Progressive Catholics hail Pope Francis' position on social issues

Progressive Catholics are applauding the pope’s remarks on homosexuality, reproductive rights, and the role of women, calling his views perhaps the beginning of a new era at the Vatican, as well as a return to the Gospel.

“I cried when I first began to read it,” said Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, on NewsNation Thursday. “His humility was just overwhelming.”

In an interview with La Civiltà Cattolica, Pope Francis broke with his predecessors and a number of bishops in saying that the church “cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptives.” Those comments followed another bold move back in July, when the pope declared, “Who am I to judge?” in response to reports of gay clergy members.

But the moment that most affected Sister Gramick was Francis’ response to a question about himself.

“He said, ‘I am a sinner,’” said Gramick, still visibly moved by the statement. “He realizes no person is perfect and yet, as is so clear from his message, God loves each and every one of us.”

Gramick said she believes the pope’s message will be well-received. In the U.S., a majority of Catholics’ opinions run counter to church doctrine on contraception and homosexuality, recent Pew Research polls have found. Opinion is more evenly split on abortion among American Catholics.

But regardless of where public opinion lies, said Gramick, the pope’s message is that it’s no longer essential to adhere to a particular point of view on these “hot-button” issues.

“He’s trying to get us back to the Gospel, to the real, essential message of Jesus,” she said. “And the essential message is that Jesus came to proclaim God’s love, God’s love for each and every person.”