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Pope Francis says church cannot focus only on abortion and gay marriage

Pope Francis attends his weekly General Audience in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday. Franco Origlia / Getty Images Europe

Pope Francis said in an interview published Thursday that the Catholic Church cannot focus only on abortion, contraception and gay marriage, and that the moral structure of the church will “fall like a house of cards” if it does not find better balance.

The pope acknowledged in the interview that he has been criticized for not speaking more about those three issues, but he said that the church must “talk about them in a context.”

While the teaching of the church on those subjects was clear, he said, “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

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The pope’s remarks draw a contrast with both the doctrinal focus of his predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and with church leaders in the United States and around the world who have urged him to speak more publicly about homosexuality, abortion and birth control.

“We have to find a new balance,” he said in the interview, published in Jesuit journals across the world. “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.”

He added: “The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”

The pope, since his installation in March, has focused on the poor and those on the margins of society. He has also drawn praise from some parishioners for gestures of humility and frugality. He has declined some of the trappings of the papacy, and personally returned the phone calls of some of the faithful who have written to him.

On homosexuality, the pope said that he used to receive letters in Argentina, where he was a cardinal before his elevation, who were “socially wounded” and felt that the church had condemned them.

“But the church does not want to do this,” he said. “Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: It is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.”

He went on: “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: When God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”