Pope Francis is sounding off on the Catholic Church's apparent fixation on gays and abortions, saying the church needs to be more welcoming and stop getting locked up in "small-minded rules."
In an in-depth interview with Jesuit journals, including America Magazine, the 76-year-old Argentinian leader of the Vatican Church says there is too much dogma and is surprising some with his semi-tolerant tone on gays and women who have had abortion.
"We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible," he said.
‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.
To be clear: The Pope isn't changing church doctrine, but he is calling for a less judgmental church.
The rules, Francis says, are clear and he agrees with them, "but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time. The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent."
Calling himself a sinner who believes in the holy sacrament of confession, Francis says it's the church's work to help everyone move forward in their Christian lives.
"The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord's mercy motivates us to do better," said Francis.
Francis describes the situation of a woman who has had a failed marriage and an abortion who "remarries, and she is now happy and has five children. That abortion in her past weighs heavily on her conscience and she sincerely regrets it. She would like to move forward in her Christian life."
Francis said the woman should see the church as a partner in her salvation, not as someone who would judge her.
Maybe it would be even more tolerant to accept that woman even if she doesn't get married and have a bunch of babies later in life...but we'll take it and call it "baby steps."