More Thoughts on the Interview

First off, here is the best summary of the significance of the Pope's comments that I have found.  I'll just add a couple of additional thoughts.

If you look at the reaction from the conservative Catholic blogosphere, the most substantive response is to point out that Pope Francis does not signal in the interview that he is about to change any Church teachings.  That's true (though, one is tempted to add the qualification "yet," at least as to some things like divorce and re-marriage).  Pope Francis is not going to issue a decree that abortion on demand is swell.  Nor, it appears, is he going to say that women can be priests (but deacons?...).  But, that's not the point.  The significance of the interview is not about substantive doctrine, nor is it about the amorphous concept of "tone."  My interpretation of the interview is that Francis's vision of the Church is one that meets people where they are and welcomes them in to the fold as they are (at least, as they are at this moment).  This is described in contrast to a mentality which insists on a sharp division between those inside that have total ideological purity and those outside that are wandering in the Outer Darkness.  The Catholic Church in Francis's vision is still going to advocate its positions on abortion, etc., and call people to live according to those teachings.  What it is not going to do is make folks sign on to a 50-part list of ethical (and political) propositions before welcoming them in the door for Sunday Mass.

On a related note, one line of argument from these folks has been to throw up the "Who, me?" response, and claim that the notion that the Catholic Church is focused on abortion, same sex marriage, et al., is a media created notion.  First, it's a non sequitur.  Pope Francis certainly seems to think this is a real issue in the Church--is his perception a creation of the American media?  More importantly, as Winters points out in his article, this argument flunks the straight face test.  The media didn't make Bishop Tobin say he was "disappointed" that Pope Francis hasn't talked about abortion.  The media didn't invent the notion that the Archbishop of Minneapolis-St. Paul sent DVDs to every Catholic family in the Archdiocese telling them to vote for a gay marriage ban--Archbishop Nienstadt in fact did that.  Proof of this can be found in the comment boxes of these conservative blogs.  Half of the comments are about how the media has distorted the real message of the Church, and half of them talk about how opposition abortion is the single most important teaching of the Church.  Well, there you go.

Finally, one thing that the conservatives are missing.  Take a look at the comments to the New York Times article on the Pope's interview.  A significant chunk of the comments come from people who say something along the lines of "I've been estranged from the Church for 5 [or 10, or 20] years, but Pope Francis makes me want to come back."  Another big chunk come from people who say "I'm not Catholic, but I admire this Pope and appreciate what he is trying to do."

Doesn't that make this interview a win for the Church?


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