From most quarters, Pope Francis has won admiration for his evident humility, for having led an austere existence and for demonstrating deep concern for the poor — a real man of the Gospel, you might say.
From many of these same quarters, that admiration turned to disappointment once it became apparent that Pope Francis also believes in the moral teachings of the Gospel as well.
As if reporting on the future political direction of a nation after a transition in its presidency, most news reports stated as early as the third or fourth paragraph that Pope Francis is on record as opposing abortion, contraception, same-sex marriage, and same-sex adoption. The pope, in other words, is Catholic.
In the same or next breath, these news reports usually note his love for the sick and poor, as though this is some kind of bewildering contradiction.
Beginning with the day he was elected, published media accounts routinely have pointed out that “although” he opposes same-sex marriage, abortion, and contraception, Pope Francis “nevertheless” has shown compassion to AIDS sufferers and unwed mothers. And it’s not just the secular news media doing this: Some stories in Catholic publications have taken a similar tack. How could it be possible, such grammar implies, to be so rigid on doctrine and yet so compassionate at the same time?
Answer: Easy. The Pope is Catholic.
Meanwhile, in other news, Dog Bites Man.
One of the common assumptions of our relativistic culture is that anyone who affirms objective moral truths necessarily holds in judgment or even contempt those who fail to live by these truths. How could one who embraces the fullness of Catholic moral teaching on the gift of human sexuality also extend compassion to single moms and persons with HIV/AIDS? The false notion is that moral truth and charity are somehow irreconcilable.
But Catholic moral doctrine is not incompatible with compassion for the suffering, the sick, and the poor. In fact, it is inseparable from it. All moral and social teaching is rooted in the principle of the inherent dignity of the human person. The call to love and to minister to the needy among us is as much a part of Catholic teaching as is any elucidation on sexual ethics. Our enduring example in this is Christ himself, who in his ministry of love and healing never failed to speak the truth and to call sinners to repentance. Recall his intervention with the woman caught in adultery: He saved her from being stoned, dispatching her accusers, and then sent her on her way with the words, “Go, and now sin no more” (Jn 8:11 Douay-Rheims).
So to report that Pope Francis is firm in the Church’s moral teachings and also has compassion for those who suffer does not call for an “although,” a “nevertheless,” a “but” or a “however.” There is no dichotomy between the two.
There is no dichotomy in Pope Francis, either.
The Pope is not a man of confusion and contradiction. Rather, to put it plainly, the Pope is Catholic. If that surprises anyone, then he or she should read the Gospels and the Catechism.
— Gerald Korson