Six months after his election, Pope Francis continues to surprise, delight and for some, to disconcert. He has touched hearts in a similar way to Pope John Paul II, whom he will canonise next April. The latest controversy involved a lengthy interview conducted by the Jesuit-run Italian newspaper La Civiltà Cattolica and translated into English.
There is always a risk in over-simplifying a long and complex interview; but when the secular media does it, we need to be extremely cautious.
Following the interview, numerous media outlets picked up a comment that the Pope made: "We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible," he said, explaining that this would not be the fullness of the Gospel, but instead a "disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently."
Pope Francis was not saying that these issues are not vitally important – only that they are not the only issues the Church must be concerned with.
The fact is that the Church rarely speaks out publicly on these issues. It is our secular society which is obsessed with them, and misrepresents the Church as projecting "a disjointed multitude of doctrines".
As John Paul II said repeatedly, these issues are central to the question of whether our society reflects a culture of life or a culture of death. And the answer to this question will likely determine whether our civilisation survives, or crumbles into the dust of history.
What Pope Francis is urging is that the central focus of the Church's mission must be to win the hearts and minds of men and women to Jesus Christ, to a radical embrace of God-made-man, who through his life and teaching showed us the true purpose of human existence.
As George Weigel, biographer of Blessed John Paul II, observed, Pope Francis "understands that men and women are far more likely to embrace those moral truths - about the inalienable right to life from conception until natural death; about human sexuality and how it should be lived - when they have first embraced Jesus Christ as Lord".
Peter Westmore is publisher of AD2000