Last week the world’s news media had a field day with a recent interview Pope Francis gave to La Civilta Cattolica (The Catholic Civilization) a Rome based Journal for Jesuit priests. In the interview the Pope seemed to be wavering on some ethical concerns that the Roman Catholic Church has historically held as of highest importance. He decried how the church was obsessed with what he termed “small-minded rules.” He declared that the church should not interfere with the spiritual lives of gays and lesbians, as well as not constantly harping about traditional moral issues like sexual relations, marriage, abortion, celibate priests, birth control, and women in the priesthood.
Liberal minded Catholics immediately held out hope that the Pope could be initiating a major reform of Catholic ethical teachings. Conservatives, on the other hand, were alarmed by his statements. They feared that the Pope may be falling into a sort Politically Correct mind-set in order to stem the tide of defections from the church. It was not surprising, therefore, that only a few days later, Francis strongly affirmed the Catholic position on abortion. We wonder if he will also do so on the other issues.
In any case, it seems Pope Francis is trying to play both sides of the moral fence to appease liberal elements in his church who feel alienated by his last several predecessors. Evangelicals, of course, do not agree with Roman Catholic moral teachings on all points (for example, most evangelicals do not believe pre-fertilization contraception for married couples is sinful since no viable human life is affected). Nonetheless, key issues like the sanctity of life (abortion) and the sanctity of marriage between a man and woman (gay marriage) should not be blurred but clearly sustained by Catholics and Evangelicals alike. That is not to say that we should not offer the hope of God’s grace to those who have fallen into sinful lifestyles. Indeed, we must, as that is the essence of the Gospel. However, it does people no good to diminish the seriousness of their moral offenses whatever they may be. The Pope, or any other Christian leader, makes a dire mistake if he thinks it will enhance the church by not calling sin SIN.