A Big Heart Open to God (from Quest Bulletin 68, Winter 2013/14)

The title above is a direct quote from an exclusive interview which Pope Francis gave to Antonio Spadaro, SJ, editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal, and which was published in several other major Jesuit journals around the world. The following is an extract from the interview:

“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 . . . 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 speak about these issues all the time.” [Extracts from Father Antonio Spadaro’s interview with Pope Francis, published on 19�� September 2013. Source: the British Jesuits’ online journal, Thinking Faith]

The interview, which covered many areas besides those mentioned above, unsurprisingly perplexed reactionary bloggers, one of whom described it as “the ‘exclusive’ or is it the ‘inclusive’ Pope Francis interview?” which he found “unsettling”. Visitors to the blog (which shall remain nameless out of respect for readers of a nervous disposition and those with high blood pressure) commented as follows:

  • “The Pope is a disaster for the Church”;
  • “the similarities between the Protestant Reformation and the current one, Modernist, or call it what you will, seems ever stronger”;
  • “I found some of it [the interview] confusing and some of it cowardly”;
  • “this Holy Father would appear to be a modernist down to the bone-marrow”.

Clearly the ultramontane [those who assert the superiority of Papal authority over the authority of local temporal or spiritual hierarchies, including the local bishop] are in need of bigger hearts open to God.