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Editorial: The sweet fragrance of the Gospel

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Posted on September 26, 2013 |
By Angelo S. Lynn



“It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time. The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent... We have to find a 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.”

That assessment is from Pope Francis, who “sent shock waves through the Roman Catholic church,” writes the New York Times of the Pope’s remarks published last week in the Italian Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica.

The shock waves came from the Pope’s further comments that the church has been “obsessed” with abortion, gay marriage and contraception. He also made clear that he thought the church had, as the Times wrote, “put dogma before love,” and had been “prioritizing moral doctrines over serving the poor and marginalized.”

For liberal Catholics, the remarks provided a ray of hope. After 35 years under the papacies of Benedict and his predecessor, John Paul II, the church under Pope Francis may embrace a broader public vision.

“There is a big vision, not a big shift,” Father Spadaro, who did the interviews with the Pope, told the Times. “His big vision is to see the church in the middle of the persons who need to be healed. It (the church) is in the middle of the world.”

In the past six month since Francis, 76, was named Pope, he has used his public visits to emphasize the church’s mandate to serve the poor and oppressed, while being silent on abortion, gay rights and contraception — a silence that had been noticed by conservative Catholics and that had started some rumblings within that faction of the church.

But Francis was both adamant about the direction he preferred the church to proceed and eloquent in the defense of his position.

“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality,” Pope Francis told his interviewer. “I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”

That’s practicing Christianity through love, not religious orthodoxy. The change in tone is refreshing and sweet as honeysuckle.

Angelo S. Lynn

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