(Photo: Reuters/Giampiero Sposito)
Mainstream media has misinterpreted Pope Francis' recent remarks on abortion and homosexual behavior to mean the Catholic Church is changing its stance on the issues, say experts on Roman Catholicism.
In response to a recently published in-depth interview the Jesuit Pontiff gave, several new organizations may have missed the main points of his remarks, Michael J. Sheeran, S.J., president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, told The Christian Post.
"Some mass media articles make it sound as if Pope Francis is saying abortion, homosexual behavior, etc. are okay. When they make that sort of claim, they really miss Francis' point," said Sheeran. "Before anything else, the Church, and every Christian, must take as their model the loving, forgiving, Jesus. We must preach the love of Christ in season and out. That's the Good News."
Sheeran also told CP that he was "delighted" that Pope Francis was calling upon Christians "to focus above all on the loving mercy of Jesus for every one of us sinners."
"The Pope wants us to put first things first. What comes first is that Jesus loves all of us even when we sin. A heavy emphasis on homosexuality and abortion can sound like I'm focusing on other people's sins and ignoring my own," said Sheeran. "Trained in Jesuit spirituality, Francis emphasizes that Jesus dwells in every soul, dwells there even in the midst of our sins. First and foremost, Jesus loves. His love nudges us to a better life. So it's a mistake for Christians to focus on sin when it's Jesus' love that comes first."
Earlier this week, an interview with Pope Francis conducted by Rev. Antonio Spadaro, editor of La Civilta Cattolica, was published by Jesuit Magazines and made available in multiple languages.
Pope Francis spoke on many topics including social issues, church politics, and the role of women in the Church, in the interview considered to be the most in-depth the head of the Roman Catholic Church has given since becoming the Bishop of Rome.
The interview took place in Rome in August over a period of three meetings, and published recently. The Pontiff remarked at one point that the Church needed to focus more on issues other than abortion and homosexuality.
"We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible," said Pope Francis. "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."
Coupled with previous remarks regarding acceptance of the LGBT community, many individuals, including the mass media, interpreted his remarks as showcasing an increasingly pro-gay stance for a religious institution known for its strong objections to homosexuality.
Stephen P. White, fellow at the Catholic Studies Program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, told CP that the interview "got people's attention."
"He has some very important and worthwhile things to say, so my hope is that people take the time to read the interview and really digest what he had to say," said White.
White also told CP that he found it ironic that the Pope wants to focus less on issues like abortion and homosexuality, and yet major media proceeded to focus primarily on his comments regarding those issues.
"The Pope's own record in Argentina and his statements as Pope make it clear that he shares a serious concern about these issues. But as he emphasizes in the interview, the heart of the Christian faith isn't an idea or a set of ethical precepts, but a person: Jesus Christ," said White.
"I think the media does often misunderstand the Pope, sometime innocently, sometimes not … I also think that the Pope knows that we the Church can't wait for the world (or the media) to come to Her. She has to meet people where they are."