The Free Press, Mankato, MN


September 22, 2013


WHY IT MATTERS: The pope's desire to move from single issue politics to overall mission should give us all pause to reflect on our purpose.

In today’s seemingly irreconcilable world of polarity, divisiveness and deaf ears, a powerful leader has said enough.

Will we listen?

Over the raucous screeching of talk show hosts, in a moment that drowns out singularly-focused, lock-step legislators and smothering the self-righteous din of coffee klatches where over simplicity solves complex social problems, a rational voice says stop.

In an admonition from which we all could learn, Pope Francis this week said the Catholic Church had become so focused on digging in its heels on social issues it was overshadowing its mission which could bring down the church “like a house of cards.”

In the first extensive interview since becoming pope, Francis told a group of Jesuit journals that while he embraces traditional church teachings, he’s “not a right-winger.”

“This church … is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people,” he said. “We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity.”

The pope’s message comes amid rumblings within some Catholic advocacy groups and bishops who have noticed his unwillingness to talk about abortion or gay marriage. Bishop Thomas Tobin of Rhode Island reportedly told his diocesan newspaper that he was “a little bit disappointed in Pope Francis” for not speaking out on abortion.

The pope has answered saying in essence we’re bigger than that. Our mission, our duty is bigger than single divisive issues. He said the first thing the church needs is an adjustment of “attitude.”

The interview follows a comment that produced headlines on homosexuality when he said “who am I to judge.” In the most recent interview, Francis went further in his thinking saying “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”

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