ROME — Pope Francis has appealed for more changes in Catholic teaching, lamenting the “backwardism” of conservative Catholics in the United States.
“The situation is not easy in the United States where there is a very strong reactionary attitude,” the pontiff told a group of Jesuits in an interview published Monday. “It is organized and shapes the way people belong, even emotionally.”
“I would like to remind those people that ‘backwardism’ is useless and we need to understand that there is an appropriate evolution in the understanding of matters of faith and morals,” the pope declared to the Jesuit community present in Portugal during the recent celebration of World Youth Day.
As examples, Francis said that “today it is a sin to possess atomic bombs” and “the death penalty is a sin,” but “it was not so before,” in reference to changes he has made in Church teaching.
Doctrine “progresses, expands, and consolidates with time and becomes firmer, but is always progressing,” he continued.
“Our understanding of the human person changes with time and our consciousness also deepens,” he stated. “The other sciences and their evolution also help the Church in this growth in understanding.”
“The view of Church doctrine as monolithic is erroneous,” he added.
“The problems that moralists have to examine today are very serious, and to deal with them they have to take the risk of making changes,” he asserted.
A “climate of closure” can be experienced in some situations in the United States, he continued, and there “you can lose the true tradition and turn to ideologies for support.”
“In other words, ideology replaces faith, membership of a sector of the Church replaces membership of the Church,” he said, in apparent reference to conservative or traditional Catholics.
Those American groups “are isolating themselves,” he said. “Instead of living by doctrine, by the true doctrine that always develops and bears fruit, they live by ideologies.”
During his interview, the pope also insisted that the Church must pay less attention to “sins of the flesh” and more to other sins.
“It is clear that today the issue of homosexuality is very strong, and the sensitivity in this regard changes according to historical circumstances,” he said.
“But what I don’t like at all, in general, is that we look at the so-called ‘sin of the flesh’ with a magnifying glass, just as we have done for so long for the sixth commandment,” he said. “If you exploited workers, if you lied or cheated, it didn’t matter, and instead sins below the waist were relevant.”
“I am not afraid of sexualized society,” the pope declared. “No, I am afraid of how we relate to it.”