After making this point, Francis immediately turns to the Gospel story of the adulteress who stands before Jesus while the people around her, faithful followers of the Law of Moses, are prepared to stone her.
He noted that once those ready to cast their stones have dropped them and left, Jesus turns to the woman, who “was probably still frightened,” and tells her “neither do I condemn you. Go, (and) from now on do not sin anymore.”
When it comes to this scene, there are those who make a common mistake with Francis.
Many who bask in the Pope’s message of mercy are often tempted to read only as far as the withholding of condemnation, yet at the same time are frequently just as eager to leave out the second part – that of his emphasis on recognizing one’s sin and committing not do it again.
The link between mercy and doctrine is alluded to yet again in the Pope’s advice to priests, when he tells them that while in the confessional, they must “talk, listen with patience, and above all tell people that God loves them.”
If a confessor can’t absolve someone, “he needs to explain why, he needs to give them a blessing, even without the holy sacrament.”
“Be tender with these people. Do not push them away…if we don’t show them the love and mercy of God, we push them away and perhaps they will never come back. So embrace them and be compassionate, even if you can’t absolve them. Give them a blessing anyway.”
Although there are certain situations in which a person cannot be absolved – such as in the case of someone who has been divorced and civilly remarried without an annulment – the Pope’s answer in these cases is to have compassion, but that this compassion doesn’t necessarily mean change.
Pope Francis said that the Church needs “to enter the darkness, the night in which so many of our brothers live…and let them feel our closeness,” but clarified that she must do it “without letting ourselves be wrapped up in that darkness and influenced by it.”
“Caring for outcasts and sinners does not mean letting the wolves attack the flock,” he said. “It means trying to reach everyone by sharing the experience of mercy.”
Another important point is when the Pope comments on his infamous “Who Am I to Judge?” remark, which instantly gained him the world’s attention and seemingly overnight became one of his most misunderstood and misinterpreted phrases.
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When asked about the expression, Francis explained that he was “paraphrasing by heart the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” which is the official compendium of the Church’s teaching.
He also said he was glad they were talking about “homosexual people,” and cautioned that “people should not be defined only by their sexual tendencies.”
“I prefer that homosexuals come to confession, that they stay close to the Lord, and that we pray all together. You can advise them to pray, show goodwill, show them the way, and accompany them along it.”
Given these remarks, it again suggests that the Pope is supportive of a compassionate, inclusive attitude toward those with homosexual tendencies, but that a change in the Church’s long-standing teaching on the topic of homosexuality isn’t up for debate.
So all in all, while the document has yet to be released, if the Pope’s new book is any indication of what’s coming, we can expect no big changes.