Pornography, actually…evil? “Moral and spiritual destitution”, “slavery to vice and sin”, “forgiveness for sins committed”? Such ancient, obsolete categories and terms! Sounds like Pope Benedict again… We’re so beyond that now, right? Right…? Wait a second.

Much of the media coverage of Pope Francis has focused on his calls to combat material poverty around the world. In and of itself, such pleas to service the poor are a wonderful thing. But his preaching and commentary is often filtered through a media narrative that tries to juxtapose his benign focus on social justice issues and Pope Benedict’s allegedly “divisive” focus on “controversial” issues of morality, like abortion, etc.

Here’s an excerpt from Pope Francis’ 2014 Lenten Message. Once again, don’t expect to find these words in the mainstream media.

No less a concern is moral destitution, which consists in slavery to vice and sin. How much pain is caused in families because one of their members – often a young person – is in thrall to alcohol, drugs, gambling or pornography! How many people no longer see meaning in life or prospects for the future, how many have lost hope! And how many are plunged into this destitution by unjust social conditions, by unemployment, which takes away their dignity as breadwinners, and by lack of equal access to education and health care. In such cases, moral destitution can be considered impending suicide. This type of destitution, which also causes financial ruin, is invariably linked to the spiritual destitution which we experience when we turn away from God and reject his love. If we think we don’t need God who reaches out to us though Christ, because we believe we can make do on our own, we are headed for a fall. God alone can truly save and free us.

The Gospel is the real antidote to spiritual destitution: wherever we go, we are called as Christians to proclaim the liberating news that forgiveness for sins committed is possible, that God is greater than our sinfulness, that he freely loves us at all times and that we were made for communion and eternal life. The Lord asks us to be joyous heralds of this message of mercy and hope! It is thrilling to experience the joy of spreading this good news, sharing the treasure entrusted to us, consoling broken hearts and offering hope to our brothers and sisters experiencing darkness. It means following and imitating Jesus, who sought out the poor and sinners as a shepherd lovingly seeks his lost sheep. In union with Jesus, we can courageously open up new paths of evangelisation and human promotion. ~Franciscum