On September 19, the Jesuits’ America Magazine published the interview that Pope Francis granted Civiltà Cattolica, an Italian publication controlled by the same religious order. The interview was published simultaneously in other magazines of the Society of Jesus and widely disseminated and commented on by the international media.
The interview’s impact on public opinion was huge and gave rise to much discussion. Many conservative Catholic circles were troubled while both religious and secular liberal sectors, including pro-abortion and pro-homosexual movements, showed surprising support.
NARAL and Planned Parenthood Are Thankful
NARAL-Pro-Choice America, the flagship of the pro-abortion movement, placed a thank you note on its Facebook account:
“Dear Pope Francis, Thank you. Signed, Pro-Choice women everywhere. NARAL Pro-choice America.”1
For her part, Mrs. Carmen Barroso, regional director of International Planned Parenthood Federation, Western Hemisphere Region, wrote this letter to the editor, published in the Sept. 21 edition of the New York Times:
“We welcome Pope Francis’s desire to find ‘a new balance’ within the Catholic Church and ensure that it is truly a ‘home for all.’
“The recognition that the church is out of step with modern times could not come at a better moment: with world leaders set to discuss at the United Nations the framework for the next global development agenda, the health and rights of women and young people must be prioritized. That means ensuring access to comprehensive sexuality education, contraception and safe abortion services— necessities that the Vatican has vehemently opposed.
“We hope that this is one step forward in making violations of reproductive and sexual rights a thing of the past.”2
In an interview with MSNBC, Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of the New Ways Ministry, an organization opposed to Catholic doctrine in relation to homosexual practice, said she cried for joy as she read the Pope’s interview.3
Likewise, Marianne T. Duddy-Burke (“married” to a former nun),4 Executive Director of the “Catholic” homosexual movement DignityUSA, published this note: “LGBT Catholics and allies will rejoice in the Pope’s call for Church leaders to focus on being pastors rather than rule enforcers. We hope that the bishops will heed this call and immediately end their anti-LGBT campaigns, the firings of church workers for who they are, the attacks on people who challenge or question official teachings, and the exclusive and judgmental rhetoric that comes too often from our pulpits.” And, she continued: “The Pope is unambiguous. Leave the bully pulpit, and accompany your people.”5
In his Sept. 25 column, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, says that among the e-mails he received about the Pope’s interview,
“More common…were emails from catechists, parents and everyday Catholics who felt confused by media headlines suggesting that the Church had somehow changed her teaching on a variety of moral issues.”
And he gives examples:
“I heard from a mother of four children—one adopted, another disabled from birth—who’d spent years counseling pregnant girls and opening prolife clinics. She wanted to know why the Pope seemed to dismiss her sacrifices. A priest said the Pope ‘has implicitly accused brother priests who are serious about moral issues of being small minded,’ and that ‘[if you’re a priest,] being morally serious is now likely to get you publicly cast as a problem.’ Another priest wrote that ‘the problem is that [the Holy Father] makes all of the wrong people happy, people who will never believe in the Gospel and who will continue to persecute the Church.’”6
“Issues About Which We Must Be Vocal”
In a statement to The Press Democrat, the Bishop of Santa Rosa, Calif., Most Rev. Robert Vasa, declared that he has not seen any such obsession. He commented:
“I certainly do know that there are individuals, and I certainly would probably be among them, who firmly believe that these are core cultural issues about which we must be vocal,” he said. “But I’m not obsessed about them. A vast majority of the things that I write do not include abortion as a topic or contraception or divorce and remarriage.”
Bishop Vasa asks: “Is there a need for teaching about those things?” and he firmly answers: “Absolutely.” And adds, “Are there some folks who overstep the boundary and say, ‘OK we’re preaching about this every single Sunday?’ Well, there may be. But there’s a vast majority of people who never talk about it.”7
“Obsession” or “Dedication”?
Janet E. Smith, professor of Moral Theology and Life Issues at the Sacred Heart Major Seminaryin Detroit, Michigan, says she was “unsettled” with the Pope’s comment on “obsession” on abortion, homosexuality and contraception because she devoted most of her adult life to these issues. Instead of “obsessed” she prefers to believe that she was “dedicated” or “committed.” And, she states, “helping people understand why abortion, contraception, and homosexual acts are not in accord with God’s plans for human happiness is a very effective way of drawing people closer to the Lord and to the Church, and thus, more or less, most of my adult life, I have been evangelizing in this way.”
Likewise, she thinks, the legions of pro-lifers, educators on natural family planning methods, on abstinence and those who promote organizations like Courage to help persons with homosexual tendencies, sacrifice themselves out of love for God and the Church. There could be one exaggeration or another, she says, but in real life she has never seen any.8
“Pro-Lifers — Deliberately or Not — Thrown to the Wolves.”
Dr. Monica Migliorino Miller, Theology professor at Madonna University in Michigan and Director of Citizen’s for a Pro-life Society adroitly expressed the frustration of the pro-life movement:
“I am not arguing that the pope deliberately intended to disenfranchise, delegitimize or discredit the work of pro-lifers. But, there is enough ambiguity in his statements and delivered with a certain tone—that sadly this is one of the consequences of this interview. I am sure that as a pro-life activist leader I am not alone in my sensing that I have been left in the lurch in the very already difficult task of ending legalized abortion—certainly not only because of the pope’s interview but, of course, because of the way pro-lifers were—deliberately or not—thrown to the wolves.”
With sadness, she ponders:
“I do wonder if Pope Francis is fully aware of the extent of the injustice that abortion represents. I am not sure that he sufficiently appreciates what it costs pro-lifers to save babies from abortion. Here is an analogy to the fallout from the pope’s remarks—it is as if Pope Pius XII told Oskar Schindler—‘stop being obsessed about the Jewish Holocaust.’”
But, like most pro-lifers, she does not lose heart:
“But—no matter what—the pope’s ambiguous, troubling statements and the media fall out is just something more God has asked us to suffer for His sake. Thus! do NOT be discouraged. Do your saving work. This is what God asks and we must be His faithful servants. Just carry on my friends.”9
Cover for Catholic Politicians
Fr. Michael P. Orsi, research fellow in law and religion at Ave Maria School of Law, notes that Pope Francis declared himself in his interview, a “loyal son of the church,” but, Fr. Orsi continues, this “is not good enough to mitigate the damage his words have caused for the pro-life movement and those who are trying to defend marriage as being between a man and a woman. His remarks have effectively given a sword to those who want to stifle them.”
Likewise, he says, “the pope’s musings have provided cover for Catholic politicians who support liberal abortion laws and legalization of same-sex marriage. They can now claim that they, like the pope, are concerned about the bigger issues, such as poverty and concern for the poor.”10
Fidelity to the Church
In times of extreme confusion such as ours, in which a thirst for novelties dominates, we need to remember St. Paul’s advice: “stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned.”11
Let us beseech the Blessed Mother for a grace of unswerving fidelity to the One True Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
- 2 Thess. 2:14.