Pope Francis knows you use condoms

Pope Francis is the best thing to happen to the Catholic Church for a long time.  The man appears to walk the talk, is genuinely humble, and pragmatic to boot.  I’ll reserve my judgement on him until I see him make real changes to deal with pedophile and child abusing clergy, but until then, the signs are of a worldly man.

The Vatican has conceded that most Catholics reject its teachings on sex and contraception as intrusive and irrelevant and officials pledged not to “close our eyes to anything” when it opens a two-year debate on some of the thorniest issues facing the church.

Core church doctrine on the nature of marriage, sexuality, abortion and divorce isn’t expected to change as a result of the debate that opens in October. But Pope Francis is well aware that the church has lost much of its relevance and credibility in today’s secular world and he is seeking to redirect his ministers to offer families, and even gays in civil unions, a “new language” that is welcoming and responds to their needs.

The Vatican on Thursday issued the working document for the synod discussions, which in itself marked a sharp change from past practice: The Vatican sent out a 39-point questionnaire seeking input from ordinary Catholics around the world about their understanding of, and adherence to, the church’s teaching on sexuality, homosexuality, contraception, marriage and divorce.

At least they are starting a dialogue.  A bit of a social and spiritual census, if you like.  But talk is cheap.  Yet I have some hope that this pope may actually drive some practical change, if he’s allowed to do so.  

…citing Francis’ frequent call for the church to be more merciful and less judgmental, [the working document] recommends new pastoral guidelines to confront the increasing reality of legal recognition for same-sex unions, stressing that gays must be treated with dignity, respect and spared discrimination.

“The episcopal conferences amply demonstrate that they are trying to find a balance between the church’s teaching on the family and a respectful, non-judgmental attitude toward people living in such unions,” it said. It distinguished between gays who are “discreet” in their lifestyle and those who actively, “often aggressively” call attention to their unions.

“The great challenge will be to develop a ministry which can maintain the proper balance between accepting persons in a spirit of compassion and gradually guiding them to authentic human and Christian maturity,” it said.

And it suggests ways to improve and expedite the church’s cumbersome and expensive annulment process to enable Catholics who divorce and remarry to receive the sacraments. Currently, such divorced and civilly remarried Catholics cannot receive communion because the church thinks they are essentially living in sin and committing adultery.

Of course, in the crowded market place that is religion, not adjusting your product to what the customer wants means you’re on a path to increasing irrelevance.

A pragmatic Vatican will see that toning down the harsh messages and coming from a position of compassion is more likely to stem the flow of people leaving faith for a secular life, not to mention the larger threat of Islam as it sweeps across areas of the globe that were dominated by Christianity only a few generations ago.

 

– AP


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