,000-word interview conducted in August at his quarters in the Vatican guest house, which he chose over the rich papal apartments of his predecessors.
The interview covered topics ranging from his political sympathies to his desire for more consultative leadership. He also discusses his human side, saying he loves the Federico Fellini film, “La Strada.”
Francis, 76, professed disdain for clergy who make the Church into “a nest protecting our mediocrity.” He added that when he sees religious leaders’ negative behavior, “the first thing that comes to mind is: ‘Here’s an unfruitful bachelor,’ or ‘Here’s a spinster.’ They are neither fathers nor mothers, in the sense that they have not been able to give spiritual life.”
Some academics cautioned against reading too much into Francis’s comments.
“He hasn’t announced a change in Church doctrine,” Franck Fregosi, who teaches religious studies at the Aix-en-Provence campus of Sciences Po, said in an interview. “He’s understood the Church can’t be a church of interdictions, of refusals. He’s still against gay marriage, he’s just saying don’t be fixated on it.”
Elected in March after Benedict became the first pontiff to abdicate in 600 years, Francis has worked to portray himself as a man of the people, shirking the traditional robes, jewelry and even papal apartment for more spartan trappings.
Francis also named a commission to oversee the Vatican Bank’s operations after Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s monitoring body for money laundering and terrorism financing, called for its independent supervision. The director and deputy director of the bank resigned July 1 amid a corruption investigation, three days after a senior Vatican cleric was arrested for alleged fraud. Francis also appointed an advisory council of eight cardinals to propose changes to the church.
To contact the reporter on this story: Alessandra Migliaccio in Rome at firstname.lastname@example.org