Thursday, October 24, 2013

Popes come, Popes go...

This last Monday, Pope Francis was quoted as making an amazing statement.

According to Radio Vatican, the Pope said:
“In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid. And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements. The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances, distances the people and distances of the Church of the people. But it is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians. It is an illness, but it is not new, eh?”

I am reminded of a photo meme on Facebook that pops up occasionally that quotes President Carter as saying:
"If you don't want your tax dollars to help the poor, then stop saying you want a country based on Christian values. Because you don't."
After searching for a bit, it seems that the statement was made by John Fugelsang, but comments indicate that Carter has made statements of that nature, including his "resignation" from the Southern Baptist Convention.

Another photo meme is attributed to a popular comedian, Stephen Colbert:

The Catholic Church is an old, monolithic institution.  It is, arguably, the oldest organized institution in the world, and is certainly the oldest monarchy to survive into modern times.  As such, the Pope is the titular head of that institution and supposedly sets the tone, direction and the goals of it during his reign.

That said, its history shows that when a Pope bucks the general trends and opinions of the rest of the church hierarchy, it doesn't always go his way.  Popes have, in medieval times, even been murdered for bucking powerful internal factions of Cardinals.

Now, that doesn't mean that I am saying that this new guy in in danger of his life.  This IS the 21st century, after all, and one would hope that after around 1800 years, it would have matured to the point that internal differences of opinion might be settled in a more - civilized - manner!  I am noting this because the direction this new Pope seems to be trying to steer the Church is a radically different direction from recent Popes' policies, and seems certain to anger church groups on the radical right fringes of Catholicism, many of whom got privileged treatment from the last couple of Popes.

Be careful, though as you are tempted to cheer this new guy.  Don't think for a moment that he is changing Church dogma or teachings.  He isn't.  He is merely warning the men who control powerful parts of the church under his direction that their past very public focus on very conservative teachings is driving rank and file Catholics away.  Those very conservative teachings are still there, still in affect, but he wants to focus instead on the kinder gentler things most Catholics DO support.

A sort of misdirection, if you will.

"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!"  I can hear the famous line from the Wizard of Oz still ringing out, desperately trying to divert attention from the revelation of his subterfuge by the little dog.

It didn't divert the attention of his audience then, and it won't work for the Pope now.  The curtain has been pulled back, their true nature has been revealed by the light of public scrutiny.  As long as the Conservatives in the Republican Party in the US are stupid enough to keep ringing the bells of extreme right wing fundamentalism, and the US Council of Bishops keeps on helping them pull the rope, the words of the new Pope may sound nice, but they won't fool many.

In OUR world, unlike the fictional Oz, there are many more than just one man behind that curtain, and we desperately need to pay attention to what they say.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You fail to take into account the premature death and mysteriously short lived reign of Pope John Paul the first. If he was not murdered for his less than conservative leanings, it would be a surprise to most rational people with any ability to put the clues in sequence.