Pope Francis dismisses criticism over lack of focus on abortion, gay marriage

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“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” Francis said. “This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context.”

The comments came in a lengthy interview conducted by La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian-language journal for the Jesuit order. The official English translation was published simultaneously by America, the American Jesuit magazine. Francis is the first Jesuit pope.

While the pope’s comments should cheer church liberals, he gave no indication he plans to change current church teachings, which condemn abortion, homosexual acts and contraception as sins.

“The teaching of the church … is clear, and I am a son of the church,” Francis said.

During his pontificate, Francis has put a strong emphasis on the church’s mission to serve the poor and has drawn media attention for his own austere lifestyle. 

Some clergy have expressed disappointment that he has not said much about issues like abortion, however. Thomas Tobin, the bishop of Providence, R.I., recently told The Rhode Island Catholic that he was “disappointed” Francis had said little to encourage the anti-abortion movement.

Francis also said he did not view the papacy as an authoritarian role responsible for rigidly enforcing orthodoxy worldwide.

“It is amazing to see the denunciations for lack of orthodoxy that come to Rome,” he said. “I think the cases should be investigated by the local bishops’ conferences … the Roman congregations are mediators; they are not middlemen or managers.” A badly run and overcentralized Vatican bureaucracy, Francis said, would risk becoming “institutions of censorship.”