Thursday, September 19, 2013



In an interview with Italian Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica, Pope Francis once again shook things up by declaring that the Church had "locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules" but should no longer be "obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently."  He specifically referred to such issues as abortion, contraception, and homosexuality with which the hierarchy of the Church has indeed become obsessed.   Rather than being rigid and doctrinaire, and treating the confessional like a “torture chamber,” the Church should act as "a field hospital after a battle" and should display God’s mercy rather than impose a rigid set of doctrines that seem to have wandered from the original message and intent of Jesus.  

The Pope also discussed the role of women in the Church, saying

“The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role.  The woman is essential for the church. Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops… We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the church. We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman. Only by making this step will it be possible to better reflect on their function within the church. The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions.”

The Pope didn’t go as far as many of us would like, nor is he likely to do so…as he said

“On the ordination of women, the church has spoken and said no. John Paul II, in a definitive formulation, said that door is closed.”

but we will take, for now, what the Pope has given us…more than any of his predecessors, perhaps than all his predecessors combined…and hope and pray that this is more than lip service.

Pope Francis summed up the entire interview nicely by saying

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible.  The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”


“The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.  We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”

And, perhaps best of all….

“This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity.

Such comments, along with such gestures as refusing to move into the lavish papal apartments, eschewing the regal trappings of the Papacy, urging the bishops and priests to get out of the rectories and among their flocks, and even stating his intention to drive around in a 30 year old Renault with a manual transmission (Do I love this man or what?  But I digress.) go a long way toward removing any doubts I may have nurtured regarding the Church’s being divinely guided by Jesus Himself.  (See my Easter Sunday post (“OUR NEW ANDWONDERFUL PAPA) HAS POWERFUL ENEMIES”).

While I agree with the sentiments the Pope has expressed, and would be disingenuous were I to say that such profound agreement did not have something to do with my belief that this Pope provides evidence that Jesus guides His Church, there is more to it than that.  (See my 3/13/13 post POPE FRANCIS:   THIS IS STARTING TO LOOK LIKE A MIRACLE! for my first development of this theme.)  What is remarkable, miraculous, really, is that such a man could ever become pope in 2013. 

The College of Cardinals is dominated by appointees of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.  In fact, I’m quite sure that ALL the electors were appointed by one of those two Popes.   Thus, there are few if any liberals, or even moderates in any but the most relative of terms, among those who decide who will be pope.  In fact, it would not be too cynical to suggest that the College is controlled by people who would, if they felt free to do so, disagree violently with Pope Francis.  Judging from the Cardinals’ behavior and words of the last three or so decades, one could not be criticized for thinking that this crowd believes that the Church’s most important, perhaps its sole, mission is to enforce doctrine on abortion, contraception, homosexuality, make sure the women, and especially those uppity sisters, remain subservient, and to make sure that the Church retains and prioritizes all the gold, finery, and the tacky regalia that the hierarchy prances around in like a pack of preening popinjays.

How could such a College of Cardinals ever give the Chair of St. Peter to a man who is so different in outlook, even if not on basic doctrine, from them?   How could they choose a man who thinks nothing of the trappings of office to which they so desperately cling?   How could they have chosen a man who would rather emulate Christ than be treated like some medieval potentate by bowing, scraping, terrified, and obedient automatons who profess free will while unthinkingly and reflexively doing whatever they are told?

Surely, Jesus was at work when the College of Cardinals chose Pope Francis.  May He continue to be at work in guiding and protecting this good and holy man.

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