To preface: I love Pope Francis and hold him in esteem.
I was wondering whether the teachings or statements of the Pope in his recent interview (the one that got all of the media attention (popularized roughly September 20th)) have a binding authority on or require the assent of practicing Catholics?
The reason I ask is that I was under the impression that, at times when proclaiming the Gospel or taking part in apologetics, it is beneficial to first demonstrate morality and moral imperatives if they are not believed (although not exhaustively), and then to use that moral foundation as a means of demonstrating how compelling Scripture and the teachings of Christ are, as the old Catholic Encyclopedia seems to say:
Apologetics proceeds to set forth the grounds for believing in [Christ's] claims:
the surpassing beauty of His moral character, stamping Him as the unique, perfect man;
the lofty excellence of His moral and religious teaching, which has no parallel elsewhere, and which answers the highest aspirations of the human soul;
In his interview, the Pope says:
"But the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives."
This quote comes from a paragraph about "preaching and the content of our preaching" but apparently about other things too (I presume about missionary activity and other forms of evangelization). I think "comes before" may be interpreted as either "is higher in order of importance" which seems true, but may also be seen as "should be prior in the temporal order of what is taught/preached".
If this latter interpretation is so, and we are bound to give deference to the Pope's statements here, then it might imply that the proclamation of the Gospel should occur prior to moral upbringing or the demonstration of the mere existence of morality, which would require me to change my previous impression as well as my understanding/agreement with the Catholic Encyclopedia. Unless I simply use the former interpretation of the Pope's statement (that he is saying that the proclamation of the saving love of God is more important than the proclamation of moral imperatives).