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Liberal pundits are blasting Republicans with the words of Pope Francis

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

In his groundbreaking interview with the Jesuit magazine America, Pope Francis said this: “I have never been a right-winger.”

Consistent with that declaration, there have been lots of other things the pontiff has said that distinguish him from the right-wing Republicans who befoul the American political process. And the liberal punditry are more than eager to point them out:

Consider THIS, for example:

Pope Francis is a hit. In July, he drew three million people to Mass at Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach. A Pew Research Center poll released this month shows that 79 percent of Catholics have a favorable view of him, compared to only four percent who view him unfavorably.

It’s not only Catholics who approve. “Seldom has a religious leader been embraced so warmly across the Christian world, including by many evangelicals,” Timothy George, executive editor of Christianity Today, wrote earlier this summer.

And he may have won over a whole new crowd who have grown disillusioned with organized religion, after he chastised the Roman Catholic Church for being “obsessed” with abortion, contraception, and gay marriage. Francis’s remarks, published in 16 Jesuit journals worldwide, have rocked the Catholic world.

“It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” he said. “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 GOP could learn a few lessons from His Holiness.

To concerned Republicans (and especially Republican Catholics): No, the Pope isn’t advocating that priests start marrying gay couples in Catholic churches. In fact, for all the praise he has received from liberals, the Vatican’s official positions on abortion, gay marriage, and contraception are no different from when Pope Benedict XVI was running things.

But he is focusing heavily on problems that Catholics have traditionally cared about — namely, alleviating suffering and poverty — but which have fallen out of the spotlight due to a few divisive, hot-button issues.

——–

Or consider THIS:

Pope Francis has made some remarkable and very encouraging statements of late, suggesting he is taking the Roman Catholic church away from a focus on rules, punishment and an inordinate focus on controlling people’s sexuality. Instead, Francis is talking more about what any religion should be about: love, inclusion and charity towards those who for whatever reason cannot manage things without some community help.

It’s a message that could well help the church bring back some of its disaffected members, and more importantly, draw in some young people who might be looking for spiritual guidance in their lives but have been put off by the previous pope’s railing against homosexuality, birth control and abortion. But Francis’ refreshing message might be wasted among rank-and-file Catholics. Where he could really do some good works is in the Republican party.

The Republican party was once a party of people who wanted smallish government and fiscal responsibility. But they were not opposed to any kind of government at all. They were not mean-spirited. They did not presume that they should get their own way, ignoring the thoughts and wishes of people who might not be exactly like them.

Unfortunately, the party now has a controlling (but still minority) element which is demanding those very things. They won’t negotiate with Democrats – on principle. They are willing to let the entire country descend into fiscal disaster if they don’t get their own way. They don’t want women to get birth control through their health care plans, let alone abortion. And on Thursday, they voted to slash $39 billion from SNAP, or food stamps. The overwhelming majority of those who get (or got) food stamps are in households with children, the elderly or the disabled. And this new breed of Republicans literally wants to take food out of their mouths.

On some level, the party leadership understands how out-of-touch they look. They commissioned a major study that made it quite clear that if the party doesn’t stop talking against gays and lesbians, the party will continue to shrink. Young people – even conservative young people – can’t fathom why, in the 21st century, anyone would bother hating or judging someone based simply on whom he or she loves.

Pope Francis gets that.

———

Or consider THIS:

Pope Benedict always seemed to be the Dick Cheney of pontiffs. The longtime Vatican insider and master of papal politicking was beloved by conservative theologians for reaffirming strict doctrine and famously arguing that a smaller church of more devout believers would be more desirable than what might be called a “big tent.”

In contrast, Pope Francis is the ultimate outsider, the first South American pontiff in centuries, reflecting and embracing the demographic changes transforming the Catholic Church. He is an unapologetic believer in building a big tent, telling the bishops in Rio, “We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel … Let us courageously look to pastoral needs, beginning on the periphery, with those who are farthest away, with those who do not usually go to church.” This is a pope who remembers what so many self-styled conservatives often forget: that the essence of evangelism is winning new converts.

Hammering home his inclusive vision, Pope Francis even said that even atheists might enter heaven through good works. “We must meet one another doing good,” he said. “‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: We will meet one another there.”

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1 Comment

  1. I love this guy.

    Read more here:

    http://www.thinkingfaith.org/articles/20130919_1.htm

    Pope Francis begins by showing great affection and immense respect for his predecessor: “Pope Benedict has done an act of holiness, greatness, humility. He is a man of God.

    “I see clearly,” the pope continues, “that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…. And you have to start from the ground up.

    “The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person. The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, ‘This is not a sin’ or something like that. In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds.

    “How are we treating the people of God? I dream of a church that is a mother and shepherdess. The church’s ministers must be merciful, take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the good Samaritan, who washes, cleans and raises up his neighbour. This is pure Gospel. God is greater than sin. The structural and organisational reforms are secondary­ – that is, they come afterward. The first reform must be the attitude. The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost. The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials. The bishops, particularly, must be able to support the movements of God among their people with patience, so that no one is left behind. But they must also be able to accompany the flock that has a flair for finding new paths.

    “Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent. The ones who quit sometimes do it for reasons that, if properly understood and assessed, can lead to a return. But that takes audacity and courage.”

    I mention to Pope Francis that there are Christians who live in situations that are irregular for the church or in complex situations that represent open wounds. I mention the divorced and remarried, same-sex couples and other difficult situations. What kind of pastoral work can we do in these cases? What kinds of tools can we use?

    “We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner,” the pope says, “preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing, even with our preaching, every kind of disease and wound. In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this. During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.

    “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. 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. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.

    “This is also the great benefit of confession as a sacrament: evaluating case by case and discerning what is the best thing to do for a person who seeks God and grace. The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better. I also consider the situation of a woman with a failed marriage in her past and who also had an abortion. Then this woman remarries, and she is now happy and has five children. That abortion in her past weighs heavily on her conscience and she sincerely regrets it. She would like to move forward in her Christian life. What is the confessor to do?

    “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.

    “I say this also thinking about the preaching and content of our preaching. A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation. There is nothing more solid, deep and sure than this proclamation. Then you have to do catechesis. Then you can draw even a moral consequence. But the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives. Today sometimes it seems that the opposite order is prevailing. The homily is the touchstone to measure the pastor’s proximity and ability to meet his people, because those who preach must recognise the heart of their community and must be able to see where the desire for God is lively and ardent. The message of the Gospel, therefore, is not to be reduced to some aspects that, although relevant, on their own do not show the heart of the message of Jesus Christ.”

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