In an interview with the Jesuit America Magazine Thursday, Pope Francis insisted that the Catholic church "does not want" to condemn homosexuals.
"During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro, I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge," the pope said. "By saying this, I said what the catechism says. 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."
Though Francis acknowledged that the church is clear on matters of homosexuality, and that he is "a son of the church," he also said "it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time."
In the Rewrite Thursday, MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell likened the Pope's remarks to those of his last Catholic school teacher, Father Harrington.
"Father Harrington knew that he was our last religion teacher," O'Donnell said. "He didn't use that final year of class time to cram our heads with rules and condemnations...Father Harrington talked only about the things that mattered most in Catholicism, which meant he talked about God and love and goodness and kindness, and he never talked about sin."
Pope Francis seems eager to deliver a similar message. "The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent," he said. "The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently."
Francis warned that the moral authority of the church could "fall like a house of cards" if its condemnations are the only thing people ever hear about. "The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant," he said. "It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow."
"If Father Harrington was still with us, he would like this pope," O'Donnell said. "A lot."