Friday, September 20, 2013

Fr. Dwight Longenecker on the Pope's interview in America magazine

Fr. Dwight Longenecker, whose Standing on my Head is one of the better Catholic blogs out there, has a very interesting piece about the interview with Pope Francis that hit the headlines yesterday.

I find it interesting because the very same thought struck me yesterday, as I was reading the interview and thinking about it for the rest of the night.

I thought: How can the Holy Father say Catholics talk about homosexuality, abortion and contraception all the time? I virtually never hear Irish priests talk about any of those things. It's true that the laity talk about them more, and it may be true that many more traditionally-minded Catholics (like me) have become too defensive, and possibly too pugnacious, about disputed points of doctrine. On the other hand, I do hear the Gospel of God's love and forgiveness preached all the time. If there is any lack of balance, I thought, surely it is not on the side of preaching about sin and doctrine.

And it did occur to this a matter of Pope Francis's background? Are things different in South America? Are people there, as Fr. Longenecker suggests, more conscious of sin and of Christ's offer of redemption, and is this what they thirst for? People in Western Europe don't seem at all burdened by the thought of sin, though maybe they are and it is simply at a submerged level.

In any case, I do think Catholics should take their lead from the Pope and have faith that the Holy Spirit is guiding him.


  1. Talking about sin too much? Either Pope Francis is out of touch with Europe, or he is about to use some disastrously bad new tactics in an attempt to bring people to the Church. Or worse. As I always ask, if you're going to bastardise the faith for the sake of gaining new people, what's the point?

  2. I read the interview with considerable trepidation and anxiety, but ultimately, I think we need to have faith in the Holy Spirit who chose Pope Francis. I don't think the Pope is going to bastardize the Faith. I think he's rooted so firmly in orthodoxy that he can afford to be daring. After all, he only said, "It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time"-- these issues, that is, abortion and homosexuality and contraception, not sin in general. I think the Pope is trying to get the Church out of the pigeon-hole that modern culture has put it in. I do think the need for evangelism is the overwhelming need of our era and the Church has to be daring-- without ever compromising orthodoxy.

    Speaking for myself, I felt a lot more affinity with Pope Benedict than I do with Pope Francis, but I have no doubt that God was at work in Benedict's retirement and his replacement by Pope Francis.

  3. I think I understand what you mean. Is it that Catholics focus too much on these issues individually that Pope Francis thinks we're forgetting about the rest? I suppose these issues are primary topics for Catholics today, and I don't mind the idea of Catholics broadening their mission beyond these things, but lets not leave them behind altogether lest someone tries abuse the lack of attention. There are people who do that anyway - clergy included.

  4. Well, I think maybe he thinks Catholics are just falling into the trap of the media and secularists who want to caricature Catholicism by always talking about prohibitions and strictures. This is why he said you don't worry about someone's cholesterol when their leg is broken-- I think he meant that people have to be made aware of their need for God and Christ before anything else.

    I agree with your remarks about not leaving these things behind, though.