Pope Francis calls on church to change its focus

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - In the six months since Pope Francis' installation, he has made breaking from tradition a common theme. But his latest comments are igniting a controversy over the very mission of the Catholic Church.

It is a very delicate tightrope the pope is walking - trying to change the tone from dogmatic to compassionate - but without compromising core Catholic teachings and without alienating conservatives committed to certain causes.

Pope Francis seemed to be reassuring more traditional Catholics that he’s not overhauling basic church teachings at a meeting of Catholic gynecologists. He denounced today’s “throw-away culture,” reiterating the evil of abortion and urging doctors to refuse to perform them. Still, his remarks, published Thursday, are seen to many as a welcome breath of fresh air.

Pope Francis, who has already turned heads and won hearts with humble simplicity, is now upping the ante. In a blunt published interview, he says the church has become obsessed with small-minded rules, that it should be a home for all and that “we cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods.”

For gay Catholic Allen Rose, it is a breath of fresh air.

“It’s marvelous,” Rose says. “The pope certainly is saying 'let’s treat gay people with love, not condemnation.' He’s talking about a church that’s a home for everyone.”

Some Catholics say{ }less dogma and more compassion is precisely what is needed.

“It’s refreshing to know that there’s someone who is moving with the times and giving us the chance to breathe,” says Dino Anders.

But experts note the pope, who has said ‘Who am I to judge gays?’ and spoken of the genius of women, is not turning theology upside down.

“He’s not changing church teaching, but he is changing, I think, the style of how the church communicates its message to humanity,” says Chad Pecknold, a theology professor at Catholic University.

And that tone, in a church too often boiled down to three hot-button issues: abortion, homosexuality and birth control, may be the catalyst for new dialogue and change.

“I think Francis is like 'Now what we have to do is show people that we love people,'” says Eric Forrest. “That’s the whole point, you know?”

“I personally am not too connected with the church right now, but hearing some of that makes me think alright, that’s better,” says Tori Imbrian.

“In fact, I think that it can convert people who are not Catholics to the church because it’s love and who’s not attracted by love?” says Maria Teresa Alvarez-Sanchez.