Early this week an interview of Pope Francis was run by a major Italian newspaper. As is typical with Pope Francis, he is relaxed with the media, and shows a great deal of skill and honesty with his answers. He’s not afraid of the tough questions, and says he even welcomes them when it’s a chance for dialogue.
The interview didn’t avoid any tough questions, it covered the sexual abuse scandal, divorce, remarriage and civil unions, globalisation, Marxism and many other topics.
He also touched on several topics of interest to the pro-life movement, including contraception, and end of life treatment.
He was asked on non-negotiable values, he was adamant that these values are essential. He rejected the idea that these values are like trading cards, which can be swapped and traded, while keeping a few favourites. He compares these ‘values’ to parts of his own body. In his own words:
I never understood the expression “non-negotiable values.” Values are values and that’s that. I can’t say which of the fingers of the hand is more useful than the rest, so I don’t understand in what sense there could be negotiable values. What I had to say on the topic of life I have put in writing in “Evangelii Gaudium.”
The Pope expresses much about values and morals in Evangelii Gaudium. He says that individual doctrines of the Church must be understood as part of the gospel, and joyfully expressed. This links these values to the whole of the Church’s teaching and to the person of Christ himself. So these ‘values’ are no longer dry doctrines, but a living, breathing expression of a Christian’s joyful faith.
The Pope praised Humanae Vitae:
It all depends on how the text of “Humanae Vitae” is interpreted. Paul VI himself, towards the end, recommended to confessors much mercy and attention to concrete situations. But his genius was prophetic, as he had the courage to go against the majority, to defend moral discipline, to apply a cultural brake, to oppose present and future neo-Malthusianism.
Pope PauI VI certainly had the courage to go against the majority. With more than 40 years of experience with contraception, it’s now obvious the damage that it’s causes. When Paul VI wrote Humanae vitae, that damage was much less obvious. But the Pope predicted it accurately. And despite this bold and prophetic proclamation of the truth, document is very gently written, with the heart of a pastor. I think it’s this that resonates with Pope Francis.
Pope Francis reminds us of the need for confessors to show “much mercy and attention to concrete situations”. This is reminiscent of the much misrepresented comments of Benedict XVI on condoms. It’s not a dilution of the teaching, but working with people to bring them to a full understanding of the truth. In many cases, it will not be an instant conversion. We don’t need to change any teaching or approve of any sin.
Pope Francis is also asked about end of life care for the people in a ‘vegetative state’. The Pope reiterated the Church’s teaching on end of life care. He also acknowledged that he isn’t a bioethicist, and the need for palliative care.
In these answers, Pope Francis has demonstrated that he is a “son of the Church”. He follows and protects the doctrines of the Church, but more than that, he wants to show us that they all come from the person of Christ. He wants to make these doctrines or ‘values’ make sense and have a meaning and purpose in the faith of the Christian.
And one year on into his Papacy, the world is still watching and taking notice. Let’s hope that they truly hear the message he preaches.