Yesterday, the press exploded with stories about how Pope Francis supposedly said that the Church should stop “obsessing” over issues such as gay marriage and abortion in an interview with America magazine.
The New York Times was one of the first publications to report it, followed by Think Progress and the Huffington Post. The Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, and NBC News also commented, all of them using very similar headlines.
But who’s obsessed about what? The stories refer to three paragraphs in a 14-page interview. Here’s what Pope Francis said:
We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible…But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context…The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently…
A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation…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. [Emphasis mine]
There. No, the Pope isn’t shifting doctrine. No, the Pope doesn’t say that the Church should talk less about these issues. Rather, he warns laymen and women about the danger of promoting the Church as an institution of rules, prohibitions, and “no's.”
Pope Francis wants to portray the Church as an active community of Christ working to preach His redeeming sacraments and the Gospel. Salvation is prior to all other temporal concerns.
There’s definitely an obsession here, but it doesn’t belong to the Church. The media, rather, has an obsession with abortion, gay marriage, and contraception, and seems interested only in those buzz words when reporting on a 2,000-year old institution.