Pope Francis and the Church’s mission

By: Sean McMahon

Pope Francis said in an interview released on Sept. 19 that the Church has an “obsession” with “gays, abortion and birth control.” The interview laid out Francis’ bold vision of the Church. This is a Church that is all-inclusive: caring for the sinner, not the sin and focused on social justice.

“The Church,” the pope said to Antonio Spadaro, S.J., editor -in-chief of “La Civiltà Cattolica,” an Italian Jesuit journal, “sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you.”

Francis wants Catholics to live like the good Samaritan, unconditionally loving our neighbors, a message that is truly from Christ.

Francis’ message is Christian right to its very core. He doesn’t want people concerned with only a handful of doctrines, like the Church’s stance on homosexuality, eligibility for the priesthood, abortion and birth control, which have high-jacked the Church’s public face. Rather he wants us to love one another. He wants us going out into the world preaching the gospel, not with our words but with our actions.

The pope’s sentiments have made many feel at home in the Church once more. In recent years ,the Church’s true mission seemed lost after a myriad of scandals. But what was lost is now found.

Francis’ sentiments are reflections of his faith and actions. He is a pope who is truly humble and loves the poor and downtrodden; and we must let our actions reflect our faith.

Yet the Church herself needs to change her stance on these hotbutton issues. The world is changing, and Catholicism needs to see the progress that has been made, even in the last 50 years — let alone the last 100. We need to recognize that an unmarried clergy is a relic of the Middle Ages. We need to have an honest conversation about sexuality and what is really sin. The times are changing and so too must Church law.

Francis espouses an interpretation of Catholicism that focuses on the spirit of Church law, not the letter of the law, a teaching that harkens back to Jesus’ ministry. The spirit of the law and the letter of the law should be reflections of one another. When this harmony is achieved, it is a reflection of a strong system.

However, there are moments when the spirit of the law clashes with the letter. The two create friction and promote energy for change. Yet, if this energetic state lasts too long it will cause division.

Think of hot chocolate. You can heat up chocolate milk to make a delicious drink, but if you heat it too long and ignore it, the cream will separate from the water. The Church can grow stronger, but if these issues are ignored the Church will fragment and divide.

The pope will not call a Third Vatican Council in this conservative Church climate, but times are changing. We are entering an era where it will be okay to talk about controversial topics and it won’t reduce to a shouting match. Francis is making the Church more accepting and friendly, not hostile and off-putting.

Instead we must use this opportunity to speak to one another, to engage in dialogue. For when we sit down at Christ’s table knowing that Jesus Christ has saved us, we no longer see distinctions between liberal and conservative, between straight and gay, between man and woman. We become a family who cares and loves one another and that is Francis’ true message.

Sean McMahon is a junior and an English and advertising major from Riverside, R.I.