In August Pope Francis was interviewed for six hours in three sessions by Antonio Sardara, S.J., editor in chief of La Civilta Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal. It was published in Jesuit journals throughout the world. Probably the most controversial statement of our Holy Father was: “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods.” This sentence has been widely misinterpreted and taken out of context.
Pope Francis was not deemphasizing the church’s moral teachings. (He subsequently made his strongest statement to date against abortion to a group of Catholic gynecologists.) Rather, he was reminding the Catholic churches throughout the world that the moral teachings encompass both behavior to avoid as well as behavior to perform: caring for the poor being an excellent example. The Holy Father could use the Catholic Church in the United States as a model here. Our Catholic institutions and programs for health care and social services for the poor, both domestically and abroad, are unsurpassed anywhere in the world. Our bishops feed the poor and their moral teachings (including the unborn and marriage) feed all of our souls. They are concerned with both the common good and the eternal good of each person.
The heart of Pope Francis’ message was: “The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. 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.”
The centrality of the Christian message is a person. Our Lord is the light of the world, the way, the truth and the life. He will touch the life of whomever asks him, enabling the individual to become the person God intended. Our first responsibility is bringing Our Lord to others and bringing others to Our Lord.
Deacon Mark Gallagher