Pope Francis said the Catholic Church should not allow its bans on gay marriage, abortion and contraception to dominate its teachings, but must be a more welcoming Church where priests are understanding pastors and not cold, dogmatic bureaucrats.
In a dramatically blunt interview with Civilta Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit monthly, Francis said the Church had locked itself up in “small things, in small-minded rules”. It must find a new balance between upholding rules and demonstrating mercy, “otherwise even the moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall like a house of cards…”
Francis, the first non-European pope in 1,300 years and the first from Latin America, did not hold out the prospect of any changes soon to such moral teachings.
In the long interview with the magazine’s director, Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, he also said he envisioned a greater role for women in the 1.2 billion member Church but suggested it would not include a change in the current ban on a female priesthood.
In an remarkable change from his predecessor Benedict, who said homosexuality was an intrinsic disorder, Francis said that when homosexuals told him they were always condemned by the Church and felt “socially wounded”, he told them “the Church does not want to do this”.
He re-stated his comments first made on the plane returning from Brazil in July that he was not in a position to judge gays who are of good will and in search of God.
In the interview released on Thursday, he added: “By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.”