Last week, I suggested that conservatives were adopting a fairly blase stance towards the Pope's interview, emphasizing the Pope's affirmation of existing doctrine. In today's Chicago Tribune, Cardinal George offers a clinic in how to water down the significance of the Pope's remarks:
"I think it's a good examination of conscience," George said outside Holy Name Cathedral, where he had just celebrated a Mass honoring couples married for 50 years. "I also think that he's coming from the viewpoint of a pastor who is close to the Lord and close to the people."
But George, a vocal opponent of gay marriage, warned that some had gone too far in seeing Pope Francis' interview as a move away from long-held church teachings on homosexuality, abortion and contraception. "Everybody is welcome," George said, "but not everything we do can be acceptable. Not everything I do, and not everything anybody else does."
Pope Francis said in the interview that the church "cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently." When asked Sunday whether Catholics had become obsessed with the moral issues the pope named, George said the church was addressing society's concerns.
"If the society is obsessed with those issues," George said, "then the church will respond. If the society doesn't bring them up, the church won't respond." Pope Francis, George said, differentiated between people and their actions. George said the pope's most important point was to "accept people and then work with them."
"His position was, 'Don't judge a person,'" the cardinal said. "It wasn't anything about saying, 'Don't judge an action as moral or immoral.' It was taken to say we shouldn't judge the activity." The pope's interview, George said, wasn't about changing policy but about rethinking the way Catholics frame their message.