The Catholic Church – or at least those preachers and teachers who are outspoken on matters concerning human sexuality, especially when catechetical discussions are turned into clashes in the public square for political or cultural reasons – is often accused of being obsessed with sex. But the obsession might just be the media’s.
Consider, for instance the wide-ranging interview given by Pope Francis that has just been published in several Jesuit publications, including America magazine here in the United States. It is over 10,000 words. A few paragraphs involve homosexuality and abortion. And yet homosexuality and abortion were what the New York Times chose to lead their news report on the interview with.
The interview is Pope Francis’s first extensive public conversation since becoming pope about his own vocational call to serve God – for example, we are told that Jorge Mario Bergoglio considered joining the Dominicans, and why he needs the discipline of the religious life. He further explains why he as pope has chosen to live at the Vatican’s guest house: His desire for community. (He explains that the papal apartment is not luxurious, but it is isolated.)
The interview gives some context to his daily pleas to the faithful and, as we saw in his letter to the G-20 and four-hour prayer vigil for peace earlier this month, to every man and woman in the world. It is reintroducing what some refer to as the project of the New Evangelization, and with the most inviting, non-jargony language.
Francis talks about the Church as a “field hospital after battle.” He talks about the need for the church “to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful.” He says: “It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…. And you have to start from the ground up.”
Many people are interpretating this interview — along with the interview the pope gave on his plane ride back to Rome from Rio after praying with some three million youth in Brazil — as the pope hitting “reset.”
The metaphor works.