Media Says Pope Francis Calls for “More Mercy, Less Orthodoxy”

According to KCBS radio yesterday the papal interview in America Magazine was all about “more mercy, less orthodoxy.”

Oh dear. Where to begin?

It doesn’t even make sense. Mercy IS orthodoxy. It is way more central to orthodoxy than any issues about homosexuality, abortion, or contraception. And he never calls for “less orthodoxy” – this is the Pope we are talking about after all.

Now, I know this was just one radio reporter who said those particular words (KCBS is best for Bay Area traffic reports in any case), but the sentiment seemed widespread in popular media. New York Times, Huffington post, etc. NY Times:

Pope Says Church Is ‘Obsessed’ With Gays, Abortion and Birth Control

Seriously? Because he really didn’t say that. And saying people said things that they didn’t say is kinda like lying.

I hate to turn to the National Catholic Register, but today they are all over nonsense like that, after being stunnedly silent the day of the interview – I looked because I wanted to see the “conservative” reaction in contrast to the “liberal.” Their initial lack of reaction was disappointing, but then again, I’m only writing about the interview today, so I’m not one to talk… but they are supposed to be on that stuff like its their job.

Anyway, the stories up at NC Register today criticizing the mainstream media are right on target, for example here, discussing the NY Times “obsession”:

The pope now says that the Church has “grown ‘obsessed’ with abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and that he had chosen not to talk about those issues despite recriminations from critics.”

Well. Clearly someone’s obsessed with abortion, gay marriage and contraception. But I don’t think it’s the Church.

For the record, here is what Pope Francis actually had to say about obsession in his interview:

The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.

That’s it. That’s the only time the word “obsessed” or any cognate appeared in the entire interview. Read the whole thing for context.

The NY Times should be embarrassed. Mark Shea hits the nail on the head in his blog (complete with silly internet meme):

There are two massive ironies about this whole kerfuffle.

The first irony is that the press pored over a 12,000 word interview, zeroed in on a dozen words on the Pelvic Issues and declared “POPE SAYS CATHOLICS OBSESSED ABOUT SEX!!!!” Erm, have you checked the mirror, MSM?

That said, the Pope isn’t wrong to direct his message to Catholics.  And his principal message to conservative Catholics when it comes to the Pelvic Issues is “Don’t be as cramped, narrow, and blind to the person as the world and the world’s media is. When you focus too much on fighting the world you start to think like the world, trying to run the Church by rules and laws and slogans and power and fear and punishment and not by putting first things first: which is Jesus Christ and our personal encounter with him. The press can’t be expected to get that. But we Catholics *must* get that.”

And so (irony #2) what astonishes me is not the the NY Times doesn’t get that, but that the conservatives all over the blogosphere panicking about the pope’s remarks don’t get that either. Those who are expressing various degrees of outrage, dismay, panic and betrayal at the Pope’s remarks ironically agree far more with the NY Times’ take on the core of the Faith than they do with Francis’ take. Both talk as though Francis has somehow overturned or endangered the Tradition of the Church by his remarks. They only differ on whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Neither grasp that Francis has done no such thing and has, in fact, articulated the heart of the Tradition.  It is this: the law was made for man, not man for the law.

Yeah, what he said. Stay on target, remember the message. Christianity is not about crushing people, it is about delivering them to truly live.

That does involve some serious rules about how we interact with other people, most centrally involving the dignity of every human life, but the rules depend on the message, and forgetting the message makes the rules look nonsensical. The NY Times doesn’t know the message so nonsense is what they get. But if Catholics, who ought to know better, don’t know better, then the Church is in trouble because we don’t even know who we are.

Now, having looked at the embarrassing reactions of some of the media, the question is, how important is what Francis actually said?

And the answer is – it is really important! This is a guy who is into the big picture. Christianity is about Christ. We can disagree on lesser issues if we must, and in good conscience many people feel they must, but compared to Christ everything is a lesser issue.

The Church is responsible for passing on the WHOLE FAITH, not just little bits of it involving certain rules of conduct. Focusing on those rules instead of things like, say, Jesus Christ, makes us look a bit (or more) like the Pharisees for whom that same Jesus had some choice words.

The Catholic Church has to be bigger than that. A “universal church” can’t reduce itself to small rules. Read the interview itself – it is a book at 12,000 words, but it is worth it – at least skim it. This is a new Pope, and it is worth getting to know him better.

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