VATICAN CITY, September 26, 2013 ( – It has been more than a week now since Jesuit magazines around the world released a blockbuster 12,000-word interview with Pope Francis, in which the pontiff spoke frankly and at length about a wide variety of topics, but the flood of headlines and op-eds about the interview has barely slowed down.

Most reports have tended to focus on a handful of controversial remarks, particularly the pope’s statement that he has not spoken “much” about topics like abortion, gay “marriage” and contraception, despite being reprimanded for doing so, and his statement that the Church cannot speak “only” about these issues. “[W]hen we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context,” the pope was quoted as saying. “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 mainstream media the reporting on the pope’s remarks has been predictably monochrome: most newspapers and cable networks have spun the pope’s interview as a clear statement that the Pontiff wishes the Church to downplay, or even abandon, its teachings on unpopular moral topics, and have ignored the rest of the interview.  


Among Catholic and conservative commentators, the reporting and opinion pieces have been far more diverse. Many Catholic commentators have defended the pope’s interview wholesale from the media’s misrepresentations, arguing that Francis did nothing more than re-state age-old Catholic teaching within the framework of a compelling, Christ-centered pastoral approach. His controversial remarks, they say, should be put in the context of his rousing call to a radical, mercy-based evangelization, in which the Church’s moral teachings play an integral part. 

A growing number of other prominent leaders, however, have expressed misgivings about the interview, arguing that the pope has given fodder to segments of the Church, and the broader culture, that would be more than happy to see the Church stop talking about key moral issues like abortion, gay “marriage” and contraception. These argue that, rather than speaking less about these issues, priests, bishops, and lay people should be speaking about them more, to make up for decades of silence from the pulpits.   

In order to give a broad overview of the state of the debate, has compiled a list, with brief excerpts, of a wide variety of many of the most interesting news and opinion pieces from pro-life and pro-family writers. The following list, which is far from exhaustive, is presented in alphebetical order, by last name of the author.

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Pope Francis Focuses on the Bigger Picture With New Interview – Jimmy Akin

Pope Francis’ strategy of focusing on the Church’s central message of salvation in Christ, while not devoting the expected amount of attention to “culture war” issues — like abortion, homosexuality and contraception — is a risky one.

It is not an approach that was employed by his immediate predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, but times and circumstances change, and it is his judgment that a back-to-basics approach is needed, rather than a continued focus on the moral flashpoints of contemporary culture.

At the same time, this approach can — and in many parts of the media, has — create the impression that he doesn’t care about these lesser issues.

Time will tell whether this “fight the stereotypes, go with the central message” approach will lead to the results he desires, but it is clear that he is focusing on a grand strategy rather than fighting particular, tactical battles.

He’s counting on the idea that the moral issues will be sorted out, in the long term, by a compelling proclamation of the Church’s central message: Jesus Christ. 


Pope Francis and ‘The Interview’ – Archbishop Chaput 

Thanks to my schedule, I couldn’t read the full interview until I was on the plane home, four days after it appeared.  But the emails I received about it – some of them happy; some of them angry; some of them gloating; some of them from Catholics feeling confused or even betrayed – were instructive.

Some people grasped at the interview like a lifeline – or a vindication.  One person praised the Holy Father for stressing that the “Church must focus on compassion and mercy, not on enforcing small-minded rules.”  She added that “we’re at last free from the chains of hatred that have ruled the Catholic Church for so many years and led to my unease in bringing my own children into that Church.”

More common though were emails from catechists, parents and everyday Catholics who felt confused by media headlines suggesting that the Church had somehow changed her teaching on a variety of moral issues. . .

Among the many vital things the Pope reminds us of in his interview is the new and drastically different condition of the modern world that God seeks to save.  It’s one thing to argue about abortion and sexuality when both disputants in the debate share the same basic moral framework and language; the same meaning to words like “justice;” the same set of beliefs about the nature of the human person.  But it’s quite another thing when we no longer have that common vocabulary.  The modern world is mission territory.  It’s morally fractured.  Our politics, as Alasdair MacIntyre once famously wrote, is civil war pursued by other means.  The modern heart can only be won back by a radical witness of Christian discipleship – a renewed kind of shared community life obedient to God’s Commandments, but also on fire with the Beatitudes lived more personally and joyfully by all of us. 


Fight Abortion, With a Broader Agenda – Bill Donohue

Pope Francis’s interview will have no effect on how American bishops engage in politics because the press has misrepresented what he said.

On Sept. 16, three days before the three-part interview was published, the pope emphatically said that a “good Catholic meddles in politics.” The day after the published interview appeared, he said that abortion was part of our “throwaway culture.” It is this mentality, he instructed, that “calls for the elimination of human beings, above all if they are physically or socially weaker. Our response to that mentality is a decisive and unhesitating 'yes' to life.”

The news media gave a high profile to a small selection of the pope's interview that they liked, but they summarily ignored his remarks prior to and after the exchange was published. This is politics, not journalism.


The Pope Did More Damage Than He Realized – Rod Dreher

Whatever the evangelical merits of Pope Francis’s game-changing interview, there can be no doubt that the pontiff has decisively undercut the efforts of American Catholic politicians and Catholic bishops on issues related to abortion, same-sex marriage, contraception – and, ultimately, religious freedom.

Why? Because the pope’s interview is being widely interpreted as a pontifical command to surrender the culture war in the name of pastoral prudence. Consider this comment left on my blog by a gay Catholic reader: “Francis’ interview doesn’t change Church teachings, but it finally muzzles the American bishops. And for that, I say, ‘Thank God.’” 


The key to understanding Pope Francis: the 99 lost sheep – Phil Lawler

For the past several weeks—and more than ever in the past 24 hours, since the release of the Pope’s blockbuster interview in America— friends have been complaining that the Holy Father has a tendency to say things in a way that could cause confusion. He makes statements that the media can easily distort, they say. And they’re undoubtedly right.

But there’s a precedent for that way of speaking. Jesus made people uncomfortable. The Lord’s words and gestures were often misinterpreted, and his critics found it easy to put things in an unfavorable light. Jesus ate with tax-collectors and sinners, they charged; He didn’t show sufficient respect for the Law. Now the Vicar of Christ is subject to similar accusations. Somehow it fits.


Yet another Vatican PR debacle – Phil Lawler

Whether you think The Interview was a coup or a disaster—or something in between—we should all be able to agree that the Vatican’s handling of the Pope’s blockbuster was another public-relations debacle.

Ironically, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications was meeting in Rome when the news broke. Greg Erlandson, the publisher of Our Sunday Visitor, who was at the meeting, observes that Church leaders had no warning about the interview. Secular media outlets received advance copies of the text under embargo. Bishops and their spokesmen didn’t.

The pope is the pope — and the rest of you are not – Charles Lewis

The left wing of the church saw the pope carving new ground with his comments about the dangers of an over emphasis on those two fractious issues, while the right twisted itself in knots to make sure everyone understood that nothing has changed in Church teaching.

The left wing of the Church may be right in that there is a change in style from Pope Benedict, but wrong in that the pope’s words may bring about revolutionary change.

(to one who criticized the Pope's remarks) But I think that for a moment in last week’s excitement he and many others forgot that the pope is the pope and what he says are not the words of a mere mortal — despite how humble Francis appears to be.

The Papal Interview: A Survey of Reactions – Joseph Meaney 

Pope Francis has consistently demonstrated a gift for generating enormous interest and enthusiasm, as opposed to comprehension of his message, among secular elites. Pope Benedict XVI and Blessed John Paul II were attacked and vilified consistently throughout their papacies when they spoke of a culture of death. Francis has enjoyed an unusually long “honeymoon” of praise and benevolent attitudes from quarters that rarely have a kind word for the Church despite his new pro-life catch phrase of a “throw away culture.” Part of this is certainly due to his general de-emphasis of hot button issues and humble tone. It is also clear that some secular groups are reading a great deal into his words and deforming his message. Sadly, caricatures of Church teaching are more widely “known” among the general public than the true Magisterium of the Catholic Church. The challenge for Pope Francis may be not only to reach out successfully with a strong Catholic appeal to those who are very far from Christ but to also encourage the faithful in the trenches of the culture war at the same time.

Catholic pro-lifers and marriage defenders might be excused for feeling that this pope is going after the lost sheep and telling the faithful ones they should not expect more than minimal support while he is on this mission. It is not an easy message to hear from one’s shepherd when faced with tremendous obstacles and slandered by the world while seeing the “wolves” running wild.

Five Reasons to Think Differently about Pope Francis – Dr. Jeff Mirus

“I’ve been surprised and even angered by the criticism of Pope Francis in the wake of his famous interview, but I’ve been forced to admit that a significant number of serious Catholics found his words upsetting. That’s not something that should be dismissed lightly. It could, of course, all be a misunderstanding, and I think there is some of that. But there is perhaps a deeper question. If there is some fault involved, should we be looking for that fault primarily in the pope or in those who seem so reluctant to receive his message?”

Here are five reasons for choosing to adjust our own conceptions to think with the Pope.

When Paul Corrected Peter – George Neumayr 

Even if given the most charitable reading, Pope Francis’s recent interview with Jesuit publications was alarming in its spirit-of-Vatican II liberalism. Catholicism is not a personality cult and so Catholics, following the example of St. Paul, don’t need to ooh and aah over unsound, non-infallible remarks, which were made incidentally to publications like America known principally for their heterodoxy.

I was having dinner with the Pope when worried pro-lifers started contacting me about his interview – Fr. Frank Pavone

Nobody should worry or think that the Pope is in any way diluting the Church's strong and unchangeable stance against abortion, or contradicting all that has already been said and written, in documents like The Gospel of Life, about the urgent priority that this issue deserves. Some 50 million children are killed by abortion around the world each year. If we want to know how much we should focus on it, we only have to use human reason and ask what our response would be if 50 million adults throughout the world were killed each year by terrorism. 

Long live the pro-life movement, and long live the Pope!

Catholic Apprehension Abounds Over Pope Interview – Edward Pentin

Prominent Catholics around the world have mostly lauded Pope Francis' landmark interview with the Jesuit publication La Civilta Cattolica, but some remain perplexed, deeply apprehensive, and quietly upset by his remarks.

Papa Francis, The Prodigal, and “the Good Son.” – Dr. Greg Popcak

[M]ost of what I do all day in counseling and on the radio is try to help people live out the Catholic vision of love, sex, and marriage.   In the last several weeks alone, I have had people challenge me in ways I haven’t encountered before.  It used to be that when I made some statement about the Church’s positions on marriage, love and sex, people would accept it.  They wouldn’t always like it, but they knew it was true.   They knew it was true, because even if they didn’t exactly get it, they knew what I was saying at least sounded like what they heard Pope JPII or Pope Benedict say.    But now, all of a sudden, I’m getting a kind-of push back I haven’t experienced before.  “Well, the POPE, said…”  Or,  ”That’s not what Pope FRANCIS said the other day….”  As if I haven’t read the same interviews.   Then, when I try to explain what the Pope actually said, for the first time, people are accusing me not of trying to faithfully represent Church teaching, but of engaging in “conservative spin.”    

Are We Obsessed? – Janet Smith

A few passages from Pope Francis’ famous interview published in America have unsettled some people for many reasons. My reason for being unsettled is that it would not be a complete distortion to say that I have been “obsessed” with the issues of abortion, contraception, and homosexuality for nearly all of my professional life. I prefer the terms “dedicated” or “committed,” of course, but whatever word is appropriate, I have long thought that helping people understand why abortion, contraception, and homosexual acts are not in accord with God’s plans for human happiness is a very effective way of drawing people closer to the Lord and to the Church, and thus, more or less, most of my adult life, I have been evangelizing in this way. 


Where are the preachers ‘obsessed’ with abortion, gay ‘marriage’ and contraception? – Bishop Robert Vasa

Is there a need for teaching about those things? Absolutely. Are there some folks who overstep the boundary and say, 'OK we're preaching about this every single Sunday?' Well, there may be. But there's a vast majority of people who never talk about it.

[If] everyone talked about it a little, there would be fewer who feel the need to talk about it more.


The Christ-Centered Pope – George Weigel

And how are the wounds of late-modern and postmodern humanity to be healed? Through an encounter with Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. “The most important thing, “ Francis insisted in his interview, “is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you.” The Church of the 21st century must offer Jesus Christ as the answer to the question that is every human life (as John Paul II liked to put it). The moral law is important, and there should be no doubt that Francis believes and professes all that the Catholic Church believes and professes to be true about the moral life, the life that leads to happiness and beatitude. But he also understands that men and women are far more likely to embrace those moral truths — about the inalienable right to life from conception until natural death; about human sexuality and how it should be lived — when they have first embraced Jesus Christ as Lord.


Pope Francis contrasted with Popes Benedict, JPII re: emphasis on abortion, gay marriage – John-Henry Westen

“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.”

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.


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