Their New Pope

Pope Francis sure has been stirring up controversy almost from the moment he fought his way up to the Papacy last year.  Or rather, from the moment his peers were directed by God to look among themselves and choose the one who could best lead the Church into the future.  Whatever.

But my goodness, listen to the man!  What mixed messages!  Last summer he issued his first encyclical, largely written by his predecessor, which maintained the traditional Catholic hard line at the same time his American bishops were exhorting the Senate not to approve the Employment Non-Discrimination Act protecting gays in the workplace because they were gay and would thus likely be having sex with each other, of which the Church disapproves although the bishops failed to explain what this has to do with the workplace.  Then, in a dramatic reversal a month later, the Pope was saying who is he to judge gays?

Of course that’s a considerable softening of tone since 2010, when he denounced an Argentinian bill that would permit gay marriage, saying:

“Let us not be naive: this is not simply a political struggle, but it is an attempt to destroy God’s plan. It is not just a bill (a mere instrument) but a ‘move’ of the father of lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

Then Last November he issued his Evangelii Gaudium, a papal exhortation that immediately got worldwide attention for its radical shift in tone from the previous papacy.  Most of the attention was owing to its opposition to trickle-down economics and to the expanding economic inequality in the world, with passages like section 56:

“While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.”

Yow!  So of course Fox News went ballistic over this socialism and Rush Limbaugh called him a “pure Marxist”.  So he’s clearly doing something right, and my heart thumped with joy as i read him.

In the same exhortation he also wrote with great compassion about the need to extend a little generosity to the less fortunate, joining other religious leaders like Rich Warren in noticing that Jesus sure did spend a lot of time talking about the poor.  And good for His Holiness for mentioning this.

But then, later in the exhortation, he turned around and revealed that he’s still Catholic by declaring that there can be no compromise on abortion, section 214:

“the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question. I want to be completely honest in this regard. This is not something subject to alleged reforms or “modernizations”. It is not “progressive” to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life. On the other hand, it is also true that we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution to their profound anguish, especially when the life developing within them is the result of rape or a situation of extreme poverty. Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?”

Ummm, yes, so when a fourteen year old girl is raped by her stepfather, we must wring our hands over her “painful situation” but still force her to carry to term the precious gift of God and her rapist.  Well, at least the Pope’s saying he’s moved by her “profound anguish”.  That’s a step, albeit a damn small one, especially when we consider that he’s wanting to force this on not only Catholic girls, but rather every girl on the planet.

And yes, i cheerfully admit that it’s also a step that the leader of the Roman Catholic Church has backed off slightly on screaming hate at gays.  Maybe the next step will be to stop fighting all the way to the Supreme Court efforts to end discrimination against gays, which the Church was doing as recently as last spring and summer and then again in November when our hate-spewing archbishop sent yet another letter to the Senate demanding that gays not be protected against workplace discrimination.

What i’d like to see is moderation of actions to go along with the nice words.  I mean, recently Francis has been saying lots of nice things about Catholic women, but he has yet to give the slightest indication that he might be willing to give an inch on allowing them to be ordained as priests or otherwise treated as equals.  Still, in that case he is at least setting rules that apply only to Catholic women rather than all women on the planet.

Actually, i wouldn’t really mind it if he forbade Catholic women to have abortions and didn’t allow Catholics to have same sex marriages if he’d just leave the rest of us alone.

The bottom line here is that non-Catholics sure would like it if the Church stopped pouring millions of dollars into political campaigns for legislation forcing all of us to obey Roman Catholic rules.  Wouldn’t that be a wonderful world?

Peace, a mural by Reka.




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