I just finished reading the interview with Pope Francis. Honestly, it was a bit exhausting. I felt like I was on a roller coast ride. There were some remarkably profound statements throughout, and yet there were comments that caused me great concern. It seems that Pope Francis is calculating his language so that he can be all things to all people. And as the spiritual head of the Roman Catholic Church, I guess that's part of his duty. However, the lack of clarity on certain salient issues is neither gracious nor charitable in my humble opinion. The following comments are a case in point:“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. 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.”
This is an example of the ambiguity that is unfortunately conveyed throughout the interview. Those who are steeped in Catholic doctrine know what the teaching of the Church is on these issues, and they will find solace in the Pope’s words, “the teaching of the Church is clear.” But the problem is that many people are not steeped in Catholic teaching, and they may therefore seek to derive license for abortion, gay marriage, and contraception from the Pope’s statement, “it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”
Nothing Pope Francis says here is untrue or unorthodox, but his failure to delineate Church teaching on these issues is problematic in my opinion. Some will argue that he has clearly articulated Church teaching on these matters at other times and in other places. I don’t doubt that. But legalized abortion is the greatest moral and human rights issue of our time, and Pope Francis should be unequivocal in his denunciation of this intolerant, inhumane, and unjust practice. To imply that he can talk about abortion too much bothers me.
I applaud his intellect and his cultivated aesthetic appetites (there is hope for anyone who loves the writing of Dostoevsky and the films of Fellini.) I applaud his humility and his desire to remain close to the people. I agree with so much of what he said, and many of his words moved me deeply. For example, nothing could be more beautifully Orthodox than these words: “The risk in seeking and finding God in all things, then, is the willingness to explain too much, to say with human certainty and arrogance: ‘God is here.’ We will find only a god that fits our measure. The correct attitude is that of St. Augustine: seek God to find him, and find God to keep searching for God forever.”
But the issues of poverty, tolerance, justice, and compassion will never be adequately addressed until we address the inhumanity and evil of abortion. The Catholic Church suffers today from its historical complicity with and apathy towards the evils of slavery and pedophilia. So if Pope Francis wants the Church to be truly relevant for this day and age, if he wants the Church to truly be a compassionate Mother for all human beings, then he should be unhesitant in identifying the unborn as the “poorest of the poor” and the very “least of these.” In every address he gives and in every interview he offers, he should articulate Christ’s redemptive love for all those who are damaged and destroyed by the evil of abortion. Until humanity is liberated from the holocaust of legal abortion, nobody will be truly free. As long as the violence of abortion is tolerated by society, then any talk of peace and tolerance rings hollow.
OK, that’s my arrogant critique of Pope Francis’s words in this interview. Some may wonder why I care, since I am an Orthodox Christian. Well, I care because I recognize that the Pope has profound moral, spiritual, and political influence in the world. I also care because I retain hope that one day the Catholic and Orthodox Churches will reunite as One Faith. Therefore I pray for Pope Francis and wish him well. He certainly carries a monumental burden. And his last words in the interview disclose a spiritual consciousness that we should certainly all strive to embrace: “But above all, I know that the Lord remembers me. I can forget about him, but I know that He never, ever forgets me.”
“Lord have mercy.”
(Yeah, I know, "Johnny One Note" and all of that. But I won't apologize.