Did Pope Francis Really Say That?

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I love Pope Francis and I know I’m not the only one. From the moment he was elected at the conclave nearly two years ago, it seems that everyone—including the media, the non-religious and the fallen-away Catholics—fell in love with him. He is simple, down to earth, and most importantly he has a heart for the poor and outcast.

I have had a lot of conversations with people who have a renewed interest in the Catholic Church because of Pope Francis. But with the renewed interest has come a lot of confusion as well. If I were only to consider what I have heard from media and from friends and family, I would think that Pope Francis has changed the teachings in the Catholic Church. In the past couple of months, I have heard several people say:

–       Pope Francis has changed many of the Church’s oldest teachings.

–       Pope Francis has declared that gay marriage is coming to the Catholic Church.

–       Pope Francis is going to be lifting the ban on contraception and all the other disliked teachings in the Church.

I can’t tell you how many people I have spoken with who believe that these changes have taken place and they are excited to see change. Forget Obama’s “Change we can believe in.” Here comes Pope Francis!

Unfortunately for these people, none of these changes are true and they are never going to happen.

For many who have left the Church, one of the biggest things that they are waiting for is change in teaching—in particular the Church’s sexual teachings. Whether it’s gay marriage, divorce, contraception, or chastity, there is no shortage of people advocating for the Catholic Church to change.

The problem is that this is impossible. The Pope understands that these teachings were handed down by Jesus Christ and the Church does not have the authority to change something that Jesus taught. The Pope doesn’t have the ability to change doctrine. Pope Francis can change the pastoral focus of the Church, he can emphasize different parts of Christ’s teaching, he can even change some of the disciplines in the Church, but the teachings of Christ cannot be changed by anyone—he has a responsibility to teach what Christ taught.

So why is it that so many people want to see the Church change its sexual teachings? The reality is – Jesus taught some difficult things and his difficult teachings are reflected in the Church’s sexual teachings. Consider this:

–       Committing to save sex until a lifetime commitment in marriage—that’s hard.

–       Relying upon self-control rather than birth control—that’s hard.

–       Entrusting same-sex attractions to God and committing to find intimacy in Him—that’s hard.

–       Loving your spouse in the worst of times (like you promised in your wedding vows) instead of getting divorced—that’s hard.

It is countercultural to believe that following the Church’s teachings will result in a greater experience of love in your life. It is only someone who pushes through the difficulty and comes out on the other side that discovers why God has given us these difficult teachings.

Someone might look at the sexual teachings of the Church and ask, “When did Jesus teach these things? Where can I find it in the Bible?” Although chapter-and-verse proof can be shown, the simplest answer is that the relationship between the “Bridegroom” and the “Bride” is interwoven throughout the Bible. From Adam and Eve in the first chapter of Genesis to the relationship between Christ and His Church in the final chapter of Revelation—the imagery of the Bridegroom and Bride is among the most important teachings in all of Christianity. If you don’t understand this imagery—you really don’t understand the Bible, or Christianity at all. God loves us like a Bridegroom loves his bride. It is in the light of this imagery that all of the Church’s teachings make sense. Because we’re made in the image and likeness of a God who is love, human love should reflect divine love. When it fails to do this, it ceases to be love.

____________________

Everett-Fritz-headshot3-840x1024Everett Fritz works in Catholic Youth Ministry and enjoys speaking on the topics of chastity, discipleship, and youth evangelization. He is the Content Development and Promotion Lead for YDisciple at the Augustine Institute where he also holds an MA in Theology. Everett resides in Denver with his wife Katrina and their three children. You can connect with him through Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/catholiceverettfritz or Twitter: @everettfritz and http://everettfritz.com/

Image via FlickrCC 2.0.

38 Comments

  1. Thank you for speaking the truth. Most people do not want to conform to the Church so they try to find one that teaches what they want verses what Christ taught.

    By wanda englert | 1 year ago Reply
  2. Very well pointed!!

    By Adina | 1 year ago Reply
  3. This is an irresponsible description of Catholic tradition. There are very few teachings “handed down by Jesus Christ” and the church is clear it rejects such fundamentalist conceptions of its teachings. Church teachings change and evolve, as does the interpretation and reception of them. The instances of change are manifold (clear examples — religious liberty, slavery, sacramental understandings).

    The church is a living organism, guided in all ages by the Spirit towards a dynamism that Pope Francis is allowing to break through once again. Our ability to grow, evolve, and change comes from a direct recognition that Jesus Christ preached the Gospel — he did not preach a list of specific teachings, nor could he have for our modern world. The Gospel guides our thinking.

    To present it as “Jesus said X so we believe X” is leading people astray and into docility. Help people to think critically, form their consciences, and act from their own agency — as Jesus did — rather than demanding adherence.

    By Bob Shine | 1 year ago Reply
  4. Pope Francis is amazing and inspirational. And also not changing doctrine! Unfortunately he is the media’s favorite victim for twisting words. I find that a lot of non Catholics/fallen away Catholics like him for things he never said and that many Catholics don’t like him for the same reason. I learned to only read Pope news from good sources, like the Vatican itself so I don’t get confusing news. Just goes to show how the media can be unreliable. Know your sources! Translation is key!

    #thingsthePopeneversaid #thePopeistillCatholic

    By Kristine | 1 year ago Reply
  5. This is an excellent article that I would like to share. I understand your wording in the italicized paragraph, but prefer a more hopeful wording, e.g. rather than “Unfortunately for these people,” it might read “We pay that one day these people will see that”. Thank you for your

    By Mary F. | 1 year ago Reply
  6. it’s true I have seen soo much of this too. From people who are not practicing Catholics who were raised and yet fallen away and people who are non Catholics who think OMG did you hear what the pope said.. like it’s a big change.. and I’m like thinking to myself, here we go with someone who thinks they know better than us or better than the faith. I even catch myself saying things like hey, I said what the pope said 6 years ago, but of course the pope says it better and he has proof. The Church has not taken anything out of doctrine or teachings or tradition or scripture. They are with the times as always. Still other people will say, I like this pope better than that pope.. seriously??? Each pope in their day was ahead of the times and kept Catholicism alive. They knew the risks and dangers that were coming. I think seriously when Obama had his Change slogan it really wasn’t about him, even thought I still naive to know that. I knew something bigger would always be happening and it always is within us, our Faith in the Catholic Church. Not a Change but a continuation and growth. Which is a “change” we can believe in.

    By Roseann | 1 year ago Reply
  7. beautifully said.

    By Susan Allen | 1 year ago Reply
  8. Thank you so much for writing this piece and showing the interwoven relationship God has with us. We have to maintain a firm resolve to not get confused or deterred from the message. God Bless you and your family.

    By Paola Moreno | 1 year ago Reply
  9. Thanks Everett for your writing ! Well done !
    God bless,
    Loree

    By Loree Johnson | 1 year ago Reply
  10. Great article thx!

    By Amy | 1 year ago Reply
  11. Great article!! I remember thinking as soon as I saw the white smoke that we had nothing to fear because Christ promised the Church that He would be with her until the end of time. I took that thought as a warning to not believe anything else but fro faithful Catholic media

    By Theresa | 1 year ago Reply
  12. Handed down by jesus christ? where in the new testament has Jesus explicitly stated his opposition against gay marriage, etc.?

    By David | 1 year ago Reply
    • Check out Patrick Madrid’s book “Where is That in the Bible”. It is a spectacular little book that will answer your question & much more!

      By kristy | 1 year ago Reply
    • Divine Command Theory and Sola Scriptura are not Catholic concepts. They came out of the Protestant Reformation. Biblical scholarship in Catholicism would never start with the question, “Where did Jesus explicitly state this?” A Catholic understands that God’s Revelation to man is entirely covered in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition – not in the Gospels alone. It was the apostles who lived with and learned from Christ and it is the apostles who were tasked with passing down Christ’s teachings from generation to generation (not only the Bible which was compiled by the successors to the apostles). To answer your question – I think the key texts to understand God’s purpose for marriage are Genesis 1-3 (which lays out Christian anthropology), Paul’s letter to Ephesus (chapter 5 speaks of marriage as a mystery – in understanding the relationship between Christ and His Church) and the final chapters of Revelation where the Bride enters Heaven and reunites with Her Bridegroom. The Catholic understanding of marriage is that this is THE image of divine love and therefore, we cannot change the definition because we would lose our understanding of the way that God loves us.

      By Everett | 1 year ago Reply
      • Please answer the question posed by David.

        By Marianne | 1 year ago Reply
        • I did. If you absolutely have to have it straight out of Jesus’ mouth in order to believe it – then look to the Book of Revelation. The book starts by calling John’s vision of an angel, “The revelation of Jesus Christ.” Meaning, this is coming straight from Jesus. Revelation 21 speaks of Christ as the bridegroom and the Church as His bride. The key text to understand why this is comes from St. Paul’s letter to Ephesus. Summary, Heaven itself reflects the truth of the relationship between a bridegroom and bride. Jesus’s definition of marriage is groom and bride. All of Scripture and Tradition supports this point. I don’t know how I could make it anymore clear.

          By Everett | 1 year ago Reply
          • It still doesn’t answer David’s question, just muddies the water more. If we take revelation at face value like you seem to, then the church should all be female, if a bride has to be female that logically follows. Ephesians also talks about rules for husband and bride but it doesn’t even come close to saying you cannot be gay and married. It also then goes on to talk about how slaves should treat their masters but even the church now recognizes that slavery is wrong. You cant use leviticus to emphasise a point(which you didn’t but most do) otherwise you need to follow all the rules there which is near impossible in todays society!
            In truth other than trying to read between the lines and using old testament laws that Jesus replaced their is nowhere in the bible that forbids homosexuality!
            If you want to use sodom and gomorah as an example, well then you also cannot celebrate birthdays, as the only birthdays mentioned in the bible someone is beheaded. Just becuase it is mentioned in connection with a bad act doesnt mean it is bad in itself.
            Nowhere in the bible, that I know of, is it explicitly mentioned as bad, in fact there is some evidence that certain words, when translated from greek, show king david as having homosexual tendancies, and Ruth as also.

            By Confused | 1 year ago
      • St Paul spells out that turning away from God leads to sexual immorality: Rom 1.21-32

        By Tamsin Geach | 1 year ago Reply
      • Preach it Brother preach it!

        By Jorge Ortiz | 1 year ago Reply
    • Catholics celebrate holy matrimony. Aka marriage. Matrimony means “to make a mother” which is what the Catholic Church believes is the purpose of marriage. Which is why gay marriage won’t occur in a Catholic Church. God certainly never said he hated the homosexuals, he came so save everyone by loving us all so much he died for our sins so that we may see heaven someday.

      By LA | 1 year ago Reply
  13. Entrusting same-sex attractions to God and committing to find intimacy in Him—that’s hard.

    i really want to know where in the bible it is mentioned like this..i am straight..but in most areas of my life i think like jesus..if jesus have said the above..then it would mean since God created gays and wanted them to trust in him alone and not go for marriages..so 2 gay people loving each other have to love God instead of eachother..i a;ways go by logic.and since i have known many other religions..my respect to christianity and love for christ is because of his teachings..i have had discussions with catholics based on the above issue..i really dont thnk jesus as i know him would say something like this..if he did..then it would mean i trusted wrong..pls tell me this isnt true

    By Mathew | 1 year ago Reply
  14. Wonderful article for all.

    By Mariana | 1 year ago Reply
  15. thank you for these simple truths restated. I am reposting now.

    By Tom Houlihan | 1 year ago Reply
  16. I even have a word for this pastoral shift: “shadow magisterium.” Sounds ominous and catchy doesn’t it? It is the magisterium that only exists in the public consciousness, and is perpetuated by unfaithful and disobedient members of the hierarchy. (Think liberation theology) and the secular media, who have the same interests in destroying the Church and replacing it with the world-wide ecumenical humanitarian religion cosponsored by the EU, UN and World Bank. The confusion is deliberate, like the liquidation of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The solution won’t be found in our clergy or even the Church unfortunately since we’re dead center in the middle of the “diabolical disorientation” that Sister Lucy spoke of. It will take a lot of devotion to the true pillars of the Church (Holy Eucharist and the Rosasy) to ride this storm out and hopefully get a sincere pastor in the Church, not another geopolitician fronting for the economic community.

    By Matthew | 1 year ago Reply
  17. The idea that we have an unmediated record of what Jesus taught about gender and sexuality is open to question. We know Christ taught love was the key to true discipleship. How the teachings of the Church have been passed down to us today through centuries of history is a study of one interpretation after another. Each one was influenced by the circumstances of the time and the limits of scientific knowledge of the time. A tradition built up but there were social constraints, political ones, that restricted the construction of knowledge too. Over-simplification usually reveals a push for power. It is the duty of power to expand, to exaggerate for a purpose of control. Fundamentalism.

    By Scilla Stack | 1 year ago Reply
  18. Thank you may God bless you

    By Gary Presley | 1 year ago Reply
  19. thanks Everet, this article made some simple points in a very clear way – thank you
    God bless you and your family

    By Denise | 1 year ago Reply
  20. Please cite the bible verses where Jesus Christ handed down his teachings on gay marriage.
    And then actually review what Pope Francis is saying before you post these. It’s the bishops who are resistant to change – not the Pope and definitely not “what Jesus (did not) say”.
    This is why people are leaving the Catholic Church.

    By Katie | 1 year ago Reply
    • The sins of Martin Luther continue to shape the fall of Christianity in the world. The question that you ask is a flawed question. It suggests that the entirety of God’s WORD is contained only in the recorded “words” of the Gospels. Meaning that if the Gospel writers didn’t write it, it must not be true. This IS NOT a Catholic approach to biblical scholarship. Also, I’m aware of Pope Francis’ comments. They were made in reference to a homosexual who was living out the Church’s teachings. Also the Synod is discussing pastoral approaches for homosexuals, not a change in Catholic teaching. See the comments that I made above to someone who had a similar question. I’ve copied and pasted them here:

      “Divine Command Theory and Sola Scriptura are not Catholic concepts. They came out of the Protestant Reformation. Biblical scholarship in Catholicism would never start with the question, “Where did Jesus explicitly state this?” A Catholic understands that God’s Revelation to man is entirely covered in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition – not in the Gospels alone. It was the apostles who lived with and learned from Christ and it is the apostles who were tasked with passing down Christ’s teachings from generation to generation (not only the Bible which was compiled by the successors to the apostles). To answer your question – I think the key texts to understand God’s purpose for marriage are Genesis 1-3 (which lays out Christian anthropology), Paul’s letter to Ephesus (chapter 5 speaks of marriage as a mystery – in understanding the relationship between Christ and His Church) and the final chapters of Revelation where the Bride enters Heaven and reunites with Her Bridegroom. The Catholic understanding of marriage is that this is THE image of divine love and therefore, we cannot change the definition because we would lose our understanding of the way that God loves us.”

      By Everett | 1 year ago Reply
      • Your comments are strong and you have a great understanding how the Holy Spirit guides the Holy Catholic Church. Are you a priest or religious?

        By Don Bothwell | 1 year ago Reply
  21. Well written. I would only quibble with one line. It is not unfortunate but fortunate for those who have left the Church that she will never change her teaching.

    By Matt | 1 year ago Reply
  22. Great great read!! Thnx Everett!!

    By Dom Lawes | 1 year ago Reply
  23. Thank you for this excellent article! I’ve heard so many people say each of these things, and it’s difficult to explain.

    By Hyram | 1 year ago Reply
  24. It is difficult for people who are gay, divorced, financially insecure who can’t afford 3 kids or who are not healthy enough to bear kids.. The world is trying to help them out by legalising these difficulties and even if the church thinks these are wrong as catholics we have to acknowledge these difficulties that people go through… try and put ourselves in their shoes.. Pope Francis has tried to do the same, I’m glad that he did so… You can’t abandon your brother just because he was made gay or your sister because she uses contraceptives…. The Bible tells us to love so let’s just love and pray for the people who go through such difficulties..

    By Tammy | 1 year ago Reply
  25. Well said Everett, hard for people to hear but very well said.

    By Dave Ottaviani | 1 year ago Reply
  26. I just read Everett’s first post where he is a youth minister. Never mind the first question. Still great understanding on your part.

    By Don Bothwell | 1 year ago Reply
  27. “handed down by Jesus Christ”? The catholic church is, literally, the modern manifestation of the Roman Empire. The doctrine, teachings, authority of the church were all created by selective editing by the Romans in the 4th century, and anyone who thought differently was hunted and destroyed. This article is another example of the Catholic church’s deep-rooted fear and hatred of sexuality. Celibacy can be a useful tool in spiritual practice, but to then extrapolate that sexual pleasure must be wrong is intellectually lazy, reactionary, and defensive. To reduce God to your own psychological hang-ups is the real sin – you are very far from God when you narrow your horizons, make judgements, and claim “the Truth” only for yourself. Do you really think “divine love” is only between male & female? What about my love for my cat? Or for the Earth? I think it’s really really sad that the author can’t see what love truly is. Love is ENORMOUS – love is god – love is the universe – it encompasses everything & everyone. For a human mind to decide that God doesn’t include certain people, is the height of arrogance!

    By Bethany Hunt | 1 year ago Reply
  28. Pope Francis is not actually that great. He could be in for a formal correction in a couple of months, something quite rare, but definitely allowable.

    By Felicity | 1 year ago Reply

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