Posts Tagged “holy father”

Bible-706658Way back in the day, when I was a college-going Christian fundamentalist, I frequently heard how the Catholic Church discouraged its adherents from reading the Bible. Since I was studying medieval history, I was well aware that the medieval Church didn’t want the Bible in the hands of non-clergy, and forbid translating it into languages the common folk might understand (i.e. anything other than the Latin of the Vulgate). The Church backed up this prohibition with force, which sometimes proved fatal, as for example to William Tyndale, who’d translated the Bible into the English vernacular.

Having been raised Catholic, though, I knew that the R.C. Church had ended this policy. In fact, the Church has translated the Bible into many languages, including the New American Bible released in 1970, a copy of which we had in our house. And after Vatican II had called for Mass to be said in the vernacular, Bibles were being read openly to parishioners in their own languages, in Catholic churches around the world.

Yet, many of the Protestant fundamentalists I spent time with persisted with the notion that the R.C. Church still didn’t want lay Catholics to read the Bible. Nothing I said about it could dissuade them. They weren’t buying it … at all.

I’ve long since left that particular crowd behind, but I still hear Protestants (especially of the fundie variety) saying pretty much the same thing. It’s a fable that just keeps being passed around among them, even though it’s no longer true. I imagine they’re all going to be disappointed by something Pope Francis just said, as reported by Vatican Radio (WebCite cached article):

Speaking to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square following his weekly Angelus blessing, the Pope urged those present to give the Bible the same place in daily life as cellphones and asked: “What would happen if we turned back when we forget it, if we opened it more times a day, if we read the message of God contained in the Bible the way we read messages on our cellphones?”

The Bible, he explained, contains the Word of God, the most effective tool in fighting evil and keeping us close to God.…

“That’s why, he said, it is necessary to become familiar with the Bible: read it often, reflect upon it, assimilate it. The Bible contains the Word of God which is always topical and effective” he said.

Inviting the faithful to carry a pocket-sized Gospel all the time, the Pope concluded with the words: “don’t forget what would happen if we treated the Bible as we treat our cellphone, always with us, always close to us!”

It’s not true, of course, that the Christian Bible “is always topical.” It’s actually the collective product of its times, with its various constituent books having been written between the middle of the last millennium BCE and the middle of the 2nd century CE. Those documents are all much more relevant and timely to those who wrote, and first read, them than they are to modern people. Even so, I’m amused that Pope Francis just skewered a common anti-Catholic fundamentalist canard that’s been thrown around for ages. Make no mistake … the lie that the R.C. Church doesn’t want lay Catholics reading the Bible, is exactly that: Fundies’ way of disparaging Catholicism.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard his flight from Yerevan, Armenia, to Rome June 26. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)Time and again, as I’ve blogged so many times over the last few years, Pope Francis has done things and made comments that one would never have expected from any of his predecessors. Well, he did it again, this time aboard his plane returning from a trip to Armenia. As the Catholic News Agency reports, his remarks were wide-ranging, and — I expect — will touch off more than one controversy (WebCite cached article):

Catholics and other Christians not only must apologize to the gay community, they must ask forgiveness of God for ways they have discriminated against homosexual persons or fostered hostility toward them, Pope Francis said.

“I think the church not only must say it is sorry to the gay person it has offended, but also to the poor, to exploited women” and anyone whom the church did not defend when it could, he told reporters June 26.…

At the mention of the massacre in early June at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Pope Francis closed his eyes as if in pain and shook his head in dismay.

“The church must say it is sorry for not having behaved as it should many times, many times — when I say the ‘church,’ I mean we Christians because the church is holy; we are the sinners,” the pope said. “We Christians must say we are sorry.”

Changing what he had said in the past to the plural “we,” Pope Francis said that a gay person, “who has good will and is seeking God, who are we to judge him?”

Surely someone out there will say the Pope was “blaming” the Pulse nightclub massacre on Catholics or Christians; if one actually pays attention to what he said, though, that’s not it. He’s pointing out only that Christianity has contributed to an atmosphere of hatred for gays. That’s a long way — a very long way! — from saying that Christendom collectively conspired to massacre gays in Orlando FL. The two are, quite simply, not even close to the same thing.

I note, too, that the Pope explicitly said that all Christians, not just Catholics, should apologize to gays for marginalizing them. This is a departure from other similar comments in which a pope or other Catholic leader spoke only on behalf of his own Church and what it or its followers had done. On this occasion, Francis said, the apology must come from other sects than just Catholicism. I’m not sure many Christians from other sects — even those who otherwise profess respect for Pope Francis — will appreciate him having said this.

The Pope also veered away from potentially ordaining women as deacons:

As he did at the meeting with the superiors, Pope Francis told the reporters that his understanding was that women deacons in the early church assisted bishops with the baptism and anointing of women, but did not have a role like Catholic deacons do today.

In addition, while he’d been in Armenia, Francis had doubled down on his prior use of the word “genocide” to describe Turkey’s atrocities against ethnic Armenians during World War I. He explained this, too, during his return flight:

He used the word “genocide” to describe the massacre of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in 1915-18 because that was the word commonly used in his native Argentina and he had already used it publicly a year ago. Although he said he knew Turkey objects to use of the term, “it would have sounded strange” not to use it in Armenia.

The Turkish government reacted as childishly as one would expect. As Reuters reports via the Religion News Service, they shot back by accusing the Pope of being a crusader (cached):

A Turkish deputy prime minister said on Saturday (June 25) that it was “unfortunate” that Pope Francis had labeled the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces a genocide, and that it reflected the papacy’s “Crusader mentality.”

References to “crusading” are among the worst pejoratives found in the Islamic world, even if it is juvenile name-calling. As I’ve blogged previously, it’s long past time for Turks and the Turkish government to fucking grow the hell up already and stop throwing tantrums every time someone calls the Armenian Genocide a “genocide.” That’s what it was … and the Turks should act like adults and just deal with it, fercryinoutloud.

Photo credit: Paul Haring/CNS.

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Pope Francis among the people at St. Peter's Square - 12 May 2013Since his ascension to the Vatican throne, there’s been an expectation, or perhaps just a hope, that Pope Francis would finally adopt a new tactic in the handling of the Catholic Church’s worldwide clerical child-abuse scandal. As something of a reform advocate, Church watchers assumed he’d do things differently. And he has, in fact, marched to his own drum in many regards, as I’ve blogged quite often, but where “priestly pedophilia” has been concerned, he’s mostly been a big disappointment.

Yeah, he’s said and done a few things that suggest he “gets it,” but in the end, nothing has really changed, on that score. The best example of this is his special review commission, which apparently imploded because at least one of its members (foolishly, it seems) expected some actual results from it. “Priestly pedophilia” has turned out to be an ongoing problem which Francis ultimately hasn’t done anything about.

But that may have changed. I emphasize the “may have” in that sentence. The Associated Press reports the Pope has changed canon law so that bishops who failed to protect children might be disciplined (locally-cached version):

Pope Francis has established legal procedures to remove bishops who botch handling sex abuse cases, saying they can be kicked out of office if the Vatican finds they were negligent in doing their jobs.

In a law published Saturday, Francis answered a long-running demand by victims of abuse and their advocates to hold bishops accountable for failing to protect their flocks from pedophiles. Victims have long accused bishops of covering up for abuse, moving rapists from parish to parish rather than reporting them to police.

In the law, Francis acknowledged that the church’s canonical code already allows for a bishop to be removed for “grave reasons.” But he said he wanted to precisely state that negligence, especially negligence in handling abuse cases, can cost a bishop his job.

Yes, it’s true there really hasn’t been anything to date preventing a Pope from demanding the resignation of a negligent bishop — for pretty much any reason at all. It could always have been done, had it been desired. The Pope has a great deal of authority, both within and outside of canon law. But having this provision explicitly within canon law is a noteworthy change.

Even so — as with the review commission that collapsed — that doesn’t mean anything will ever come of this. The Vatican will, in all likelihood, continue doing as it wishes. We’ll just have to see if this new canon law actually goes anywhere … and given the Catholic bureaucracy’s glacial pace, it might take years for it to be noticed.

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Pope Francis at VargihnaAs I’ve blogged previously, Pope Francis seems to march to his own drummer. At various points — mostly in small ways — he’s pushed against Vatican orthodoxy. He recently did so once again when, as the Religion News Service reports, he said he’s examining the possibility of ordaining women as deacons (WebCite cached article):

In an opening with historic import, Pope Francis has said he wants to study the possibility of ordaining women as deacons, a step that could for the first time open the ranks of the Catholic Church’s all-male clergy to women.

The order of deacons was reinstituted in the Catholic Church after the reforms of the 1960s, and while deacons cannot celebrate the Eucharist like a priest, a deacon can preach at Mass, preside at weddings and funerals, and perform baptisms.

But in restoring the diaconate, the church also restricted ordination as a deacon to “mature married men” over 35.…

“I would like to constitute an official commission to study the question: I think it will be good for the Church to clarify this point, I agree, and I will speak so as to do something of this type,” Francis said, according to the Vatican transcript of the encounter [cached].

“So, with regard to the diaconate,” he added a bit later, “yes, I agree and it seems to me it would be useful to have a commission to clarify this well, especially with regard to the early times of the church.”

Conservative Catholics, as one would expect, are throwing conniptions over this. They say this will lead to ordaining women as priests. That this is “slippery slope” thinking, and therefore fallacious, doesn’t matter to them. They’re determined to equate this move with the ordination of women as priests, in spite of these facts: First, studying the ordination of women as deacons doesn’t mean it will ever happen; and even if women are allowed to be ordained as deacons, it doesn’t mean they’ll be ordained as priests, too. The offices of deacon and priest are very different. What’s more, that this need not lead to a “slippery slope” scenario is evident in the fact that married men have been ordained as deacons for decades, yet this hasn’t led to married men being ordained as priests.

Another point to be brought up is that Vatican study commissions often lead nowhere. For example, Francis’s own child-abuse review commission has basically imploded. So just because the Pope wants to study the matter, doesn’t mean anything will ever come from that. Conservative Catholics would do well to calm the fuck down and stop getting their panties in knots every time Francis opens his mouth.,

Lastly, Catholics need to be aware of something they should know, yet many don’t, or don’t wish to accept: For the last few decades, the Church has dealt with a shortage of priests. The post-Vatican II restoration of the diaconate was, at least partly, a way of dealing with that: It allowed some tasks to be handed off to non-priests. The “vocation crisis” remains a severe problem for the Church. Allowing the ordination of deaconesses would, essentially, double the potential pool of applicants to the diaconate. I can’t see why this can’t be a partial solution to a problem the Church faces.

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General Audience with Pope FrancisA month ago, Pope Francis told his Church to be more welcoming toward divorced-&-remarried Catholics. The Church’s doctrines are an incentive to bar them; Catholics who remarry without having first getting an official annulment aren’t allowed to receive Communion, among other things. Annulments can be difficult to get, though, to the point where some divorced Catholics don’t even bother trying to get them.

Pope Francis is taking steps to change this. As the AP reports via ABC News, he’s making changes so that annulments are much easier to get (WebCite cached article):

Pope Francis radically reformed the Catholic Church’s process for annulling marriages Tuesday, allowing for fast-track decisions and removing automatic appeals in a bid to speed up and simplify the procedure.

Francis issued a new law regulating how bishops around the world determine when a fundamental flaw has made a marriage invalid. Catholics must get this church annulment if they want to remarry in the church.

But the process has long been criticized for being complicated, costly and out of reach for many Catholics, especially in poor countries where dioceses don’t have marriage tribunals.

In the document, Francis insisted that marriage remains an indissoluble union and that the new regulations aren’t meant to help to end them. Rather, he said, the reform is aimed at speeding up and simplifying the process so that the faithful can find justice.

The overall aim of the reform, he said, “is the salvation of souls.”

The upshot of the changes are that uncontested annulments can be “fast tracked” and handled entirely by the local diocese, without “automatic appeals” being invoked unnecessarily. It seems an obvious move for Francis to make, in order to keep divorced Catholics in the fold.

On this issue, I must admit being impressed. As I noted a month ago, the Church’s treatment of divorced-&-remarried Catholics has, historically, amounted to slamming the door in their faces. Its policies have effectively driven people right out of the Church. Telling the Church to be more welcoming of such folks — which the Pope did a month ago — is one thing, but actually greasing the ecclesiastical skids to make it easier to do, could make a material difference.

Of course, these changes can’t alter the attitudes of conservative Catholics, many of whom comprise the Church’s hierarchy. It’s possible they could still throw impediments in the path of divorced Catholics, and it certainly won’t immediately reduce their prejudices against them. Still, this is a tangible change that could have a positive effect.

Photo credit: Catholic Church England & Wales, via Flickr.

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General Audience with Pope FrancisPope Francis continues to amaze, by repeatedly marching to his own drummer. The latest example of this came during his most recent audience. As Religion News Service reports, he instructed priests to welcome remarried Catholics (WebCite cached article):

Speaking out on one of the most contentious issues of his papacy, Pope Francis on Wednesday (Aug. 5) issued a powerful call for the church to embrace Catholics who have divorced and remarried, telling a gathering at the Vatican that such couples “are not excommunicated, and they absolutely must not be treated that way!”

“They always belong to the church,” he added, calling on pastors to welcome Catholics who have remarried without an annulment, even though such Catholics are currently barred in most cases from receiving the Eucharist, the central sacrament of the faith.

“The church is called to be always the open house of the Father. … No closed doors! No closed doors!” Francis told the crowd at his weekly public audience, which resumed after a monthlong summer break.

The pope’s words were greeted with what was described as thunderous applause [cached].

The article points out that Catholicism has, traditionally, taken a hard line against remarriage:

Current teaching says such Catholics cannot receive communion unless they abstain from sexual relations because their first marriage is still valid in the eyes of the church.

A debate over this has been brewing in the halls of the Vatican since Francis took office, and it appears his comments are of his effort to press the matter. He also pointed out the hypocrisy — not to mention dysfunctionality — of the Church’s current approach:

How can the church “tell these parents to do everything to raise their children as Christians, giving them an example of a firm and practiced faith, if we keep them at arm’s length from the community, as if they were excommunicated?”

I can attest that it’s not uncommon for people born into, and married within, the Catholic Church to be alienated from it, and therefore become ex-Catholics, because of this particular issue. It’s literally driving people right out their doors … making it a really stupid way to operate. And, from the “thunderous applause” of the people in his audience, it sounds as though a lot of lay Catholics agree.

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Pope Francis with children on Friday in Luque, Paraguay, the final leg of his Latin America trip. Andres Stapff/Reuters, via New York TimesPope Francis continues making headlines by marching to what is largely his own personal drum. In addition to his recent encyclical calling for action on global warming, he keeps finding ways to poke his nose into things a lot of people would rather he didn’t. During his trip to Latin America, as the New York Times reports, he did precisely that, by condemning capitalism in strong terms (WebCite cached article):

His speeches can blend biblical fury with apocalyptic doom. Pope Francis does not just criticize the excesses of global capitalism. He compares them to the “dung of the devil.” He does not simply argue that systemic “greed for money” is a bad thing. He calls it a “subtle dictatorship” that “condemns and enslaves men and women.”

Having returned to his native Latin America, Francis has renewed his left-leaning critiques on the inequalities of capitalism, describing it as an underlying cause of global injustice, and a prime cause of climate change. Francis escalated that line last week when he made a historic apology for the crimes of the Roman Catholic Church [cached] during the period of Spanish colonialism — even as he called for a global movement against a “new colonialism” rooted in an inequitable economic order.

His apology for Church atrocities in Latin American during the colonial age have been a long time coming. The missionaries who arrived with the conquistadores and acted as their enforcers sometimes were a savage bunch. Which is why it’s odd that he pressed to canonize one of the more controversial among them (cached) — but at the moment that’s beside the point.

At any rate, it’s not the first time the Pope has made noises in this direction, and because of that, he’s already aroused the ire of American conservatives, who worship at the altar of Capitalism right alongside their Jesus. The first among them to weigh in on the Pope’s latest denunciation of capitalism was Rush Limbaugh, who as Media Matters reports — and provides audio — threw a fit over it (cached). Note that he managed to wedge Obama into his tirade, even though Obama had no relation to it whatsoever. Poor little Rushie has made a multi-decade career out of being sanctimoniously enraged that there are actually people in the world insolent enough to dare disagree with him on shit. He seems actually to think that no one on the planet is permitted to say or even think anything other than what he approves of. Expect more fierce Rightists, probably many of them, to agree with crybaby Rushie and go on self-righteous tirades of their own.

Photo credit: Andres Stapff/Reuters, via New York Times.

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