As Catholics filed out of Mass at St. Martha’s in Northeast Philadelphia, some stopped to share their opinion about the pope’s comments that the faith needs to find a “new balance.”
Pope Francis said in an interview published by the Jesuit magazine America that the church has become “obsessed” by “small-minded rules” and said pastors should focus on compassion over condemnation, specifically pertaining to issues of abortion, homosexuality and contraception.
Parishioner Nancy Panepresso said she doesn’t agree with the pope’s views.
“It goes against the teachings of the church,” said Panepresso. “I think he’s just trying to draw people back to the church to make it grow, I don’t know if he necessarily believes that.”
Andrea Kennedy said she welcomes the Vatican’s shift in perspective.
“I have a lot of homosexual friends and I would never judge somebody. When you love someone you love someone, you can’t help it,” Kennedy said.
Larry Steffen stressed the church needs to change in order for more people to come back to the faith.
“It’s about time that somebody stepped up and said what needed to be said,” Steffen said. “Everybody’s welcome. God loves the people. He hates the sin, he loves the people. I think it’s time for change.”
His wife, Carol, says the pope’s words are an invitation for those who have felt unwelcome in the past.
“I think he teaches what Christ taught, I don’t know that he’s progressive, I think he’s refreshing,” she said. “He’s not saying what man would say, he’s saying what Christ taught. So I love Pope Francis, I really do.”
The pope also spoke about a need for new roles for women in the church, although he did not go so far as to endorse admitting women to the priesthood. Patricia Woods said that’s encouraging.
“I think that women should have more say in things and have more jobs within the church. We have a lot of woman that work in the church here, in fact we’re voting now for people to be in the council, women have a lot to say, and should have a lot to say.”
The pope also stated that the church “is likely to fall like a house of cards” without change. While his comments show a departure in emphasis compared to his predecessors, they have not altered any church teachings.