A compassionate pope? Saints preserve us

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Pope Francis waves to the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name of Francis is the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. 

Let’s stop picking on the gays.

That appeared to be the message of Pope Francis back in July as he spoke off-script to reporters during a flight to Rome from Brazil.

“Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?” he said.

The Catholic illustriati were gobsmacked. Did he just tell us to ignore the nefarious, soul-destroying, world-ending plague of homosexuality?

Not really, said the more theologically gifted ones. Homosexuality is still evil and destructive and a blight upon humanity. But we are not to be so judgmental — save for the scattered time when we’re in the privacy of our own homes … or in public, or at the pulpit, or in the congregation, or writing letters to the editor or talking on open line.

And thus, confusion reigned throughout the land until the Pope spake again, to clarify.


So, here’s a dilemma for you. What do all the hate-filled believers do? They’ve wasted no opportunity to preach mightily against the perverse abominations going on in bedrooms across the nation, and now Mr. Infallible is telling them to put a lid on it.

Will there be a new schism? Not likely.

It’s not likely because a strong majority of Catholics are actually breathing a sigh of relief. Some can go on thinking that birth control

is wrong if they so wish, or that

gays are sinners. But they shouldn’t flog those beliefs everywhere they go.

Fact is, most Catholics don’t even adhere to such intransigent notions of purity and sin. Polls in the U.S., for example, consistently show most Catholics support gay marriage.

And why shouldn’t they? As one comic aptly put it, why should straight people have a monopoly on misery?

The Holy Father believes there are more important things for modern-day Christians to think about. Like poverty, for example. When someone is down and out, you don’t ask him which gender he prefers shacking up with. You give him a hand.

“It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” Francis said in an interview last week.

“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.”

Holy smokes! Did the Pope just interpret the relevance of church doctrine? Surely that’s sacrilege. Except, again, he’s the Pope, remember? Infallible?

None of this should be surprising, for two reasons.

First, Francis is a Jesuit. Jesuits are all about higher education. They teach the Gospel, but they also believe in the intellectual understanding of it, not just blind adherence. Faith and understanding, hand in hand.

Second, he’s South American. And in South America, Catholic clerics have always been more interested in social justice than lecturing sinners. They focus on the deprived, not the depraved. They speak out against oppression. Some of them have paid for it with their lives.

So, here’s a toast to the new boss. The Vatican is undergoing a shakeup, and news reports suggest the global response has so far been primarily positive.

“A breath of fresh air,” is how one U.S. church-goer described it.

Time for a deep breath, I say.

Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s commentary editor. He is not Roman Catholic. Email: pjackson@thetelegram.com.


Organizations: Jesuits

Geographic location: Rome, Brazil, U.S. South America Vatican

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Recent comments

  • MatthewY
    September 26, 2013 - 07:40

    The author's juxtoposition of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis on the matter of higher education and 'blind' adherence to the Gospel is totally misleading and ignorant. The former is after all an academic, a master theologian and author of countless books. If anything, 'faith and understanding' seems to describe Pope Benedict's qualities.

  • Colin Burke
    September 25, 2013 - 21:34

    Has it occurred to you, Mr. Jackson, that someone who is an obect of Christian compassion must be either wretchedly sinful or at least somewhat unfortunate in some respect, and that the Pope might deem gays unfortunate in rather more than their being picked on?

  • Colin Burke
    September 25, 2013 - 10:08

    So, Mr. Jackson, you're saying it's all right now to have compassion for gays, when all along it seemed that gays rejected compassion and insisted on being congratulated, which latter is not what the current Pope has done?