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Pope says focus on morality can obscure Gospel message

IN a lengthy and wide-ranging interview with one of his Jesuit confreres, Pope Francis spoke with characteristic frankness about the perils of overemphasising Catholic teaching on sexual and medical ethics – the reasons for his deliberate and consultative governing style, and his highest priority for the Church.

The pope’s remarks appeared in an interview with Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, editor of the Italian journal La Civilta Cattolica.

The interview, conducted in August, was the basis for a 12,000-word story published September 19 in the US magazine America, and simultaneously in other Jesuit publications in other languages.

According to the editor of America, Jesuit Father Matt Malone, Pope Francis personally reviewed and approved its publication.

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” the pope said in the interview, noting that he had been “reprimanded” for failing to speak often about those topics.

 “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

“The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent.”

He said “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,” 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 proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.”

The pope reaffirmed one of his major themes – the need for mercy rather than judgment when approaching sin.

“The confessional is not a torture chamber,” he said, “but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better.


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