What the Pope really said

Reading Pope Francis's interview, the most striking thing is that it bears no resemblance to what it is reported to be (see, for example, "The Pope is a Liberal" in Slate Magazine).

What the Pope said can be condensed to the message that to end sin we must bring people to a love of Jesus.  The Church must heal the wounds of sinners and by doing so the Church will bring people to holiness; if one truly loves God one does not sin.

Instead of wagging fingers at sinners the Church should be teaching them that the God who created them and the entire universe died on a Cross out of love for them.  Once people love God then they can be taught how to live a moral life.

That's what the Church has taught for 2000 years so it's not really something revolutionary.

The Pope was addressing how we get people to stop sinning not what is sinful; he was discussing tactics not objectives.

But what the media has done out of ignorance and wishful thinking is to mistranslate the Pope's statements into his saying that sin is ok or at least unimportant.

It's clear that the Pope isn't attempting to usher in a new age of the Church where active homosexuality, abortion, and contraception are ok when we read in the interview:

The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

Further the Pope says:

We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible.

Clearly the Pope is not saying we can't speak of or condemn those sins but that they should not be all the Church ever speaks about.

To see the Popes real thoughts on what is sinful it's only necessary to read what the Pope has said in the recent past.

On abortion:

The right to life is the first of human rights.

To abort is to kill someone who cannot defend himself.

On so called gay marriage:

Let us not be naive: this is not simply a political struggle, but it is an attempt to destroy God's plan. It is not just a bill (a mere instrument) but a 'move' of the father of lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.

It's also clear that the Pope is not wiping the slate clean because he specifically condemns that sort of thinking.  In the interview the Pope says:

The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person. ... The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, 'This is not a sin' or something like that.

While the Pope condemns confessors who are too harsh, because they don't reflect the mercy of God, he also condemns confessors who would do what the media are saying the Pope is proclaiming; denying that sins such as abortion are sins.  Clearly if the Pope were really saying that abortion, homosexual acts, and contraception are not a big deal he wouldn't, in the same interview, say that priests who deny the sinfulness of those things are wrong.

Finally the Pope is not really saying we should step back from condemning horribly evil things like abortion because the day after the Pope's interview was published the Pope gave a very public and stinging rebuke to abortion which included things like this:

Every unborn child, though unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of the Lord.

If then the Pope was merely calling Catholics back to the heart of the Church's mission to proclaim Christ Risen why all the concern by American Catholics?

The problem stems from the fact that the Pope was probably not thinking of the Church in the US when he made his comments.  Rather he was thinking of places where single women can't get their babies baptized because of an inappropriate fixation on sin rather than on mercy.

That place is none other than Argentina.  In 2012 Cardinal Bergoglio clearly and unequivocally condemned denying baptism to the children of unwed mothers.

The sound you hear is the collective gasp of disbelief from American Catholics. In America a single mother barely even needs to ensure the priest that she intends to raise the child as a Catholic in order to get her daughter baptized.

That's the core of the apparent dissonance in the Popes message; when you're in a Death Valley summer and someone tells you to turn the furnace up they sound nuts until you realize that they're really talking to people in an Alaskan winter. 

The Pope is saying that people who deny the Sacraments to former sinners need to concentrate less on sin and more on mercy but in America the Church has been emphasizing mercy over sin for decades.

Governor Cuomo of New York claims to be a Catholic yet he publically supports abortion and lives with his girlfriend. Yet when a comment Cardinal Dolan made was interpreted to mean that Dolan thought Cuomo wasn't a "Catholic in good standing" Dolan issued a correction saying he meant to imply no such thing.

Similarly Ted Kennedy, staunch proponent of abortion, was given a big Catholic funeral with no obvious condemnation for his support of what the Church has always defined to be murder.

While the Catholic Bishops in America believe in the teachings of the Church on abortion, so called same sex marriage, and contraception they lean over backwards to not attack the proponents of those evils.  Instead we see the merciful love Jesus calls us to have for even our enemies constantly being directed toward those Catholics, and people of other faiths, who advocate sin.

The truth is that the Church in America, contrary to the liberal media's bizarre perception, never speaks in a judgmental or condemnatory way about gays, women who have abortion, or people who use contraception.  Even Obama's attempt to revoke the First Amendment via the HHS mandate has not caused Bishops to personally condemn him or even Catholics who support his attempt such as Pelosi.

The problem with the Popes words is that telling the Church in America to concentrate on mercy and not talk too much about sin is like telling a 700lb man to eat more.

CINO's (Catholics In Name Only) who like the parts of the Church that don't disagree with their personal opinions and those in the media who hate the Church for its stands in support of Christ's teachings -- other than on the matters of illegals, the poor, and peace -- will take the Pope's statements out of context, as we've already seen in the last few days, and declare that American Catholics must become even less concerned about how Jesus told us we must love Him.

The Pope is 100% right that we must first fall in love with Jesus. But the Pope knows that Jesus told us what it means to love Him.

Jesus replied, "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. John 14:23

The Pope'ss message is good, we must first convince sinners of the love of God then explain to them how to love Him back, but it must be understood in the context of how the Church in American already deals with sinners.

See also: What the Secular Media Doesn't Know about Pope Francis

You can read more of tom's rants at his blog, Conversations about the obvious and feel free to follow him on Twitter