Pope Francis has cut off pro-family Catholics at the knees. Granted, his newsworthy comments on abortion and gays made up just a small portion of a long interview, but it’s hard to imagine anything more unhelpful to what traditionally-minded Catholics are trying to achieve and defend in the US.
His words can only serve to marginalize even further pro-family voices in American society. Catholics who work against abortion or the militant gay agenda can now be painted by their foes as not even being in step with their own church. This is an astonishing and sudden turn after the combined 35 years of John Paul and Benedict.
The broad family of Evangelicals probably has no interest in the in-house Catholic discussion but can lament the loss of a clear voice for the family.
As a matter of evangelical concern (with a small “e”) these twists and turns point out the need for society’s morals to be informed by the unchanging standard of the Scriptures, and not by the shifting winds of men’s personalities. In Galatians 1, Paul definitively placed himself under the authority of the Word of God, and he even invited that church to measure his teachings by reference to an unalterable Gospel.
That Gospel, well understood, guides the Church and assigns the Church her mission. It is in fact the power of God to deliver, and it does not let us omit people from the scope of our seed-sowing on the grounds that we cannot judge, as Francis is now famous for saying. It compels us to warn the world that, whether I judge you or no, judgment is surely coming – and the fire of the latter day is against those who do not obey the Gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
Yes, as Francis says, there are always many pastoral priorities, but the Gospel isn’t served by altering the terms of the deal, and “repent” is still the first word of the Gospel. Say it with tears in your eyes, say it knowing it will put you in irons or worse, but it must be said. In the Western world’s current environment of relativism and rejection of all standards, Francis’s words are not a cold compress to a fevered brow – they are gasoline on a fire.