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Pope faults focus on gays, abortion

Pontiff says church should be ‘home for all’ and not a ‘small chapel’ focused on doctrine, limited agenda

By Laurie Goodstein
New York Times
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/09/19/20/23/e1Irk.Em.138.jpeg|229
    Riccardo De Luca - AP
    Pope Francis arrives for his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/09/19/20/23/2L0Xk.Em.138.jpeg|216
    TIZIANA FABI - AFP/Getty Images
    Pope Francis waves to the crowd as he arrives for his general audience in St Peter's square at the Vatican on September 18, 2013

Pope Francis, in the first extensive interview of his 6-month-old papacy, said that the Roman Catholic Church had grown “obsessed” with preaching about abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and that he has chosen not to speak of those issues despite recriminations from some critics.

In remarkably blunt language, Francis sought to set a new tone for the church, saying it should be a “home for all” and not a “small chapel” focused on doctrine, orthodoxy and a limited agenda of moral teachings.

“It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” the pope told the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, a fellow Jesuit and editor-in-chief of La Civilt Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal whose content is routinely approved by the Vatican. “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. …

“We have to find a new balance,” the pope continued, “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.”

The interview was conducted during three meetings in August in the pope’s spartan quarters in Casa Santa Marta, the Vatican guesthouse. Francis has chosen to live there rather than in what he said were more isolated quarters at the Apostolic Palace, home to many of his predecessors.

The interview was released simultaneously on Thursday morning by 16 Jesuit journals around the world, and includes the pope’s lengthy reflections on his identity as a Jesuit. Pope Francis personally reviewed the transcript in Italian, said the Rev. James Martin, an editor-at-large of America, the

Jesuit magazine in New York.

America and La Civilt Cattolica together had asked Francis to grant the interview, which America is publishing in its magazine and as an e-book.

“Some of the things in it really surprised me,” Martin said. “He seems even more of a free-thinker than I thought – creative, experimental, willing to live on the margins, push boundaries back a little bit.”

The new pope’s words are likely to have repercussions among bishops and priests who appear to have made combating abortion, gay marriage and contraception their top public policy priorities.

These teachings are “clear” to him, he said, but they have to be taught in a larger context. “The proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives,” he said.

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