Pope Francis said the church has the right to express its opinions but not to "interfere spiritually" in the lives of gays and lesbians, expanding on explosive comments he made in July about not judging homosexuals.
In a wide-ranging interview published Thursday, the pope also said that women must play a key role in church decisions and brushed off critics who say he should be more vocal about fighting abortion and gay marriage.
Moreover, if the church fails to find a "new balance" between its spiritual and political missions, the pope warned, its moral foundation will "fall like a house of cards."
The interview, released by Jesuit magazines in several different languages and 16 countries on Thursday, offers perhaps the most expansive and in-depth view of Francis' vision for the Roman Catholic Church.
The pope's comments don't break with Catholic doctrine or policy, but instead show a shift in approach, moving from censure to engagement.
Elected in March with the expectation that he would try to reform the Vatican, an institution that many observers say is riven by corruption and turf wars, Francis said his first mission is to change the church's "attitude."
"The church has sometimes locked itself up in small things," the pope said, "in small-minded rules."
"The people of God want pastors," Francis continued, "not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials."
We asked some Valley Catholics how they felt about what the Pope had to say.
“I just think that he has spoken out, what any good Catholic or any good human being would feel. That you don't try to judge other people, and you accept them at face value,” Joan Keating said.
“This is a central, sort of tenet, of being a Catholic. Being accepting, embracing different people, even though they might be different from you. And also not judging them, not looking at their lives with a judging eye,” Wynne Mancini said.
“There are a lot of younger generation kids that are falling away from the church, when the parishes don't include all the different types of people that we have now. And I think it's excellent the pope is reaching out to include everyone. And it inspires me to be stronger in my own faith,” Kate Sitter said.
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