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 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/