By: Melissa Toupin
Pope Francis is encouraging Catholic doctors to refuse to perform abortions. The anti-abortion message comes after blasting the church's obsession with social issues that are driving away the faithful.
Chuck Ashton is a devoted Catholic and a parishioner at St. Anthony's on Mineral Spring Ave. in North Providence. He has been paying close attention to comments from the Vatican. As a gay man, Ashton was particularly touched by Pope Francis' recent message that the church needs to be more inclusive.
"I think it's marvelous," said Ashton. "I think it's finally a man that's coming to realize that there are lifestyles that are varied. Those are people that love the Lord. And the Lord is embracing them."
In his first extensive interview since becoming Pope, Francis said the church has become "obsessed" with "small-minded rules," and if it doesn't find a better balance, then the moral structure of the church will fall like a house of cards.
"Some people don't even know that it's wrong. And that's up to the church to let them know that," said Allie DiGiorgio of St. Anthony's.
"We need less dialogue on that and to concentrate on bringing people back into church and showing love, rather than condemnation," said another parishioner, Phyllis Gilmette.
The Pope is not calling for a change in church teachings. He just doesn't want the focus on hot button issues like abortion, birth control, and homosexuality.
"I appreciate it. I think it's wonderful. We can only move forward from here," said Ashton.
Just last week Bishop Thomas Tobin made comments that he was "disappointed" the Pope had not yet addressed abortion since being elected. Friday he released a statement saying in part, "It is an exciting time to be a Catholic, and I enthusiastically welcome the balanced and inclusive approach our Holy Father is brining to the pastoral ministry of the church."
(C) WLNE-TV 2013