Pope Francis again blasts moral legalism by religious leaders

Print More
Pope Francis celebrates a Jubilee Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on April 3, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Tony Gentile
 *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-FRANCIS-LEGALISM, originally transmitted on April 11, 2016.

Pope Francis celebrates a Jubilee Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on April 3, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Tony Gentile *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-FRANCIS-LEGALISM, originally transmitted on April 11, 2016.

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis has criticized those who care more about the letter of the law than people’s individual situations, continuing to assert the overarching theme of the landmark apostolic exhortation on the family he issued last week.

Speaking during his homily at Mass on Monday (April 11), Francis warned Catholics against such behavior by recalling the day’s Scripture reading from the Book of Acts in which Stephen is accused of blasphemy by religious leaders of the day.

“Their hearts, closed to God’s truth, clutch only at the truth of the Law, taking it by ‘the letter,’ and do not find outlets other than in lies, false witness and death,” Francis said, according to the report by Vatican Radio.

The pontiff criticized such an approach as being the wrong response to repentant people: “The heart is closed to God’s Word, it is closed to truth, and it is closed to God’s messenger who brings the prophecy so that God’s people may go forward.”

Francis cited as examples of such a merciless stance the victims of witch hunts of past centuries and St. Joan of Arc, who was burned at the stake in 15th-century France.

“History tells us of many people who were judged and killed, although they were innocent: judged according to the Word of God, against the Word of God,” he said.


RELATED STORY: Will papal document settle the controversies? (ANALYSIS)


The pope’s homily came days after he published his exhortation on the family, “Amoris Laetitia,” or “The Joy of Love,” in which he called for priests to take a more pastoral approach to people in “irregular” situations.

The book-length text included passages on how the Catholic Church should approach gay family members and remarried divorcees, among a host of other situations.

Key points from the document have been condensed into phrases published on the pope’s Twitter accounts in recent days, such as: “The welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world.”

(Rosie Scammell covers the Vatican for RNS)

  • Pingback: Pope Francis again blasts moral legalism by religious leaders - mosaicversemosaicverse()

  • Pingback: Pope Francis again blasts moral legalism by religious leaders – The Reformed Post()

  • Pingback: the confederacy of dung-IS | SPIR()

  • Uh, you might want to rethink the assumption that Lk 19:27 is Jesus’ own wish. It’s actually the final verse of a parable (i.e. of the Ten Minas, the whole passage is Lk 19:11-27). The words you quoted are Jesus’ (admittedly fictional) quotation of a king who’s a character in the parable. They aren’t necessarily what he thought or wanted, himself. To assume Jesus himself wanted people slaughtered would be like saying Lewis Carroll wanted someone killed when his character, the Queen of Hearts, shouted “Off with her head!”

  • Pingback: Pope Francis again blasts moral legalism by religious leaders -IKTHUS.NET()

  • Betty Clermont

    By not changing doctrine, the pope leaves each prelate and priest to their own interpretation. For example, Pope Francis recently extended the Holy Thursday foot-washing ritual to include women which was already being done for decades if the pastor approved. The pope’s appointed prefect in charge of liturgy announced soon after Pope Francis’ statement that no priest was obligated to include women. That is why more astute Vatican reporters than Scammell noted: “the pope’s studied ambiguity [leads] each to find something in the pope’s text to back up his thesis.” And Due to the “invincible ambiguity that characterizes the pronouncements of Pope Francis … anyone will be able to dig out from among the 200 pages of the document the passage that he likes most, and act accordingly,”

  • Reid E. Pagliaccio

    Thank you for that. Max needs a long time out.

  • Pablo

    Thank God for a Pope who teaches mercy and compassion, rather than the heretical notion that the Church understands God’s will so clearly it can write universally applicable laws describing how each individual must be judged, right here, on Earth, by men who have little to no actual experience comparable to the lives they deem themselves competent to judge.

  • Ben in oakland

    Most scholars seem to think that in this parable, the King Jesus is referring to is himself. Just google it.

    I did because I was curious about it when I first began reading Max’s comments. It was quite an eye opener.

  • Re: “Most scholars seem to think that in this parable, the King Jesus is referring to is himself. Just google it.”

    I’ve heard that contention. I simply don’t buy it. What’s more, the actual words themselves don’t actually bear out that identification. That can only be achieved by adding a layer of interpretation.

    Again, to be clear: To assume Jesus himself wanted people slaughtered would be like saying Lewis Carroll wanted someone killed when his character, the Queen of Hearts, shouted “Off with her head!”

  • Edward

    No – that’s from the Parable of the 10 Minas. Jesus talks about a fictitious king who tests his subjects while away, with deadly consequences. Never does he promote killing in His name. Read the Bible, understand the Bible…then try to use it for your limited purposes.

  • Edward

    No – that’s from the Parable of the 10 Minas. Jesus talks about a fictitious king who tests his subjects while away, with deadly consequences. Never does he promote killing in His name. Read the Bible, understand the Bible…then try to use it for your limited purposes. Compared to the entire life and teachings of Jesus, that interpretation – that He means Himself, is just wrong.

  • There is another parable in Matthew where the king hands the offenders over to torturers. I think both of these texts raise troubling issues for critical theological reflection.

  • But the Gospels contain many references to God casting people into hell; and the Holy Spirit struck down Ananias and Sapphira in Acts — let’s not be over-defensive.

  • Richard Rush

    I don’t mean to nitpick, but I wouldn’t “thank God” for this Pope. I’d thank all the people in the rich nations who have had enough sense and decency to abandon the Church, which, if it continues, would ultimately deprive the Church of the funding it needs to survive.

  • Did jesus quote people for no reason? He just hung this one out there in the breeze with no intended meaning?

  • If Jesus is also god, then Jesus is also the baby killer of the OT.

  • Since Jesus is not the author, then no, it would not be the same. It would be like saying the Queen wanted someone dead, and she did. Now you can say that the author was writing fiction, as many of us term the gospels.