Pope Francis addresses the crowd during his weekly general audience in St Peter's square on November 18, 2015 at the Vatican. While Pope Francis’ humble nature has earned him global acclaim, he has ruffled feathers and raised eyebrows among millhomosexualsions of conservative Catholics by his statements on church doctrine, especially with regard to women, , abortion and divorce. PHOTO | MASSIMO VALICCHIA
By Kariuki Waihenya, Daily Nation
While Pope Francis’ humble nature has earned him global acclaim, he has ruffled feathers and raised eyebrows among millions of conservative Catholics by his statements on church doctrine, especially with regard to women, homosexuals, abortion and divorce.
On the plane from Brazil in 2013, Pope Francis spoke out against discrimination against gays.
“When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of the lobby. If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalised. The tendency is not the problem,” he said.
The remarks provoked disbelief among conservatives who consider gay relations immoral, based on Pope Benedict XVI’s teachings that “homosexual acts are an intrinsic moral evil.”
Little wonder then that The Advocate, the US national gay and lesbian news magazine, named Pope Francis its Person of the Year in 2013.
On abortion, Pope Francis has made it clear that the Church considers it a grave moral sin. However, he has granted priests the authority to forgive women who are remorseful about it.
While this pronouncement doesn’t mark a shift in the Catholic doctrine, it introduces a new perspective to the way the church treats women who commit abortion because priests have to seek the approval of a bishop before granting absolution.
In what has been widely referred to as an uncharacteristic slip of the tongue, the Jesuit Pope controversially said Catholics need not breed like rabbits, directly contradicting the Church’s long held view that artificial contraception is a sin.
He later took back the statement, declaring that there were many church-approved ways to regulate births.
He also praised large families for “welcoming children as true gifts of God”.
The Pope has taken on the controversial subject of climate change, declaring in his first encyclical that the Catholic Church supports the war on global warming, because the future of humanity is at stake.
He says human beings have an obligation to protect the environment.
He also stormed into the Evolution and Big Bang theory debate, saying it doesn’t contradict the role of a divine creator but actually boosts it.
Perhaps one of his most controversial positions has been on divorced Catholics who the church has frowned upon and almost excommunicated for centuries.
He told a Vatican congregation that divorced people belong to the church and asked priests to welcome Catholics who have remarried without having annulled their previous marriages.
Such Catholics have been traditionally barred from receiving sacrament, the very heart of their faith.
Nevertheless, Pope Francis has steered clear of equally controversial subjects in the Catholic Church like the ordination of women and the abolition of celibacy in priesthood.
He has, however, praised the role of women in church and last year described them in glowing terms. “They are gifts of delicacy and possess special sensitivity and tenderness,” the Pontiff said.
Catholics consider celibacy archaic since many priests and bishops don’t practice it.