Pope says Church must end obsession with gays, contraception, abortion

Thu Sep 19, 2013 5:52pm EDT
 
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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis said the Catholic Church must shake off an obsession with teachings on abortion, contraception and homosexuality and become more merciful or risk the collapse of its entire moral edifice "like a house of cards".

In a dramatically blunt interview with an Italian Jesuit journal, Francis said the Church had "locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules" and should not be so prone to condemn.

Its priests should be more welcoming and not cold, dogmatic bureaucrats. The confessional, he said, "is not a torture chamber but the place in which the Lord's mercy motivates us to do better."

His comments were welcomed by liberal Catholics; but they are likely to be viewed with concern by conservatives who have already expressed concern over Francis's failure to address publicly the issues stressed by his predecessor, Benedict.

Francis, the first non-European pope in 1,300 years, the first from Latin America and the first Jesuit pope, did not hold out the prospect of any changes soon to such moral teachings.

But, in the 12,000-word interview with Civilta Cattolica, he said the Church 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."

In the 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.

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Pope Francis (L) exchanges gifts with Prime Minister of Lithuania Algirdas Butkevicius (C) during a private audience at the Vatican September 19, 2013. REUTERS/Tiziana Fabi /Pool