The following comes from a Sept. 20 story in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

Santa Rosa Catholic Bishop Robert Vasa said Friday that Pope Francis has challenged him and other church leaders to become more “pastoral” in their work, but is not asking them to abandon the Church’s moral teachings about the sins of homosexuality, abortion and birth control.

Vasa’s comments came one day after the pope rocked the Catholic world with published statements that the church “cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods.” While the church’s opposition to these things is clear, a more pastoral approach to ministry is needed, the pope said.

Many observers interpreted the the comments as a softening of the church’s stand on the touchstone moral issues. The bishop took a different view.

Vasa, who adheres to a strict, or traditional, interpretation of church doctrine, said the pope was merely saying that “when we deal with those with whom we morally disagree that we do that in a spirit of conciliation and compassion and receptiveness.”

He acknowledged the pope’s emphasis presents him with a personal challenge. As a bishop, Vasa said he is “geared more toward a canonical mindset and I recognize the need for administrative leadership in church. I also recognize that pastoral leadership, while wonderful, requires someone stepping in and taking up the administrative role.”

….Asked if he would welcome to St. Eugene’s Cathedral a Catholic woman who had an abortion or is contemplating having one, or a gay person or someone who is practicing birth control, Vasa said he would if they were open to changing their ways.

“Like the pope says, I don’t necessarily judge them, but they have to somehow judge themselves and recognize that they are living and acting in a way which is not consistent with what the church teaches,” he said.

“And they have an obligation at least to take up the current literature and really study the issue and not simply as a knee-jerk reaction give in to the pressure of the culture.”

….During an interview at the Santa Rosa Diocese chancery, Vasa talked at length about the pope’s extensive interview.

Asked if he agreed with the pope’s view that some in the Catholic Church are “obsessed” with dogmatic and moral teachings, Vasa said he has not witnessed that obsession.

“I certainly do know that there are individuals, and I certainly would probably be among them, who firmly believe that these are core cultural issues about which we must be vocal,” he said. “But I’m not obsessed about them. A vast majority of the things that I write do not include abortion as a topic or contraception or divorce and remarriage.”

“Is there a need for teaching about those things? Absolutely. Are there some folks who overstep the boundary and say, ‘OK we’re preaching about this every single Sunday?’ Well, there may be. But there’s a vast majority of people who never talk about it.”

Vasa said that if “everyone talked about it a little, there would be fewer who feel the need to talk about it more,” adding that abortion is a social justice issue.

“What the Holy Father is calling us to do is to promote the Gospel message, not starting from, ‘Oh, you’re bad and going to hell,” Vasa said. “But rather from a positive presentation of God’s goodness, of God’s love, of God’s mercy and God’s call to everyone of us to live a life more in conformity with what God wants us to do.”

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