“I see clearly,” the pope continues, “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…. And you have to start from the ground up.
“The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person. The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, ‘This is not a sin’ or something like that. In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds.
“How are we treating the people of God? I dream of a church that is a mother and shepherdess. The church’s ministers must be merciful, take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the good Samaritan, who washes, cleans and raises up his neighbor. This is pure Gospel. God is greater than sin. The structural and organizational reforms are secondary—that is, they come afterward. The first reform must be the attitude.
I have nothing to say. No commentary or analysis. I think it is a rich text that needs to be read and re-read on its own terms, without a defensive or fearful spirit, with no additions from the press or myself. Please, don’t read it for melodrama or controversy: read for what is there, no more and no less. Grab a cup of coffee and sit down for a few minutes to hear what Pope Francis — the man of flesh and bone — has to say. Breathe. Think. Ponder. Question. Imagine. Check. Double-check. Set it aside. Repeat. Then, and only then, perhaps, express an opinion or a point of view, with charity. Resist the temptation to objectify, politicize, and use the Pope’s words, given in a pastoral spirit.
Time for me to re-read.
More here, in very much the same spirit, from The Anchoress, Elizabeth Scalia.