Pope Francis yesterday continued his reformist agenda by urging Church leaders to serve as nurturing pastors as opposed to being rigid enforcers of Catholic doctrines while dealing with matters of family and sexuality.
In his highly anticipated statement titled the Joy of Love, the Pope further nudged priests to practice with love and show a willingness to understand a fast changing world as well as show compassion for single parents, remarried couples and homosexuals.
“Pastors are to avoid judgements that do not take into account the complexity of various situations,” the Pope said.
“Whatever the cause, single parents must receive encouragement and support from other families in the Christian community, and from the parish’s pastoral outreach. Often, these families endure economic difficulties, uncertain employment prospects, problems with child support and lack of housing.”
The Pope also spoke out against discrimination and homosexuality within the Church. In his address, Pope Francis said that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be treated with dignity and consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided.
“Such families should be given pastoral guidance, so that those who manifest a homosexual orientation can receive the assistance they need to understand and fully carry out God’s will in their lives,” the Pope said. But the Pope once again closed the door on same-sex marriage, saying it cannot be seen as the equivalent of heterosexual unions.
“There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family,” he said.
In the communication, the Pope also spoke out against governments and organisations that peg their aid to Third World countries on the passing of gay friendly laws.
“It is unacceptable that local churches should be subjected to pressure in this matter and that international bodies should make financial aid to poor countries dependent on the introduction of laws to establish ‘marriage’ between persons of the same sex,” he said.
The 256-page document — known as an apostolic exhortation — calls for priests to welcome single parents, gay people and unmarried straight couples who are living together.
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“A pastor cannot feel that it is enough to simply apply moral laws to those living in ‘irregular’ situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives,” he wrote.
Since the start of his papacy, Pope Francis has on several occasions shown willingness to break away from a certain stiffness of the Church that liberals believe has led to empty church benches and a disconnect between Church officials and the people in light of modern day challenges.
The Catholic Church has in the past been at a crossroads. Modern challenges continue to question long established truths that have been held dear by the Catholic fraternity.
However, dwindling faithful numbers and a quest for relevance in a fast changing world have recently forced the Church to interrogate its role in society.
In spite of this, reproductive health, marriage and sexuality remain some of the most volatile topics of discussion for Catholics.