Fr. Paul Check - Credit: Andreas Dueren/CNA.
No change in doctrine.
The discussion on what the Pope meant when he asked, "who am I to judge?" goes round and round ever since the Holy Father spoke to reporters last year on the plane trip home from WYD Rio. Pope Francis was answering a specific question relative to rumors about a 'gay lobby' in the Vatican. Controversy ensues.
Fr. Paul Check is Director of Courage Apostolate, and in a recent interview with CNA, Fr. Check shares his insight into what the Holy Father may have intended with his comment. Fr. Check's words are very helpful and may offer a more spiritually hospitable and conciliatory understanding of the attitude taken by the Holy Father, while putting at ease those who think the Pope made a mistake - or was indicating a change in Church teaching.
In the Scriptures, Jesus does not hesitate to teach doctrine and basic truths to large groups, as in the sermon on the mount. Yet he also “engages people in another way, a very personal way, one at a time.”
“I think that the emphasis Pope Francis is bringing to us right now is on the second way: very personally, listening to people and speaking with them and 'walking with' them, guiding them, bringing them to Christ,” explained Fr. Check.
“I am not an authoritative interpreter of the Pope's comments,” he cautioned, “but here's the way I understand them.”
The priest then turned to the story of Jesus' meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well who has had five husbands.
“Our Lord knows well that there is a moral question here that's involved, and indeed it's a chastity question. The woman is living in an 'irregular' way. But he doesn’t begin the conversation with her about the moral problem. Instead, he talks with her about her interest – and more than her interest, her desire for God.”
“So he engages her in a very personal way about something that is already resident in her heart…he speaks with her about God, and then he speaks with her about the life of God…(and) also about her desire for eternal life, which is something that we all have,” Fr. Check continued.
Jesus “engages her in this very lovely sequence, and he keeps the conversation going with her until he reaches that point when it is appropriate to say, and when she can receive, what it is that she’s about to hear about the irregular condition in which she’s living, and she doesn’t deny it.”
“But he has established a relationship with her, and I think this is very much what our Holy Father is suggesting: that we are to walk with people, to get to know them, (although) of course, we don’t have the benefit of knowing what’s in someone’s heart the way that Jesus does, so all the more reason that we have to take care,” Fr. Check noted.
“I think that personal engagement, the walking with, is something that he is proposing,” and “I think the Holy Father is very prudent and charitable in wanting to think about how people receive the message of the gospel today and to find ways in which that teaching can be announced in a way that people can receive it.” - Finish reading here.
For information on Courage Apostolate go here.