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Pope Francis says the Catholic Church has become "obsessed" with abortion, gay marriage, and contraception, and it needs to get over it. "It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time," the pope said in an interview with La Civiltà Cattolica, as The New York Times reports. Even before these latest comments, many had noted that Pope Francis's public statements suggest he's kind of a radicalIn the first six months of his papacy, the pope has said atheists should "abide by their own conscience," said of gay priests "who am I to judge them?," and said the church needs a new "theology of women" as "the role of women doesn't end just with being a mother and with housework."

"We have to find a new balance, otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel," the pope said in the interview published on Thursday. The church should not be a "small chapel" focused on doctrine, but a "home for all." The pope said he was not, as some had suspected, an "ultraconservative." Though he had an "authoritarian" style when he was young, "I have never been a right-winger."

This is a big deal. "The new pope’s words are likely to have repercussions in a church whose bishops and priests in many countries, including the United States, often appeared to make combating abortion, gay marriage and contraception their top public policy priorities," the Times explains. As Michael D'Antonio argued in Foreign Policy in July, on gay rights, "the pope has begun a discussion that will continue in parishes worldwide and may lead, over the long term, to a revision of official teaching." For three decades, conservative church leaders have failed to respond to a sex abuse crisis and the abandonment of people in the industrialized West, D'Antonio wrote. 

Issues like homosexuality, the status of women, and the desire of many priests to be married, were never going to be addressed successfully by men who could not reach out with authentic warmth. Francis, the man they selected, seems up to the task.

(In the above right photo, via the Associated Press, Pope Francis takes a selfie.)

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