Dennis O'Brien, Commonweal magazine
MANY CATHOLICS have been deeply troubled by Pope Francis’s emphasis on mercy and forgiveness as the primary gestures of the church. Such an approach, they argue, seems to run directly counter to the church as the defender of objective moral truth. To these critics, John Paul II’s denunciations of ‘the culture of death,’ Benedict XVI’s repeated warnings about moral relativism, and the American bishops’ forthright condemnations of abortion, gay marriage, or assisted suicide better exemplify the role of the church as teacher of truth, defender of doctrine, and moral guide. Critics of Francis think that by leading with mercy and forgiveness the church trivialises sin and moral failure, justifying the old claim that Catholics have it easy when it comes to immorality.