Although I am far from prepared to join the reactionaries of my Church in claiming we’re living in the end times, I can’t say I am particularly thrilled with today’s released interview with Pope Francis, “A Big Heart Open to God.” (The interview itself took place in August and was released worldwide through various Jesuit publications.) The media, unsurprisingly, is having a field day with the statements of a Pontiff who, by his own admission, often fails to speak with clarity. That being said, however, the interview isn’t calling for a reversal of the Church’s teaching on “hot button” moral issues like abortion, contraception, and “same-sex marriage”; it may, however, be suggesting that it is time for the Church to back-burner them in favor of . . . of . . . well, I’m not really sure.
For a pretty soberminded analysis of the interview from a traditional perspective, let me recommend the initial thoughts of Fr. John Zuhlsdorf. Fr. Z cautions his readers against reading the 12,000-word interview through media outlets like the New York Times, but let’s face it: that’s how many Catholics — to say nothing of other Christians, non-Christians, and secularists — will get word of Francis’ incautious interview. The Vatican may, at some point, step-in to try and mop up the mess a bit, but by then it will already be too late. The Catholic Church’s moral witness, dilapidated as it already is, will be further degraded and new cover will be supplied to the Catholic Church’s liberal wings (cf. Society of Jesus) to carry out their pet projects uncontested. No, this isn’t inauguration of Vatican III, though at times like these I understand why Fr. Alexander Schmemann, upon returning from the Second Vatican Council, thanked God he was Orthodox. There’s something to be said for stability, even if it occasionally comes at the price of insularity.
With that said, I join another fellow Catholic in thanking God that our previous Pope, Benedict XVI, set the important precedent of allowing me to hope for a short pontificate for the reigning Holy Father without falling into the mortal sin of praying for his death.