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Two sides of pope’s views on marriage

VATICAN (SE): On his long flight from Azerbaijan to Rome on October 2, Pope Francis spoke at length with reporters during an in-flight press conference about his views on marriage and pastoral care of people in irregular situations.

He has been quite vocal in the past on the necessity of welcoming those who are divorced and remarried, as well as the same sex attracted into the caring fold of the Church, but on the plane he made a quite clear distinction between dogma and pastoral care.

While society likes to categorise opinions into left and right wing, those we think of as standing on the right side of the fence have denounced Pope Francis, accusing him of breaking with traditional moral teaching, while those on the left have rejoiced at his words.

However, Pope Francis cannot be put in a box. He is above factions and does not think in terms of left and right wing, but in the terms of mercy and truth.

Pope Francis stressed that human weakness exists and sin exists, but he insists that weakness and sin do not have the last word.

He used the example of a carving (capital) in the Church of St. Mary Magdalen in Vézelay, France, which depicts on one side Judas hanging from a rope; grotesque, eyes bulging, tongue swollen beyond his mouth.

On the other side is Jesus the Good Shepherd. He is carrying Judas on his back and his face looks pained, but with a hint of a smile of understanding.

Pope Francis explained that the carvings were used for catechesis, as people must understand that there is mercy even for Judas.

He then turned to his exhortation, The Joy of Love (Amoris Laetitia), written in the wake of the Synod of Bishops on Marriage, saying that the dogma on the foundation of marriage is all there, but so are the problems, so there is also reflection on how to address them. This is the space for mercy.

In Georgia, the pope spoke of ideological colonisation, which he described as a powerful contemporary force aimed at destroying the institution of marriage itself.

In his inflight press conference, he described it as gender theory, which treats gender as something fluid or a social construct divorced from any natural reality.

He then spoke plainly about the nature of man and woman, calling their union in marriage, as one flesh, the epitome of the image of God on this earth. “The image of God is not man. It is man with a woman,” he pointed out, adding defiantly, “This is the truth.”

However, he said that this truth is often in conflict with culture in the modern world, maybe because many problems in marriage have not been well managed.

He called this a world war against marriage, adding that care is needed to ensure our thinking is not contaminated with what he described as a dirty image that can disfigure the face of God.

But he quickly returned to his other theme, the treatment of wounded families.

He quoted a prayer as saying, “‘God, who so marvellously has created the world and even more marvellously has recreated it,’ that is with redemption and mercy.”

He reiterated that it is not sin or weakness that has the last word, but mercy.

Pope Francis also insisted strongly that there must be mercy for the same sex attracted and transgender people, and the hospitality of pastoral care may never be withdrawn from them.

He spoke warmly about a bishop in Spain who accompanied a girl in a transgender process, then welcomed him as a man, together with his wife.

He also praised an aged priest who welcomed the couple to the parish church, but spoke condemningly about a young priest who suggested that both the man and the aged priest would go to hell for what they had done.

However, he warned against an attitude that believes that it is all the same, so let’s go party. “No, this no. But each case, receive it, accompany it, study it, discern it and integrate it. This is what Jesus would do today,” he said.

He then turned to the journalists saying, “Is there any doubt as to what I said? I want to be clear. It is a moral problem. It is a human problem. And it must be resolved in whatever way is best, always with the mercy of God, with the truth, as we said in the case of marriage.”

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