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Under Pope Francis, A New Direction For Catholic Church

Francesca Bessey |
September 20, 2013 | 7:09 p.m. PDT

Executive Producer

Just two months after surprising the world with his intent not to "judge" gay believers, Pope Francis has once again made waves in the Catholic church.

The pope seeks to bring "a new balance" to his church. (Agência Brasil, Wikimedia Commons)
The pope seeks to bring "a new balance" to his church. (Agência Brasil, Wikimedia Commons)

In an interview published Thursday in America Magazine and other Jesuit journals in 16 countries, Francis made several statements unprecedented in Vatican history.

In light of internal church criticism for not taking a stronger stance on hot-button social issues such as homosexuality and abortion early on his papacy, Francis said that the church should emphasize compassion and mercy above what he called “small-minded rules.”

“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,” the pope said.

SEE ALSO: Pope Francis Will Not 'Judge' Gay Priests

To Catholics the world over—particularly those who have used their faith as platforms for their active opposition of gay marriage and abortion rights—the pope’s remarks come as a huge shock.

The 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church, approved by Pope John Paul II, explicitly states that the church intervenes in social areas “by making a moral judgment about economic and social matters when the fundamental rights of the person, the common good, or the salvation of souls requires it.”

Such engagement in the public square has been reaffirmed at multiple points in recent church history, such as when New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan proclaimed last year that Catholic citizens have a duty to bring faith-based convictions to politics.

Archbishop Dolan reiterated his position on “CBS This Morning” Friday when he took issue with Francis’ “finger-wagging approach” to the church’s stance on social issues, calling it counterproductive.

Other conservative Catholics are downright disturbed, CNN reports.

SEE ALSO: Latin American Pope May Symbolize Global Power Shift

Francis’ perspective also presents a striking contrast to that of his immediate predecessor, the elderly Pope Benedict XVI, who acquired a reputation as a hardline proponent of church doctrine during his short reign as pope.

To the similarly doctrine-minded, Francis offered what CBS News called “an olive branch of sorts” Friday, when he issued a strong anti-abortion message and encouraged Catholic doctors to refuse to perform the medical procedure.

While the sudden, strong anti-abortion declaration might have disappointed those who champion Pope Francis' new "liberal" perspective, there seems to be no doubt—at least not in the pope's mind—that change is coming to the Catholic church.

"We have to find a new balance," the pope explained in his interview, "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."


Reach Executive Producer Francesca Bessey here; follow her here.



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