What in God's Name Is the Pope Saying?

By:  Jack Kenny
What in God's Name Is the Pope Saying?

Has Pope Francis said the Catholic Church has become "obsessed" with the issues of abortion, contraception, and same-sex "marriage"?

Has the Church been placing too much emphasis on these issues by talking about them "all the time"?

Since the appearance on Thursday of a lengthy interview with the pope in several Jesuit publications around the world, a number of Catholic spokesmen, both lay and clerical, have come forward to say the pope's statements were distorted in many news reports by being taken "out of context."

But a reading of the entire interview suggests that, while there was much else that the pontiff said, he did appear to be calling for less emphasis on those high profile — and highly volatile — moral, social, and political issues, while putting greater emphasis on the love and mercy of God and the preaching of the good news (the Gospel) to the poor and the socially outcast.

"We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods," the pope said during an interview conducted in Italian in three sessions by the editor-in-chief of the Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica. "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."

As it appears in the text of the interview, translated from Italian for the English-language Jesuit publication America, the very next sentence it is: "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."

While it is not certain that with the word "obsessed," the pope was referring specifically to abortion, contraception, and gay marriage among the "disjointed multitude of doctrines," but that does appear to be what he was saying. It was not biased or careless journalism, then, for the media to report, as the New York Times did in the lead paragraph of its story that:

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