During his September apostolic journey to Mozambique, Pope Francis had a meeting with a group of 24 Jesuits, 20 from Mozambique, three from Zimbabwe and one from Portugal. The pope invited them to ask questions, and they engaged him on several issues including, among other things, xenophobia, ministering to youth, and countering denominations which offer promises of riches to the faithful. La Civilta Cattolica captured a transcript of their conversations.
In answer to a question about how to avoid falling into clericalism, the pope responded with an analysis of the problem which included this nugget of wisdom:
“One dimension of clericalism is the exclusive moral fixation on the sixth commandment. Once a Jesuit, a great Jesuit, told me to be careful in giving absolution, because the most serious sins are those that are more angelical: pride, arrogance, dominion… And the least serious are those that are less angelical, such as greed and lust. We focus on sex and then we do not give weight to social injustice, slander, gossip and lies. The Church today needs a profound conversion in this area.”
This advice is great wisdom to give to clerical church leaders. It reflects the pope’s preference for the Church to be known as a church of social justice, rather than as a church that primarily polices sexuality. Many leaders in our church need to hear this message, but perhaps none more than the ones who have placed sexuality as the primary sin and have fired church employees for living and loving in the ways that God has created them. In doing so, they never consider the church’s teachings on the rights of workers or the dignity of labor. Social justice is pushed to the side.
Moreover, they do not fire other employees who are not living in accordance with church teachings in other areas besides sexuality. We have yet to hear of anyone fired because of not living in accord with church teachings on greed, the death penalty, unbridled capitalism, destruction of the environment, and war. The church opposes all those things, and more, but no one is fired because of them.
Let’s join with Pope Francis to pray for the conversion of our church in this area.
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, October 5, 2019