ROME, September 19, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - In comments rocking the Catholic world today, Pope Francis has recommended that the Church pull back from her perceived emphasis on “abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods.” 

The comments appear in a lengthy interview with La Civilta Catholica in partnership with America magazine, which was published just before noon today in most Jesuit publications around the world. 

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” Pope Francis said.

“This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that,” he added. “But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.” 

In the interview the Pope says that the Church’s preaching must begin first with the “proclamation of salvation.” “Then you have to do catechesis. Then you can draw even a moral consequence,” he said. 

Other key lines from the Pope’s interview which pertain to this point include: 

The church 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. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all… 

The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. 

Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. 

We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow. 

Most major media are reporting the statements as a direct challenge to the Church’s way of operating on the moral issues.

The comments are very different from those of his two predecessors. 

Speaking specifically to the proclamation of the Gospel, Bl. John Paul II wrote in his 1995 encyclical on the Gospel of Life that the Church’s teaching on the respect for life should be taught “constantly and courageously.”

“To be truly a people at the service of life we must propose these truths constantly and courageously from the very first proclamation of the Gospel, and thereafter in catechesis, in the various forms of preaching, in personal dialogue and in all educational activity,” he wrote. 

Pope Benedict XVI’s take on the matter was expressed in 2006 while speaking to members of the European People’s Party. 

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“As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable,” he said. 

Pope Benedict continued

Among these the following emerge clearly today:

- protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death;

- recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family - as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage - and its defence from attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different forms of union which in reality harm it and contribute to its destabilization, obscuring its particular character and its irreplaceable social role;

- the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.

For his part, Bl. John Paul II was insistent in his encyclical on the Gospel of Life that the Church “need[s] to bring the Gospel of life to the heart of every man and woman and to make it penetrate every part of society.”

And while he said that it meant above all proclaiming the love of God, he added: “It also involves making clear all the consequences of this Gospel. These can be summed up as follows: human life, as a gift of God, is sacred and inviolable. For this reason procured abortion and euthanasia are absolutely unacceptable….”

And he concluded his promotion of preaching on life ‘in season and out of season’ with these words directed first and foremost to bishops: 

Faced with so many opposing points of view, and a widespread rejection of sound doctrine concerning human life, we can feel that Paul's entreaty to Timothy is also addressed to us: "Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching" (2 Tim 4:2). 

This exhortation should resound with special force in the hearts of those members of the Church who directly share, in different ways, in her mission as "teacher" of the truth. May it resound above all for us who are Bishops: we are the first ones called to be untiring preachers of the Gospel of life. We are also entrusted with the task of ensuring that the doctrine which is once again being set forth in this Encyclical is faithfully handed on in its integrity. 

We must use appropriate means to defend the faithful from all teaching which is contrary to it. We need to make sure that in theological faculties, seminaries and Catholic institutions sound doctrine is taught, explained and more fully investigated. 

May Paul's exhortation strike a chord in all theologians, pastors, teachers and in all those responsible for catechesis and the formation of consciences. Aware of their specific role, may they never be so grievously irresponsible as to betray the truth and their own mission by proposing personal ideas contrary to the Gospel of life as faithfully presented and interpreted by the Magisterium. 

In the proclamation of this Gospel, we must not fear hostility or unpopularity, and we must refuse any compromise or ambiguity which might conform us to the world's way of thinking (cf. Rom 12:2). We must be in the world but not of the world (cf. Jn 15:19; 17:16), drawing our strength from Christ, who by his Death and Resurrection has overcome the world (cf. Jn 16:33). 

See the full interview with Pope Francis here.