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Religion, and especially Catholicism, is widely associated with certitude and doctrinal pronouncements that draw rigid lines designed to show who’s in and who’s out, who’s right and who’s wrong.
This pope has a different view.
"Pope Francis is comfortable with gray," writes the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit at America magazine, which published the papal exclusive. Francis says those frightened "disciplinarians" who desire "an exaggerated doctrinal security" are missing the Christian message.
Indeed, Francis says: "If a person says that he met God with total certainty and is not touched by a margin of uncertainty, then this is not good. … If one has the answers to all the questions — that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself."
The point is to have a church that is a big, messy, welcoming family, "not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity."
All of these points add up to the biggest takeaway, namely …
5. Change is good
"There are ecclesiastical rules and precepts that were once effective, but now they have lost value or meaning," Francis says. "The view of the church’s teaching as a monolith to defend without nuance or different understandings is wrong."
Instead, he continues, the church "must better understand how human beings understand themselves today, in order to develop and deepen the church’s teaching" and to "grow in the understanding of the truth" and "mature in her own judgment."
In his comments, the pope seems to echo the 19th-century English convert, Cardinal John Henry Newman, who has been both celebrated and condemned for his writings on how doctrine evolves over time. It was Newman who famously said: "To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often."
It is unclear how long any changes might take under Francis or exactly what form they will take. But after this week’s developments, it seems inevitable that change is coming, and Francis won’t be deterred by naysayers.
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