Pope Francis and Mercy

Mario Tama/GETTY IMAGES. The Washington Post

I found it amusing that the biggest news from World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro was not that Pope Francis attracted 3.7 million people to his Sunday Mass on Copacabana Beach (inevitably nicknamed “Popacabana” for the week). Nor was it the pope’s dramatic speech before an enthusiastic crowd in Rio’s Varginha slum, where he affirmed the Catholic Church’s stance on combating poverty, deploying terms like “social justice,” “economic inequalities” and “solidarity.” Nor was it even when his motorcade took a wrong turn and ended up on a crowded street, with the papal car suddenly swamped by well-wishers.

No, the worldwide headline-grabber was the pope’s off-the-cuff comment during what one reporter friend told me was an “insane” (in the best possible way) news conference on the flight back to Rome. Despite some turbulence, Pope Francis expertly fielded questions for 82 minutes. And in response to a question about a supposed “gay lobby” in the church, he answered as follows:


"There is so much being written about the gay lobby. I have yet to meet anyone who introduces himself at the Vatican with a ‘gay card.’ . . . If a gay person is searching for God with goodwill, who am I to judge them?”

The pope also said, “The Catechism of the church expresses this beautifully . . .” And here he paused to ask his press spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, for the right word. “They should not be marginalized.”

The pope’s comments were noteworthy not only because he spoke about gays and lesbians in a way not traditionally done by most church leaders, but because he emphasized a Gospel teaching that may become the touchstone of his papacy: mercy.

Specifically, here’s how the pope’s words caused some turbulence in the church...

Read the rest here.

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Thomas Rooney OFS
5 years ago
I think Father Martin SJ said it best throughout this whole media shindig; the change isn't in the teaching, the change is in the TONE. The emphasis from John Paul II and Benedict XVI seemed to have been focused on "instrically disordered" and who may approach the Eucharist and who is welcomed and who is not. The emphasis with Francis seems to be mercy and welcome and leaving judgment to God. Emphasis and tone. And it's still the exact same teaching from the CCC.
Ethan Edwards
5 years ago
JPII and Benedict (as far as I know) never employed dramatic language associating same-sex marriage with the work of the devil ("the father of lies"). However, Francis used such language as Archbishop of Buenos Aires -- "At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.” “Let us not be naive: This is not simply a political struggle, but it is an attempt to destroy God’s plan," said the future pope. "It is not just a bill (a mere instrument) but a ‘move’ of the father of lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.” I think both liberals and conservatives need to be cautious in using the Pope's words as proof-texts to support certain view-points. I also think it is unfair to use JPII and Benedict as foils for Francis.
Thomas Rooney OFS
5 years ago
@ Ethan - I'm aware of then-Archbishop Bergoglio's harsh words about same-sex marriage/homosexuality (and to be honest, I was a bit concerned about them when I read this quote after the election). As Pope, Francis's ministry has changed. Again, the tone and emphasis of the teaching - pastoral rather than professorial - not the teaching itself, is the change. Benedict XVI is a brilliant theologian and scholar- there are not many who can touch him in that arena. As Pope, in my opinion, Benedict lacked a crucial pastoral element that seems natural to Francis. To again paraphrase Fr. Martin, every pope has his gifts. I am not using Francis's predecessors as foils.


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