Pope Francis, in a wide-ranging interview with La Civilta Cattolica, courted new controversy with hardliners Thursday, saying the church must find a "new balance" on some of the most divisive of matters.
The discussion in the Italian Jesuit magazine is worth reading in its entirety, but until you find time for all 12,000 words, here are some of the highlights.
1. What are his thoughts on traditional hot-button issues?
The full interview, which was translated by America Press, includes the pope's acknowledgement that some Catholics are not happy that he has not spent more time speaking out against abortion, gay marriage and contraception.
Francis said that those topics should be talked about "in a context." He said, "The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time."
But in what is perhaps the interview's best sound-byte, Francis said that some in the Catholic church have grown "obsessed" with talking about abortion, gay marriage and contraception. "The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent," he said. "The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently."
Speaking on his thoughts about homosexuality, Francis said, "A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: When God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”
Several months ago, when asked about gay priests, Francis said, "Who am I to judge?"
2. On the church's role in society
"I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds …"
Yahoo News spoke with Sister Mary Ann Walsh of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops about Francis' remarks. She remarked that Francis spoke "very pastorally" in that he was very inclusive. "I was struck by his metaphor of the field hospital," Walsh said. "A place where people come to be healed in a painful world."
And while many may see Francis' remarks as controversial, Walsh found them to be "vintage Francis."
3. How does he see himself?
On the subject of being thought of as a conservative, Francis said that his "authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions led me to have serious problems and to be accused of being ultraconservative … but I have never been a right-winger.”
When asked by the interviewer, Antonio Spadaro S.J., to describe himself, Francis remarked, “I do not know what might be the most fitting description.... I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”
Francis went on to describe a painting that holds special meaning for him: "The Calling of Saint Matthew" by Caravaggio. "It is the gesture of Matthew that strikes me: he holds on to his money as if to say, ‘No, not me! No, this money is mine.’ Here, this is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze."
4. What role do women have in the Catholic Church?
When asked the role of women in the Catholic Church, Francis said that steps should be taken to "better reflect on their function within the church." He said, "Women are asking deep questions that must be addressed. The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. The woman is essential for the church. Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops. I say this because we must not confuse the function with the dignity."
5. On the issue of uncertainty
Later in the interview, Francis spoke about the power of uncertainty and his distrust of people who claim to have everything figured out.
"[I]n this quest to seek and find God in all things there is still an area of uncertainty," he said. "There must be. 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. For me, this is an important key. 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."
Francis also spoke briefly about his favorite movie, "La Strada." He said, "La Strada," by Fellini, is the movie that perhaps I loved the most. I identify with this movie, in which there is an implicit reference to St. Francis."