The first couple of times the media suggested that Pope Francis was backing off of church doctrine , I gave him the benefit of the doubt and assumed it was just the mainstream media hearing what they want to hear.

He wasn’t endorsing homosexuality when the news said he was, because if you read his entire statement, he was talking about homosexuals who “genuinely” sought the Lord. It seemed Francis was reminding us that we all are sinners.

When the pope talked about atheists needing to follow their conscience, the press and the Christian world were up in arms — the press in celebration, Christians in alarm. The way the story was spun, it sounded like Francis had just said that you no longer needed to believe in God — or anything — to get into heaven.

It was if the narrow way had suddenly been blown wide open, the requirements of faith and repentance replaced by the rules of “niceness,” the Ten Commandments by the Ten Suggestions.

But even then, it was a matter of the media’s selective hearing. The pope had said everyone is redeemed by Christ’s death — as they are. But salvation is personal. You still have to accept Christ’s forgiveness. Atheists are like people who have been offered a reservation at a fancy restaurant with a coupon for a free five-course meal then choose to eat an overpriced Big Mac at McDonald’s instead.

But I’m starting to wonder about this pope, it pains me to say. He’s trying to walk a fine line, I think, in order to reach people who have strayed and might otherwise not even be open to hearing the Word. My concern, though, is that people who walk fine lines, even popes, are prone to going off course.

The other day, Francis said the church is too “obsessed” with abortion, homosexuality and contraception, and that it needs to be more welcoming and understanding. He criticized the church for being wrapped up in “small-minded rules.”

I understand that the pope wants to bring people back to the church, but he’s trying to do it through playing the same political games that have done so much damage to the church in the past.

The world set this agenda about abortion and homosexuality, not the church. The devil always attacks humans through their weakest traits, be it greed, sloth, lust, irresponsibility or any other of our frailties. Two of the bloodiest battlefields right now are over the issues of abortion and homosexuality, both of which kill and leave devastation in their wake.

If you welcome people into the church without demanding that they repent, the rats will just settle in, like Nancy Pelosi and John Kerry. And why wouldn’t they? They’ve won once they’ve got a foot in the door, and they will be quickly about their business of changing the church.

The Catholic Church has already seen the results of allowing active homosexuals and other deviants into its hierarchy with the child abuse scandals of recent years.

Even Russia, that formerly Communist nation, is thinking more clearly on the subject of homosexuality than most Westernized nations and, now, the pope. The Russians understand that promotion of homosexuality can damage young lives, and they’ve taken steps to oppose it.

Abortion has claimed some 60 million lives just in America. Worldwide, liberal societies are awash in the blood of the unborn. And now the pope wants to be welcoming to people who are OK with this?

There is — always has been — a war on for men’s souls. If the church is going to concede the battlefield, the results will not be peace or victory — it will quite literally be the triumph of hell on Earth.

Like it or not, Pope Francis is a commander on this eternal battlefield. I can’t help but wonder if he’s up to it. I pray he is.