Pope Francis certainly has a way of stirring things up, as we can see again from today's report on his lengthy interview with the Jesuit magazine America. That magazine, by the way (which I don't mean to imply reflects on the Pope), has for over 30 years been the intellectual flagship of the leftist dissident movement within the Catholic Church, especially on issues related to Church teachings on sexual morality.
I appreciate Francis's strong encouragement for clergy and other Church leaders to get out of their parishes, head offices and NGO social agency and other institutional mentalities. He insists on a high priority being placed on personally evangelizing a world greatly in need of encountering the love and mercy of Jesus Christ. Very good.
I am however puzzled by his comment that “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods." Exactly who in Church institutions is actually doing that? In Brazil, he never mentioned these issues during all the many events that took place there during World Youth Days (which I was open to possibly being a good strategy at the time). But even during the Gospel of Life celebration Mass in Rome, at which I was present, in his homily he did not mention abortion or any of the life issues, and he did not quote anything from John Paul II's powerful encyclical, which surprised many, especially given that Pope Francis has made very strong statements on abortion in the past.
The reality is that there has been widespread, massive negligence throughout much of the Church, at least in the developed West, for the past several decades to teach on the moral issues and to ensure that Church moral teachings are followed. They have been avoided in most parishes as being too controversial and many Catholic schools, colleges and universities have been either totally ignoring or acting against the Catholic Church's authentic teachings on moral issues.
The pro-life and pro-family movements have been formed mostly in response to the giant vacuum of leadership from religious and other leaders. It has been a near impossible job for the relatively very few dedicated to the task.
Think of the numbers: hundreds of millions of unborn babies murdered worldwide since the 1960s. 300 million in China alone. And many millions more to come. A large percentage of these abortions have left millions of women damaged emotionally, physically and spiritually. The deliberate destruction of the natural family is now being attempted on a worldwide and intensified scale by de-populationists and secular extremists.
Children are being abused by the millions by explicit, vile sex-education programs beginning now even in kindergarten. A giant tidal wave of euthanasia seems imminent because of the demographic imbalance caused by abortion and decades of contraceptive use. The list goes on and is becoming a great, worldwide nightmare.
Francis says that what the Church believes on these issues is "clear" and therefore there is no need for him to go on about them. But my experience, and that of probably most pro-life, pro-family leaders that I know is just the opposite.
Yes, most people know that the Church opposes contraception, abortion and homosexuality, as well as pornography, prostitution and much more. BUT, very, very few, including the vast majority of Catholics, do not understand WHY Christianity opposes these things. They have not been taught this. Usually very little or nothing is said about them in Catholic institutions.
They do not know that these are all teachings of a loving Father to protect us all rather than restrictions to prevent enjoyment and freedom. They do not know that Catholic moral teachings are about charity and deep concern for the good of every person and are based on millennia of human experience and reason, as well as on the the teachings of Christ.
They believe many lies fed to them about how harmless and wonderful it is to engage in immoral actions. No one tells them about the many, very real dangers and consequences and the alternatives that are available to them.
So, for myself, and others who have been giving their lives to these issues and suffering considerable hardship and persecution for doing so, this work is understood to be extremely necessary. We see a cataclysm ahead if current trends are not stopped.
Still, I do agree with Pope Francis that conversion, preaching, evangelization are greatly needed. These open the heart and the mind to accept what might previously have been seen as hard truths, when in fact they are principles of love.
I was once pro-abortion and strongly supported population control and was opposed to a lot of Christian moral teaching. Then I had a dramatic conversion back to my faith and soon after became involved in the pro-life movement thanks to a pro-life display with photos of aborted babies that I saw at a Right to Life booth at the Canadian National Exhibition.
To me, Francis is right about clergy needing to get out of their chanceries and parishes and expensive institutions and going out to bring the people back to God. However, at the same time, I think he greatly underestimates the severe need for much preaching, teaching and especially encouragement that is still needed directly on the life and family issues and movements.
The Culture of Death is advancing at an alarmingly fast pace at this time in history. We must meet it on all fronts, with both evangelization and with greater than ever emphasis on teaching the truths on contraception, abortion and homosexuality that have actually been pre-occupying the world, rather than Christians. Our obligation is to respond to the mess that this pre-occupation and dangerously self destructive addiction has created.
When we do this we love our fellow man in a very real way. When we don't, we will be held to account for not doing so.