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Cardinal stresses that pope will not change Church teachings

O'Malley says he does not expect doctrinal change on contentious issues

Cardinal stresses that pope will not change Church teachings

Picture: AFP Photo/Tiziana Fabi

John L. Allen Jr. and Lisa Wangsness for the Boston Globe
United States

February 12, 2014

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Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley says he shares in the sense of wonder at how swiftly Pope Francis has captured the world’s attention and softened, with his sometimes startling words and personal gestures, the image of the Roman Catholic Church.

But he cautions that those with high expectations that the shift in tone presages major changes in church teachings on contraception, abortion, homosexuality, and other flashpoint issues are likely to be disappointed.

“I don’t see the pope as changing doctrine,’’ O’Malley said in an interview with the Globe, though he said the pontiff’s focus on compassion and mercy over doctrinal purity has reverberated powerfully throughout the church.

The Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston and the closest American adviser to the popular new pontiff, O’Malley said says it would also be unrealistic to expect the church to consider allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive the sacraments, even though Francis himself once appeared to signal openness to the idea.

“The church needs to be faithful to the Gospel and to Christ’s teaching,” O’Malley said. “Sometimes that’s very difficult. We have to follow what Christ wants, and trust that what he asks of us is the best thing.”

O’Malley asked that the interview, conducted at the rectory of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston’s South End, where he lives with four other priests, focus on the pope and the global church, not local matters such as the controversy at Fontbonne Academy, a Catholic girls’ school in Milton, where an applicant to run the food service was dropped from consideration after revealing that he is in a gay marriage.

The cardinal said Francis’ early stress has been on changing the emphasis of the church, which in the past has been “too strident, maybe too repetitious.”

The pope wants to focus more on evangelism, mercy, and care for the poor, O’Malley said.

Church observers have speculated that bishops might discuss revising the prohibition on remarried Catholics receiving the sacraments in a worldwide gathering, or synod, in Rome this fall to discuss the church’s ministry on family issues.

Two prominent prelates close to the pope have offered clashing views on the matter, and Francis himself, in remarks to reporters aboard the papal plane in July, appeared to signal flexibility on the question.

But O’Malley said that although the pope is concerned about the plight of remarried Catholics who want to be close to the church, “I don’t see any theological justification” for relaxing the rules.

In preparation for the synod, the Vatican has been gathering input from bishops around the world on how the church communicates its teachings on the family and sexual morality, and how receptive Catholics are to those teachings.

German bishops last week released their response to the Vatican, a remarkably blunt assessment asserting that most German Catholics reject the church’s views on sexual morality and view its position on homosexuality as discrimination. (The US bishops declined to release their reply.)

Asserting it was already well known know that some Catholics break with the church on these issues, O’Malley said, “I don’t think that’s a stunning revelation. You could have saved some postage if that’s the only thing you got out of it.”

Full Story: Pope softening tone, not stance, O’Malley says

Source: Boston Globe


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