Pope Francis: Church's 'obsession' with gays, abortion and contraception means it risks 'falling like a house of cards'

Pontiff also describes himself as a "sinner" in tell-all interview
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In one of his most extensive interviews since taking office, Pope Francis has criticised the Catholic Church’s “obsession” with the issues of abortion, gay marriage and contraception.

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods… When we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in context,” he said.  Adding that the church should not be “obsessed” with transmitting “a disjointed multitude of doctrines,” Pope Francis said: “We have to find a new balance; otherwise the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”

The Pontiff reflected on his comment “Who am I to judge?” regarding homosexuality when visiting Rio de Janeiro in July and said: “If a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge... Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.”

The Pope also spoke about the role of women in the church, saying that they had ‘a different make up’ than a man, but that the ‘feminine genius’ was still needed in church decisions.

The revealing interview, in which the Pope also talks about his love of music, literature and films, is the result of a series of talks Pope Francis had in August with Antonio Spadaro, editor of La Civiltà Cattolica, an Italian Jesuit journal.

Pope Francis on himself…

"I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner. Perhaps I can say that I am a bit astute, that I can adapt to circumstances, but it is also true that I am a bit naïve… but the best summary, the one that comes from inside and I feel most true is this: I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon."

Pope Francis on homosexuality…

"In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this. During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.

"A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: “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. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing."

Pope Francis on the role of women in the church…

"I am wary of a solution that can be reduced to a kind of ‘female machismo,’ because a woman has a different make-up than a man. But what I hear about the role of women is often inspired by an ideology of machismo… We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman. Only by making this step will it be possible to better reflect on their function within the church. The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions."

Pope Francis on becoming a Jesuit…

"Three things in particular struck me about the Society: the missionary spirit, community and discipline. And this is strange, because I am a really, really undisciplined person. But their discipline, the way they manage their time—these things struck me so much."

Pope Francis on his style of management when in charge of the Jesuit order in Argentina…

"My style of government as a Jesuit at the beginning had many faults… I found myself provincial when I was still very young. I was only 36 years old. I had to deal with difficult situations, and I made decisions abruptly and by myself.

"My authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions led me to have serious problems and to be accused of being ultraconservative. I lived a time of great interior crisis when I was in Cordova. To be sure, I have never been like Blessed Imelda, but I have never been a right-winger. It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems."

Pope Francis on literature, music and films…

"I have really loved a diverse array of authors. I love very much Dostoevsky and Hölderlin. I have read The Betrothed, by Alessandro Manzoni, three times, and I have it now on my table because I want to read it again. Manzoni gave me so much. I also liked Gerard Manley Hopkins very much.

"Among musicians I love Mozart, of course. I like listening to Beethoven… And then Bach’s Passions. Then, at a different level, not intimate in the same way, I love Wagner. I like to listen to him, but not all the time.

"La Strada by Fellini is the movie that perhaps I loved the most. I identify with this movie, in which there is an implicit reference to St. Francis. I also believe that I watched all the Italian movies with Anna Magnani and Aldo Fabrizi when I was between 10 and 12 years old. Another film that I loved is Rome, Open City [by Roberto Rossellini]. I owe my film culture especially to my parents who used to take us to the movies quite often."