The Guesswork Is Over: This Pope Really Is More Liberal Than His Predecessors

Remember when Pope Francis said some not-hateful things about gay people and conservatives said, “No, you don’t understand, he’s not really liberal?” Well, this pretty much settles it.

Pope Francis, in the first extensive interview of his six-month-old papacy, said that the Roman Catholic church had grown “obsessed” with preaching about abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and that he has chosen not to speak of those issues despite recriminations from some critics.

In remarkably blunt language, Francis sought to set a new tone for the church, saying it should be a “home for all” and not a “small chapel” focused on doctrine, orthodoxy and a limited agenda of moral teachings.

“It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” the pope told the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, a fellow Jesuit and editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal whose content is routinely approved by the Vatican. “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.

“We have to find a new balance,” the pope continued, “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.”

Now: Pope Francis isn’t turning the Catholic Church into an institution of “Abortions for all! Tiny American flags for others!” He’s not changing church doctrine. He’s just saying that the church is more than the sum of a few of its doctrines, and that it risks needlessly shutting off people from the gospel if it continues it’s obsessive focus on a few rules instead of the broader message and ministry of Jesus. That’s a message that won’t completely satisfy secular liberals, but it’s probably not going to make the more-Catholic-than-the-pope folks like William Donohue and the folks at National Review very happy either.

Which is a too narrow, left-right, typically American way of looking at it. All we know is, this papacy is really, really interesting.

Our friends at G Philly also weigh in.

The Philly-based Catholic blog adds this headline: “Francis Lowers the Boom, Again.”

Beyond being merely conspicuous, the timing of the bombshell’s release effectively signals the start of the Jesuit Pope’s full-bore dive into matters of governance and the church’s internal affairs, which will kick into top gear with Papa Bergoglio’s inaugural meeting with his hand-picked “Super 8”commission of cardinal-advisers, scheduled for 1-3 October.

As the story begins to blow up the news-cycle, you will want to read the full text. Repeat: you will want to read the full text, so have at it.