Many commentators on the Roman Catholic faith have portrayed Pope Francis, the current papal head, as being particularly sensitive to the need for the church to adjust some of its policies and become more accommodating to diverse groups of believers as the 21st century unfolds.
As an example, a New York Times story from yesterday focusing upon the church stance toward same-sex marriage, divorced and remarried Catholics, single parents, unmarried couples and related issues referred to the pope’s “usual compassionate tone” in addressing such matters.
The pope’s words centering on faith and families are receiving even more than customary scrutiny this year, given upcoming high-level discussions scheduled on social issues scheduled for October.
The debate promises to be brisk and sharply opinionated, with high-echelon Catholic conservatives making no secret of their opposition to material church changes in certain areas.
As one example of church division, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, recently called lifelong marriage between a man and a woman without any possibility for divorce a “basic truth of biblical faith and natural law.”
Pope Francis seems to be trying hard to eschew such hard-line rhetoric, which obviously riles and deeply concerns believers who do not fit that mold, such as same-sex married couples and divorced Catholics who seek to remarry or have already done so.
In reference to that latter group, the pope earlier this week called upon priests to welcome them with “doors wide open,” without mentioning current church doctrine that does not allow divorced and remarried Catholics from receiving confession or communion.
Many members — and would-be members — of the church are obviously looking forward to October’s summit, with hopes that the church will speak with clarity and one voice on the many family issues that presently vie for its closest attention.