By Joe Morris Doss
Pope Francis surprised us with his admonition to his church: Place less emphasis on abortion, contraception, and homosexuality and more where it makes a difference for “the wounded.” The Roman Catholic Church has become obsessed with these hot button issues of personal behavior, making them the most important doctrinal positions of the church and pushing issues of social justice, like the plight of the poor, to the background. The Pope said that has to change. But what does that mean in real life?
At a dinner party on the night after “America” magazine released the Pope’s statements, one faithful Roman Catholic declared, unhappily, that the call is for a change in style only, that nothing has really changed because there is no change in doctrine. After all, she went on to note, her own Archbishop had declared immediately that this was all the Pope meant. “Stylistic change only” was indeed the interpretation of many bishops and officials of the church, and the Pope offered assurance that there was no doctrinal change. So, will the words of Francis prove to be of little impact on the ground, or will the foundations be shaken?
I personally agree with what the Lutheran historian Martin Marty said in a response posted here: “Francis means it!” I take that to mean that Francis intends to see his words come to life in the church, not by changing doctrine — which isn’t necessarily the point — but by changing the church’s practice.
I offer two places we can start looking to see if this pope is able to change the way Roman Catholics have combined with evangelical conservatives to influence the social and political life of the United States: elective politics and Planned Parenthood centers. In each case, the church has allowed issues regarding sexuality and procreativity to trump other needs — problems the church has been in favor of redressing but…not as much as it has been concerned with abortion, homosexuality, and contraception. Read More…