August 4, 2020

Is the Pope a Catholic? (part 2)


Read part one of Is the Pope a Catholic?

* * *

So who is this liberal, progressive, modernising pope with no hang-ups about sex and contraception and divorce and abortion, who constantly preaches on the value and necessity of the Sacrament of Confession and the reality of the Devil, who came back from studying in Germany in the 80s with, not the latest in theological progressivism, but the 18th century devotion to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, which he introduced to great success in Buenos Aires and which has since spread throughout Argentina and Brazil, who has obvious Marian devotion in how he welcomed the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, went on pilgrimage to the shrine of Aparecida in Brazil during the World Youth Day, and is always popping in to visit the icon of Salus Populi Romani in the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore?

As a Jesuit, he is the first pope to be a member of a religious order since 1831 (that was Gregory XVI, who was a monk in the Camaldolese order, part of the Benedictine monastic family).  I think you can see the Jesuit influence in his pastoral emphasis and his liturgical style.  I also think – and this is my own personal impression – that he is very definitely a post-Vatican II Catholic, in how he approaches everything from the vestments he wears to bureaucratic reform of the Vatican and the role of the laity in the Church.

Please note, this is not a criticism.  I don’t think he’s one of the “Spirit of Vatican II” types, the ones who in the first flush of enthusiasm wrecked churches wholesale by pulling them asunder and tossing out everything from devotions to sodalities to altar rails to the confession boxes; who for the past fifty years have been “Any day now!” about married priests, women priests, remarriage in church for the divorced (though Pope Francis is taking a pastoral approach to that problem, too), artificial contraception, abortion, lay leadership, symbolic rather than literal understanding of the Eucharist (can you tell I’m bitter about the craze for teaching children that Communion is “like a meal, or a party with your friends!” instead of “the holy sacrifice of the altar”?) and twenty other matters from the environment to capitalism to union with other faiths and none.

Ahem.  My personal prejudices are showing there, I think.  But there are orthodox Catholics, faithfully attending parishes where the progressivist wing has been greatly encouraged by Pope Francis and use him as an excuse for “Oh, we don’t believe that’s a sin anymore!” teaching, where stating the official and unchanged teaching of the Church gets you looked at like you have two heads, and maybe you’re a sexist racist homophobe on top of it as well.  They feel discouraged at best and betrayed at worst.  I have some sympathy for them, but my view is this:

  • During Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict’s time, we told them “He’s the pope, suck it up!” about teaching they didn’t like to hear.  Well, now it’s our turn to do the same.
  • He’s the pope, not God Almighty.  If we truly believe the promise of Christ to preserve the Church from error, he can make a lot of mistakes and still not permanently damage Her.  And considering some of his predecessors in the See of Peter, that’s a lot of leeway.  In the words of the alleged exchange between Napoleon and Cardinal Consalvi, Secretary of State for the Papal States who was opposing French policy

– Napoleon: Do you not know I can destroy your Church?

– Cardinal Consalvi: Sir, not even we priests have been able to do that in 1,800 years!

POTD_Pope-baby_2521172bOn the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, January 12th of this year, the pope baptized babies as is customary during the celebration of Mass on this day in St. Peter’s.  One of the babies was the child of an unmarried couple.  Or maybe there were married, but not exactly according to the canons.

There was a very minor storm in a teacup about this, because it’s a question that has become pressing in recent times: when parents are not practicing the faith in any meaningful way, when baptism has become a social occasion rather than the rite of Christian Initiation, should priest simply agree to baptize any child upon request, or should they make efforts – including putting conditions on performing the ceremony or refusing to do it at all – to see that this is taken seriously as a religious ritual?

Whatever your opinion on the matter, you have no right to be surprised that he did so.  This is what he has spoken about; it’s not an accident, it didn’t “just happen” – this is the kind of thing he told us he’d do, and we should have been listening, and we should have taken him seriously.

This is not to say that he’s soft on sin, but rather that he’s strong on forgiveness.  He is constantly, constantly, in the homilies and fevorini he gives, talking about the mercy of God, the love of God, the necessity for confession and repentance of sins, and to return to God in the hope of gracious forgiveness and acceptance:

I would like to ask you, but do not answer aloud.  When was the last time you confessed, two days ago?  Two weeks ago?  A couple of years ago?  20 years?  40 years?  But, we should all take count, and say to ourselves: when was the last time I went to confession.  And if it’s been a long time, do not waste one more day: go on, the priest will be good to you.  Jesus is there, and Jesus is better than any priest, and Jesus will welcome you.  He will welcome you with so much love.  Be brave and go on, go to Confession.

Francis takes a very pastoral view of how doctrine should be applied in the everyday life of the faithful; not as a set of ossified rules, either to be imposed or tossed out wholesale, but to serve the life of the People of God to grow in faith and love:

Since the early times of the Church the temptation has existed to understand the doctrine in an ideological sense or to reduce it to an ensemble of abstract and crystalized theories (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 39-42).  In reality, doctrine has the sole purpose of serving the life of the People of God and it seeks to assure our faith of a sure foundation.  Great, in fact, is the temptation to appropriate to ourselves the gifts of salvation that come from God, to domesticate them – perhaps even with a good intention – to the views and the spirit of the world.  And this is a temptation that is constantly repeated.

He doesn’t want the adulation of the popular image about him, which he thinks is mistaken.

And perhaps public opinion will turn against him after these shocking revelations of his secret life of crime and graverobbing!

Pope Francis has confessed to stealing the rosary cross of his late confessor and wearing it under his cassock to this day.

The Pope admitted to taking the cross from his late confessor’s casket during an informal chat with Roman priests on Thursday, Associated Press report from the Vatican.

What Francis is doing that is really shaking things up, and what is not splashed all over the headlines, is that he is tackling the bureaucratic layers and entrenched little fiefdoms in the Vatican, a bold effort when he has to tackle a thousand years of inertia.

Ambition and climbing the career ladder are not unknown even within clerical circles, and there are many who have their eyes set on a bishop’s ring, a cardinal’s hat, or at least being titled “monsignor” and getting a plum post in the local chancery or even in a Vatican dicastery.

Francis has moved to cut that route of advancement off, by enforcing the rules on who is eligible:

Pope Francis has instituted a change in the title of “monsignor”, ordering that within dioceses it only be granted to priests who are at least 65 years of age, the Vatican announced today.  In a statement issued by the Secretariat of State, the Vatican said it had informed bishops’ conferences, through a circular sent to their corresponding nunciatures, that “in the world’s dioceses, the only ecclesiastical title henceforth to be conferred shall be “chaplain of His Holiness”, to which the appellation, “monsignor”, shall correspond.  The title shall be conferred only upon priests who have reached the age of 65.”

Until now, diocesan priests under the age of 65 were eligible for the title, depending on the wishes of their bishops.

The circular further clarifies that the use of the title “monsignor” in connection with certain major offices and where this is a cultural practice – such as for a bishop or the vicar general of the diocese – “remains unchanged.”

He also reminded the highest ranks that they’re there to be his advisors and priests first, empire builders second, in his homily for Ash Wednesday:

While a Vatican translation of Francis’ prepared homily is below, an impromptu aside of the preach – per his custom, one of several (especially when sensitive topics are involved) – registered as a clear swipe at the cardinals gathered around him clad in their scarlet choir robes, upon each of whom the Pope subsequently imposed ashes.

“In our little everyday environment, when I watch these power struggles for positions,” he said, “I think to myself, ‘These people are trying to play God the Creator!’

“They still do not realize that they are not God!”

He is also making changes in the financial structures, the new heads of the various dicasteries (the various departments of the Roman Curia, which is the administrative body of the Holy See and covers everything from archaeology and church architecture to bishops, priests, laity and the doctrines of the faith) and who he is bringing in to be a ‘council of advisors’.

1280px-Pope_Francis_hugs_a_man_in_his_visit_to_a_rehab_hospitalSo to sum up what I think:

Is the Pope a Catholic?  Of course!

He’s not in the mould of his predecessor, who was the pope for me because he fitted so comfortably with how I felt and thought.  That’s a good thing, because I find Francis makes me uncomfortable at times, and I need to be prodded hard out of my tendency to Phariseeism (binding the burdens of the law on the shoulders of others, rather than the easy yoke of Christ).

He has the Jesuit “preferential option for the poor”.  This phrase originated in a 1968 letter to South American Jesuits from the Superior General of the Order, Fr. Pedro Arrupe.  It has become strongly associated with Liberation Theology as it has been most developed and worked out in that context, but in its originating spirit, it’s a Jesuit concept, and tellingly, a Latin American concept.

He has the Vatican II reforming spirit for a simplified liturgy, which is not the same thing as lacking orthodox doctrine.

I think his experience coming from South America, and Argentina in particular, very much colors his style of governance and how he sees the role of the clergy and the laity.  On the one hand, the Church in Argentina was tied-in with the State, including being seen (whether rightly or wrongly) as on the side of the entitled, the privileged, those in power versus the poor in the slums.  On the other hand, he has seen how ‘liberation theology’ can be perverted into quasi-Marxism (and you end up with something like the Shining Path in Peru who killed all around them in the name of “the people”).

This means that things which are of huge importance to Western Europe/USA are not even on his radar.  It also means, much to my amusement, that those who would have a tendency to say “Wisdom!  Attend!” when he is condemning abortion immediately said “Well, now, that’s only his opinion and not binding teaching” when he brought out an encyclical which was critical of, among other things, the modern capitalist global economy.

He very strongly believes that the role of the Pope, as any priest, is to be a pastor and shepherd of souls; what he has said about priests should be “shepherds living with the smell of the sheep.”

I mentioned in passing the latest headlines about “Pope approves (or changes his mind, or redefines Catholic teaching – take your pick) of same-sex marriage”.  Okay, what did he really say, if he said anything?

On 5th March, he gave an interview to an Italian daily newspaper, Corriere della Sera.  I am only going by the translated synopsis of his remarks, which are along the lines of “Pope Francis suggested the Catholic Church could tolerate some types of nonmarital civil unions as a practical measure to guarantee property rights and health care.”

Seemingly this has been conflated into (a) Pope accepts civil unions and (b) Pope accepts same-sex civil unions.
Now, I don’t know what his opinion on those is, but I imagine he’s forming one if enough people keep yabbering on about it.

Again, my own personal view (and I wonder if he would come to something similar) is that, as a matter of natural justice, it may be permissible for states to legislate same-sex civil unions (i) given that it is within the role of the state to legislate about what forms of civil contracts it recognizes or are protected by law, and that this would be a purely secular matter (ii) given that civil unions are not regarded as sacramental marriage, and that Catholics who only marry by a civil union are obligated to regularize their marriage – see the fuss about the ‘unmarried’ couple having their baby baptized as mentioned above and (iii) given the mess straight couples have made of marriage already with co-habitation, ‘open’ marriages, serial monogamy, multiple divorce and remarriage, ‘no fault’ divorce which can be abused for trivial reasons, childbearing outside of marriage, refusal to have children within marriage and the likes, it’s not fair to say “But if Jack and Joe or Jill and Sally are permitted to have a registry office ceremony, it will destroy marriage”, when Jack and Jill have been doing the same for their last three partners.

However, that does not affect sacramental marriage, or indeed the true nature of what marriage is and should be.  If the state in the morning made it legal for three people, a cow and a pine tree to be registered in a civil marriage, that’s the affair of the state.  I’m not going to fight culture wars here; I do object to people who do not accept same-sex civil unions/marriages as the exact same as heterosexual marriage being decried as “homophobes” (as though the only reason for objections could only be bigotry and prejudice) and though I myself think that you can provide wedding cakes, photographic services or the rent of a hall to same-sex couples, where people have genuine conscience convictions that this makes them witness to, or complicit in, what is sinful activity then we should accommodate the tender consciences of the weaker brethren and not entrap them with set-ups for lawsuits.

If I have to pick an overriding theme of his papacy to date (and it’s only been a year!) it’s that of mercy: mercy, mercy, mercy.

The priest is called to learn this, to have a heart that is moved.  The priests who are – I permit myself the word – “aseptics” those “of the laboratory,” all clean, all good, do not help the Church.  Today we can think of the Church as a “field hospital.”  This, excuse me, I repeat, because I see it like this, I feel it so: a “field hospital.”  There is need to cure the wounds, so many wounds!  So many wounds!  There are so many wounded people, by material problems, by scandals, also in the Church … Wounded people by the illusions of the world … We, priests, must be there, close to these people.  Mercy means first of all to cure the wounds.  When one is wounded, one needs this immediately, not analyses, such as the significance of cholesterol, of glycaemia … But the wound is there, cure the wound, and then we will look at the analyses.  Then the specialist cures will be made, but first the open wounds must be cured.  For me this, at this moment, is the most important.  And there are also hidden wounds, because there are people who move away, so that their wounds are not seen … There comes to mind the custom, due to the Mosaic law, of lepers at the time of Jesus, who were always far away, so as not to infect …. There are people who move away because of shame, because of the embarrassment of having their wounds seen … And they move away perhaps with a mistaken face against the Church, but deep down, within there is the wound … They want a pat!  And you, dear fellow brothers — I ask you — do you know the wounds of your parishioners?  Do you intuit them?  It is the only question …

Finally, speaking of the type of thing that makes headlines in the media, I have to conclude with this one:

Pope Francis has dined with homeless people, made the cover of Time and Rolling Stone and now has blessed a parrot belonging to a male stripper.

The parrot, named Amore, was initially passed up by Pope Francis as he rode around in the popemobile during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square Wednesday. Eventually, Francis went back to bless the bird and hold it on his finger.

The bird’s owner was identified as Francesco Lombardi, and according to ANSA, he’s a former male stripper turned erotic film actor.


  1. I liked that the parrot was saying “Papa” to the Pope!

    Excellent post, Martha. You always teach us a lot. I like Pope Francis emphasis on mercy.

  2. David Cornwell says

    Recently I have been giving a lot of thought to the state of marriage and the family in America and within the American church. These affairs are not encouraging in the least. The culture wars have solved nothing, and if anything have added fuel to the burning fires. The attitude of the church, in large part, has been anything but love, in spite of “hate the sin, and love the sinner.” Actually when they say that I always get confused, because the way they say it, sounds exactly as if they mean the exact opposite.

    You said:

    “as a matter of natural justice, it may be permissible for states to legislate same-sex civil unions (i) given that it is within the role of the state to legislate about what forms of civil contracts it recognizes or are protected by law, and that this would be a purely secular matter…”


    “However, that does not affect sacramental marriage, or indeed the true nature of what marriage is and should be. ”

    Thanks for this bit of common sense. I hope it can be imported across the Atlantic, and maybe a bit from Rome as well. This reminds me of a recent speech by American author Wendell Berry in which he makes many of the same points. This surprised many, because Berry holds such conservative values when it comes to family matters. The speech can be found somewhere on YouTube.

    I’ve been wondering what your thoughts might be concerning Pope Francis. Thanks.

    • Regarding same-sex unions, I think that as civil matters, they are within the purview of the state to legislate. Now, this does not mean that I think religious entities or any person, religious or not, may not have an opinion on whether such recognition or legislation would be a good thing. I do think freedom of conscience exemptions are important, I do think that there can be objections that are not answered by chanting “homophobia!”*, and I am personally not much impressed by the cry “We have a right to marry”, mostly because I don’t believe anyone – you, me, him, her, them, anyone – has that right. We may be free to be married, that doesn’t mean (a) we end up married – there are people who want to marry, never find anyone to marry them (b) the person you want to marry is suitable – years back, a cousin of mine announced he was marrying this person, and the unanimous family reaction was “Oh, dear” and sure enough, it ended in a couple of years (c) that marriage should be tugged around as whatever appeals to our whims of the moment – it is a fundamental block of building a society, and redefining it every five minutes to suit our notions (romantic love! self-fulfilment! alliance for property and power!) is like puling a plant up by the roots to see how it’s doing.

      *More confessions of personal bias: I don’t much like Dan Savage, but what made me want to smack him round the chops with a wet herring was an interview – really, a puff piece – published online in the features page of a major newspaper and in a tone of absolute, uncritical, gushing adulation.

      One part of this was about Dan and his husband and their child, and Dan was waxing wroth about opponents of same-sex marriage, and how dare they say his was not a real marriage, or that he wasn’t as much married as any straight couple. Then in a paragraph or two further on, we find that the young man Mr Savage had wed wanted the traditional understanding of marriage, including monogamy (meaning fidelity and no affairs or sex with another person outside of marriage), and the bould Dan had talked him round to accepting an ‘open relationship’, mainly by being blunt about how when he was going to be all over the country on speaking tours, people would be throwing themselves at him and he wasn’t going to keep his trousers zipped (I’m paraphrasing), so if they both agreed they could have affairs, it would be honest and remove an obstacle that might be a problem in their marriage later. Spouse then confirms he too has had one or two affairs, and Dan is right, it removes something that could be a cause of tension. Article never blinks an eye at this or says anything that might be critical of how wonderful Dan Savage is.

      Now, I was angry about this (even though I said to myself ‘it’s no skin off your nose, why do you care?’) because (1) I felt the fiancé should have told Dan to take the high road buster, if you’re not wiling to be with me, fine, but I want someone who will “forsake all others” (2) that Dan was cheating the person he claims to love and value out of something that was his right to expect (3) that you can’t, on the one hand, scorn those who say what you have isn’t a ‘proper’ marriage when, on the other hand, you are not willing to contract a marriage as it has been understood (4) that crying “homophobia” when questions about how same-sex unions are understood to relate to marriage is not enough, when some – I certainly don’t think all, but definitely some – advocates for “marriage equality” have a very different understanding of what is involved in marriage.

      I don’t think what is to considered should be posed as “How will permitting same-sex marriage damage heterosexual marriage?”, but rather “How will these changes affect marriage – whether we permit it for any person who wishes to enter into this arrangement, or restrict it to a traditional understanding?”

      • I think it’s interesting that homophobia literally means fear of sameness. Most people who are hostile to homosexuals are in fact greatly in favor of sameness. One more unthinking word coinage.

      • If churches are going to discriminate, I don’t see why they should receive any tax privileges, let alone subsidies (in the case of countries with established churches, or a menu of state-supported churches).

        Dan Savage generally approves of open relationships, which he says is more in line with the behavior humans have evolved for, but not of cheating–that is to say, pretending to one’s partner that one is monogamous when one is not. But even open relationships have to have boundaries if they are to survive. Many couples can be described as *mostly* monogamous, or in Savage’s parlance, “monogamish.”

        I don’t see why the churches, with their “sacramental” rhetoric, have anything to teach us about human relationships. The Catholic Church in particular lacks any sort of moral standing to be pronouncing on such things.

      • I appreciate your post on the whole, Martha, and your comments about Dan Savage.

        With respect, though, I must beg to differ with your opinion that natural justice permits, let alone motivates, legal recognition of same-sex unions. Cardinal Ratzinger’s arguments, addressed “not only to those who believe in Christ, but to all persons committed to promoting and defending the common good of society,” merit careful reflection.

        With regard to baking wedding cakes and such, that would count at least as material cooperation, which must be avoided as far as possible. “In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.”

        Attempts to interfere with the definition of sacramental marriage–which are coming if they are not already upon us–are far from the only concern. Even granting that the civil definition of marriage will often not line up fully with the Church’s understanding, because this definition so greatly affects the common good (as you note, look what damage no-fault divorce has wrought), Catholics and other Christians dare not wash our hands of it.

    • I agree with Martha’s approach as well. It allows religious groups to hold to the sacramental view of marriage and does not put that at risk as the secular world’s view of marriage (or unions in this case) changes. My concern is that as ‘marriage’ definition changes from a legality standpoint, there will be groups that begin to challenge the Church’s definition of marriage, begin to view it as intolerant and as denying someone’s rights and then the litigation begins….

      • David Cornwell says

        Stanley Hauerwas once served for a brief time on “Commission for the Study of Homoseuxality” directed by the Board of Ministry of the United Methodist Church. I think this was in the late 1980’s (not sure of the date, there have been so many such failures of attempts). He quit the commission about half way through, because he suggested they first discuss in a substantial way a description of “promiscuity.” He thought that by doing so they would begin to understand what Christian marriage is all about. The commission, both liberals and conservatives would have no part of it. He insists that we fail to know what we think about homosexualty, because we do not even know how to think of marriage and divorce, as Christians. He says:

        “The churches have generally underwritten romantic accounts of marriage — that is, you fall in love and get married so that sex is an expression of our love. Such accounts not only destroy any understanding of marriage as lifelong monogamous fidelity but also make unintelligible the prohibition against same-sex relations. After all, the latter are often exemplifications of a loving relation.”

      • Richard Hershberger says

        No one has ever seriously suggested that churches be forced to perform weddings. (I only added the qualifier “seriously” because no damn fool position is so damn fool that some damn fool won’t spout it. So what?) Claims to the contrary are merely crude false witness. As for litigation, it would be laughed out of court.

        • Don’t hold your breath…seems a gay couple in England, Tony and Barrie Drewitt-Barlow, have begun a lawsuit to force their church, of which they are members, to conduct a wedding for them…Not sure how the English courts will deal with it, but the point is that it is happening…

          • Richard Hershberger says

            I was imprecise. I was writing of the United States context. As for countries with established churches, if you want your church to be a branch of government, it seems to me that there isn’t much foundation for complaining when the government sets policy. I often make this point to people in the US who complain about separation of church and state. They uniformly want to impose their church on state functions. It never occurs to them that this goes both ways. If the church in question had no affiliation with the state, this would be a different matter. But looking it up, sure enough, it is the established Church of England that is under threat of legal action.

        • Richard, part of the problem is that in many countries, the church wedding also serves as a register of the civil wedding at the same time. Therefore, I don’t see it as impossible that for precisely those activist reasons, a test case would be brought about “They’ll host the wedding for X and Y, but not A and B, and this is discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation which is contrary to equality law”.

          There’s horrible potential for really nasty, stupid acts on both sides of the question.

  3. Martha!! Love your posts, read yesterday’s didn’t have time to comment and wanted to do so today. I have to confess coming from a Jesuit University in the Upper Midwest (Marquette) I do have a bias towards the Pope. I think he’s doing a fine job and is shaking things up. When it comes to Catholicism I think one of the things that has to be remembered is that it is full of different orders, and the Jesuit’s do have their critics. Some of the more conversative Catholics view the Jesuits as being too social justice minded and too liberal. And for the life of me right now as I am typing those orders are slipping my mind. But I just want to say that I think that also needs to be taken into account.

    • Great to hear from you again, Eagle, and thanks for the kind words. Ah, the Jesuits, God love ’em: from the stormtroopers of the Pope and popular villains of countless Gothic novels to today’s ‘are we quite sure they’re not heretics?’ criticism 🙂

      But then again, even the Benedictines and the Dominicans are a lot softer than they used to be (I think the Carmelites are still tough, but I’m not going to breathe a word against them, because I’m scared of the Little Flower).

  4. “Is the Pope a Catholic?” I suppose. But I agree with you that Francis is most definitely a Jesuit. I attended a Jesuit High School back in the 60’s and I quickly learned that these guys were not your typical parish priests. Francis brings to mind some fond memories from my high school days.

  5. Speaking of Jesuits…one Jesuit priest’s writings that I am enjoying are those by James Martin. I read his The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life and
    Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life . There are some great funny stories and jokes in that book.

    • Fr. Martin has been a endless source of inspiration for me, not only in books but also on Twitter (@JamesMartinSJ). He usually makes several posts a day, from actual Tweets (which can be surprisingly insightful!) to pointers to his other writings and other thought-provoking stories.

      Coincidentally, his new book, “Jesus: A Pilgrimage”, has been officially released today. It’s already on the wishlist for my next Amazon shopping spree… overseas buyers don’t qualify for free shipping, and so are forced to buy several books at once — I don’t think that’s an issue, but my wife seems to disagree with me 🙂

  6. I love the Pope’s way of actually living the Christian life by loving the repulsive, ministering personally to people who need him, and living simply and humbly. It shows the world what we are capable of. I do think he goes to far sometimes in his statements, so far that people misunderstand him to be discarding everything the Church has always stood for. I think he speaks clearly to the new generation in ways that traditionalists could never do.

    • Again, after a year of his papacy, the church is just as obdurate as it was before on the pedophilia issue. Francis is window dressing. PR spin.

      • I think living like Jesus counts for far more than just window dressing, let’s hope that he brings real change, as far as I know the option of married clergy is not off-limits with this pope.

        • Married priests won’t solve the problem. (Technically the Catholic Church *already* has married clergy, albeit of different rites.) The basic issue is one of openness. There’s been some improvement in some countries, but no real effort to remove or punish those who allowed these crimes to happen, and no willingness to allow laypeople any power over the hierarchy.

          As for “living like Jesus,” ignoring the issue that Jesus’s public behavior was actually scandalous, Francis obviously wants people to think he’s very humble, but so far he’s limited himself to fairly superficial things that could be characterized as PR. The only serious personnel changes he’s effected seem to have been aimed primarily at shoring up his authority against his Italian rivals, not getting rid of bishops who hid child abuse cases.

          • Scandalous but loving, loving to the ones that society despised. Even if this were an act it is good to see, I do not recall seeing other Christian leaders behaving like this and taking Jesus’ actions and life seriously. I think it’s a matter of pride, the church is saving face because the abuse scandal is so deep and vile. Maybe this is the church’s way of correcting these things for the future without admitting to it’s past mistakes. I really think pedophilia can be minimized if most priests are allowed to marry, the vow of celibacy is too hard to bear and sexuality gets perverted.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Then how do you explain the pedophilia and other sex scandals in Fundagelical churches whose clergy HAVE to be married?

          • Institutional opacity + authoritarianism. I agree that clerical celibacy is a bit of misdirection–probably designed to shift blame to gays instead of child-molesters and their bishops.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Gonna call Francis “The Child Molester-in-Chief” next?

        Others have.

        • That would be to make light of an issue which, more than anything else in recent years, has exposed the Catholic Church’s lack of moral authority or integrity. It reminds me of that story from the Brothers Karamazov, about whether one could accept heaven at the price of one tortured infant. Good Catholics are the ones who say yes, torture the infant.

          • Wexel, that is a gross calumny against Catholics.

            Catholics are fallen, sinful people and, like everyone else, capable of performing acts of great evil, but to rationalize the torture of an infant is utterly contrary to what the Church teaches.

            “A good intention (for example, that of helping one’s neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny, good or just. The end does not justify the means. Thus the condemnation of an innocent person cannot be justified as a legitimate means of saving the nation” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1753).

            “One may not do evil so that good may result from it” (CCC 1761, also 1789).

            “It is also blasphemous to make use of God’s name to cover up criminal practices, to reduce peoples to servitude, to torture persons or put them to death” (CCC 2148)

  7. The possibility of litigation against a church in the U.S. for refusing to marry same-sex couples is a real one. I am usually the last to take a chicken little approach but in today’s climate I think this is not only possible but eventually probable. We’ve spent a good amount of time in our leadership discussing this and trying to come up with an adequate policy that will allow us to be salt and light in our community while protecting us from legal action. It’s complicated. I hate spending time and energy on this when it seems so far removed from our calling. I guess the devil is in the details…

    • Can they limit marriage to parish members, and forbid unrepentant homosexuals membership?

      • Ah, the “racist country club” solution!

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Might be the only way to protect yourself from a Kyle’s Mom with A Cause (and her lawyer getting 40% of the take).

          Talk about “unintended consequences”…

          • Is there a real U.S. legal case involving this, or are we just speculating about the end times?

        • Are you equating skin color with sexual behavior?

      • One of the strengths of the Catholic Church is that church discipline is not exerted at the level of membership, but at the level of access to Holy Communion (that’s what excommunication is about). So even people who are living unrepentantly in grave sin continue to be welcome to attend Mass; indeed Catholics are expected to.

        But a parish membership requirement for couples seeking marriage at a particular parish would have less juridical force than the irreformable Church teaching that marriage is between one man and one woman.

  8. Dan Crawford says

    I marvel and the depth and hatred of the Catholic Church and Catholics some of these comments reveal. The “light” of Protestant fundamentalism and evangelicalism flickers weakly, but no one seems to notice in the rush to throw stones at Catholics. It seems the only constant dogmatic thread in Protestantism is “We are not Catholics!”