Pope Francis, Catholic Church must act on statements

The Catholic Church is at a crossroads. After years of condemning same-sex marriage, contraception and abortion, the leader of the Church has changed the argument. In September, the newly elected Pope Francis took a stance that was a bit different than the one put forth by his predecessors. Instead of taking a negative view on these important moral issues, Pope Francis instead chose to separate moral beliefs like those regarding social issues from dogmatic beliefs, those beliefs and teachings put forth by the Bible.

In an interview with a number of Jesuit publications Pope Francis said, “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time. The dogmatic and moral teachings of the Church are not all equivalent. The Church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”

Wikimedia Commons/Tânia Rêgo: Pope Francis during his recent visit to Brazil

Wikimedia Commons/Tânia Rêgo: Pope Francis during his recent visit to Brazil

This statement has been interpreted a number of different ways, but many believe Pope Francis means that the Catholic Church must not allow some social issues — such as abortion, gay rights and birth control — to become the primary issue of the Church. The Pope’s comments are a call to separate dogmatic teachings from the moral issues facing the modern world.

The PHOENIX Editorial Board believes that while these remarks are a step in the right direction, he and the Church must now take action to support these comments.

Currently in the United States there are 14 states plus Washington, D.C. that allow same-sex marriage and four that allow domestic partnerships or civil unions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

One of those 14 states used to only allow civil unions, but a recent landmark decision has changed the law and allowed the state to grant same-sex marriages.

That one state is New Jersey. It has recognized civil unions since 2007, but in a decision passed on Sept. 27, Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ordered that, beginning on Oct. 21, the state of New Jersey begin recognizing same-sex marriages. This ruling has already been appealed by Gov. Chris Christie and the State, but that appeal was denied.

What does this have to do with the Pope’s comments? One of the most steadfast opponents of same-sex marriages has always been the Catholic Church. It has fought against the legalization of same-sex marriage in every one of those 14 states.

The Pope’s remarks change that. In the aforementioned interview Pope Francis also said, “We have to find a new balance otherwise even the moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”

With this statement Pope Francis is urging the Church and its people to find a new way to reconcile what they have been taught with what is going on in the modern world. The Bible was written nearly 3500 years ago and many of the moral teachings that applied then do not and cannot apply now.

According to a poll conducted by Quinnipiac University, 68 percent of American Catholics approve of the Pope’s new approach to modern moral issues and the Church’s role. That number shows that as an institution, the Catholic Church is progressing and many believe that the moral teachings that once applied can no longer apply in our ever changing world.

Closer to home, on Loyola’s campus, the Jesuit values of the school have been put to the test with the recent issue involving the civil union of Christine Irvine and her partner, Mary. Irvine, a Loyola student, and Mary had hoped to hold their civil union service on Loyola’s campus. While civil unions are legally recognized by the state of Illinois, Irvine was told that her ceremony would not be allowed. Lisa Reiter, Loyola’s Director of Campus Ministry, told a PHOENIX reporter three weeks ago that Loyola was just upholding its Catholic values by not allowing Irvine and her fiancee to hold their civil union ceremony on campus.

“I think this is one of those policies where administrators at the university are really trying to use Catholic teaching to inform a decision, to help [the school] be faithful in its identity as a Catholic Jesuit institution,” Reiter told PHOENIX reporter Jordan Berger.

The Pope is not only a Catholic, but he is also a Jesuit. Loyola is also a Jesuit university. If the Pope can choose to make this step forward, then why can’t Loyola?

The PHOENIX Editorial Board believes that it is time for the Pope and the Catholic Church to turn words into actions. Making such bold statements is a good first step but it cannot be the only step. With these statements the Pope has set himself up to be a pioneer in liberal Catholicism, someone who separates dogmatic teaching from modern moral issues.

If he is going to be bold enough to make these statements then he must be bold enough to back them up with actions and take steps toward changing the views of the modern Catholic Church.

Instead of focusing on condemning moral issues like same-sex marriage the Church should be focused on finding a way to support the Pope’s words with actions. Pope Francis’ statements could be a huge step forward for a Church that has been struggling to find its place in a modern world if they choose to take action.

In a recent survey conducted jointly by the Public Religion Research Institute and Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, it was found that only 64 percent of millennials (a person who reached young adulthood around the year 2000) who were raised Catholic still consider themselves to be a practicing Catholic. 25 percent of millennials who were raised Catholic now consider themselves to be religiously unaffiliated. The Church has lost a quarter of this generation, the generation that is supposed to be the future of the Catholic Church. The PHOENIX Editorial Board believes that this loss is indicative of the fact that the Church’s outdated principles clash with the beliefs and opinions of the modern world.

Words alone are not powerful enough to create change and if the Pope hopes to create change he must use the momentum gained from making these statements to take action in the Catholic Church.

9 Comments

  1. commentator 1 says:

    This is a very inaccurate editorial Pope Francis basically reiterated the Catholic Church stance to be opening to all people. He also still thinks abortion is a moral evil. Before writing your next editorial you guys should actually read the interviews and not write editorials based off tabloid headlines. I’m disappointed in this editorial’s lack of truth.

  2. Y. A. Warren says:

    Since the official stance on marriage in the church is to promote procreation, same-sex marriage in the church would negate the catholic purpose of marriage. Civil unions are simply that; they are partnerships in the eyes of the state. The crux of the problem can actually be addressed by separation of church and states. States should officiate over civil unions and churches should choose whether to “bless” and accept theses unions. The two should never have been combined in the first place in the United States of America.

    • Peter says:

      Can’t the Church “accept” civil unions without “blessing” them with the moral approval of the Church?

      Loyola- and many other Jesuit and Church related institutions- welcome (even encourage, with funding) research that investigates hypotheses that are not completely squared with the dogma of the Church: military research and training used for wars that cannot be just, criminal justice research that violates our notions of compassion; policy research that creates harmful laws; and medical research used for medicine the Church has no control over. Often, our Church-affiliated groups vigorously breed discussions that represent a diverse and active society working to solve difficult problems.

      Why must Loyola insist that civil unions (an expression of love, faith, compassion, and commitment) not be held in its academic spaces? Can it do so and yet not officially sanctify the union as the “marriage” etched (or, hopefully, penciled) into dogma? I think so.

      • Y. A. Warren says:

        There is a difference between funding research and accepting actions that go against the very fiber of the institution. Loyola is a private religious institution. They must have boundaries regarding what is allowed “in their home.”

        I know that many of my family use illegal drugs. I accept this as their choice. I, however, do not allow them to use them with my knowledge, on my private property. The church believes that certain things are harmful to society; they are morally bound to stand behind their own boundaries and defend their integrity.

        The bigger question is why this couple so wants to fly in the face of the institution in which they willingly participate. Loyola is not condemning their commitment, simply opting out of participation in the ceremony. This couple can privately hold their ceremony anywhere they choose. This seems an imagined injustice. Don’t they have more important things on which to exercise their social justice energy?

        • Peter says:

          The Church’s holy conception of marriage cannot exclude all other definitions of lifelong commitment.

          Christine Irvine is looking to conduct a secular and state-sanctioned event that does not require a Church member to officiate the proceedings. These women’s action does not invalidate Church-officiated heterosexual marriages.

          Yes: the Church can say Catholic marriage must be between a man and a women.

          Yes: the Church can refuse to sanctify marriage outside of that definition.

          No: the Church does not have a moral imperative to actively prevent affirming love that occurs outside of that definition.

          It doesn’t go against the very fiber of the institution. That’s an imagined fallacy used by the most conservative (not in the American political sense) elements of the Catholic Church to deny acts of love.

          • Y. A. Warren says:

            The RC church is nothing but a club or family with a set of rules for inclusion. I don’t understand those who continue to “beat their heads against stones” to enter “homes” that don’t welcome them. There are so many in our country who are only too happy to welcome responsible compassion in any form that it is manifested that I don’t know why people waste their time on attempts to be sanctioned or accepted by the RC church good old boy’s club.

          • Publius says:

            Peter, you gravely misunderstand how the Church views these commitments of love. It appears to me that you think any expression of love, between any two individuals, must in one way, shape, or form be sanctioned by the Church, even if not in the form of marriage, simply because it is “love”. That is not how the Church works.

            A big part of the Church’s mission is to get souls to Heaven. If that means showing tough love, it means showing tough love. The fact of the matter is that same-sex relationships cannot and will not ever be condoned by the Catholic Church in any way. The Church teaches, rightly so I believe, that physical expressions of love- the consummation of love (sex)- is to be expressed within the confines of marriage, between one man and one woman. There is no middle ground here. Any other use of the sexual faculties, as in premarital sex or same-sex acts, is forbidden.

            Your own premises I find to be self-refuting as well. You say, on the one hand, that the Church can teach marriage as between one man and one woman, yet then you say that the Church cannot not affirm love that “occurs outside that definition.” If I understand you correctly, you’re saying that the Church must preach one thing but do another. Which is it? Can the Church teach that marriage (and sex) is between one man and one woman, and put that into practice, or must it affirm the relationships it can’t condone because of love, as you say?

            Contrary to what you contend, the Church’s concept of Holy Matrimony can, in fact, exclude other definitions of lifelong commitment from Church “affirmation” or sanction. As I’ve said, the only form of commitment the Church will recognize is one between one man and one woman in the form of Holy Matrimony. Any other relationship, be it premarital, polygamous, or same-sex in nature, will not be sanctioned by the Church.

            Affirming such a ceremony that is counter to Church teaching would in fact be counter to the fiber of the institution. There is no way around that. You are correct in saying that Loyola already does a lot of things counter to the Church; no one will dispute that. But two (or three, or four, or five) wrongs do not make a right. I will not condone the other contrary actions Loyola partakes in just as I will not condone this proposed one.

            If you really want to get to know Catholic teaching in depth, start with the Catechism: http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc.htm Can’t go wrong with that.

  3. THE says:

    This editorial is a disgrace. How smug and ignorant can a student newspaper be?

  4. Derek says:

    “The Catholic Church” is the people in the pews, not some unseen hierarchy. If the Jesuits running Loyola have done a poor job conveying Christ’s love and message of redemption to the students maybe it’s they who need to change.

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