Holy War

 

Cardinal Francis George

Recently the current Pontiff made some startling remarks about the Catholic Church Leadership’s intense focus on abortion, homosexuality, and contraception.  Here is what he said (in context):

We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. 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.

The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent.The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. 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. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.

This struck many as a breath of fresh air.  Others, not so much.  Chicago’s Cardinal Archbishop, Francis George, objected:

But George, a vocal opponent of gay marriage, warned that some had gone too far in seeing Pope Francis’ interview as a move away from long-held church teachings on homosexuality, abortion and contraception.

“Everybody is welcome,” George said, “but not everything we do can be acceptable. Not everything I do, and not everything anybody else does.”

Pope Francis said in the interview that the church “cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”

When asked Sunday whether Catholics had become obsessed with the moral issues the pope named, George said the church was addressing society’s concerns.

“If the society is obsessed with those issues,” George said, “then the church will respond. If the society doesn’t bring them up, the church won’t respond.”

To be clear, the Pope actually didn’t say that “everything we do is acceptable.”  He said rather that not all of the Church’s moral positions deserve equal emphasis.  According to the Pope, abortion, gay marriage, and contraception don’t merit the kind of “obsessive” focus people such as George devote to it.

The Pope’s point is a fairly reasonable one, I think.  Time and space limit our ability to address every moral issue.  We have to make some choices.  We can choose well or choose badly.  The Church, in the PM’s* view, has chosen poorly, and Cardinal George’s response explains why: he’s not obsessed with gay marriage, you are.  Why do you keep bringing up gay marriage?

*Pontifex Maximus (how come we don’t have an acronym for the Pope like we do for the FLOTUS?)

2 thoughts on “Holy War”

  1. Honestly, I don’t understand why so many people are falling all over themselves to paint Francis as a radical change from Benedict. He hasn’t altered the church’s actual positions on anything.

    When asked questions about topics where the church’s position is increasingly out of step with culture, he evades them instead of giving direct answers (“Who am I to judge?”); and this latest “breath of fresh air” really boils down to “We’re not changing any of the policies which are harming our image, we’re just not going to talk about them as much”.

    It just seems to be a PR move intended to rescue the church’s image, without actually changing any of the things that caused them image problems in the first place.

  2. JSB,

    That sounds right to me for the most part; it’s a question of emphasis. But, I think, a meaningful shift, at least rhetorically, if not more–especially if Catholics are going to reorder their views in terms of priority. So now what causes church leaders to take a moral stand may not be contraception, gay marriage, and abortion, but rather poverty, oppression, and war. Why is everyone laughing?

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