There’s been some controversy surrounding recent comments by Pope Francis. I don’t know why, other than maybe because of people trying to spin his words to fit their political agendas. But, like it has been noted elsewhere, there is no left or right, there is only Catholic.
Nothing the Pope has said even remotely suggests a departure from Church teaching. He has said, “Heal the wounds.” The only thing that heals the wounds caused by sin is the Gospel. Spreading the Gospel is the Church’s primary mission. Always has been, always will be. Pope Francis is simply calling the Church to focus on the Church’s primary mission so that other desirable outcomes will follow. He is essentially saying, “Don’t put the cart before the horse.”
How can we expect the world to understand certain moral principles if their hearts have not been transformed by the Gospel? We can’t. To use the Pope’s medical analogy, it’s like spiritual triage. The hemorrhaging needs to be stopped first. Then other treatments can be applied. If a person is bleeding to death, the other treatments don’t matter. If a person has not been saved and transformed by the Gospel, it does little to reason with them about morality. When we don’t help people to see the Gospel we come across as legalistic moralizers. Legalism does not heal wounded souls.
I also believe the Pope’s comments echo the old adage, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” He is calling Catholics to a higher standard of love and compassion that looks beyond the wounds and sinfulness and sees the face of Jesus in each person. Each person needs the Gospel to heal their wounds. Then each person can become another healer.
Pope Francis just wants every Catholic to be like Jesus. Jesus loved people first and then helped them see what they needed to do better. Catholics have faith. Catholics have hope. Catholics need to make sure we have godly love before all else, for it is the greatest of the three and the only one that remains for eternity.
I love Pope Francis. There’s nothing wrong with a loving kick in the pants to keep us on track. The Gospel is what the human heart fundamentally craves. The Gospel is what will draw people to Christ and his Church. Then, with transformed hearts, their lives will be open to Church teachings. Thank you for your shepherding, Pope Francis.