Posts Tagged “vatican”

A Charlie Brown Christmas TreeIn a remarkable contrast to all the Religious Right’s bellicose whining about how Christmas is somehow being outlawed, alongside their ongoing effort to force every American to worship it with them, Pope Francis made some comments recently about that holiday which are very different. As Agence France-Presse reports via Yahoo News, he said that Christmas celebrations will seem hollow this year (WebCite cached article):

Christmas festivities will seem empty in a world which has chosen “war and hate”, Pope Francis said Thursday.

“Christmas is approaching: there will be lights, parties, Christmas trees and nativity scenes … it’s all a charade. The world continues to go to war. The world has not chosen a peaceful path,” he said in a sermon.

“There are wars today everywhere, and hate,” he said after the worst terror attack in French history, the bombing of a Russian airliner, a double suicide bombing in Lebanon, and a series of other deadly strikes.

“We should ask for the grace to weep for this world, which does not recognise the path to peace. To weep for those who live for war and have the cynicism to deny it,” the Argentine pontiff said, adding: “God weeps, Jesus weeps”.

The sermon threw a shadow over the start of the festive season at the Vatican, where a giant Christmas tree was unveiled.

As seems to be usual for him, Pope Francis once again bucks a lot of Catholic, if not overall Christian, trends … using the observance of a Christmas tree’s unveiling to make somber comments of this sort.

I hope all the “Christmas warriors” out there … led as they are by the (yes, Catholic!) Bill O’Reilly … will take note of what Pope Francis said. Maybe their caterwauling and whining about Starbuck’s coffee cups won’t seem so sanctimoniously important.

Photo credit: Mark K, via Flickr.

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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.

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

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Pope Francis talks about egoism and money during a meeting with the youths, in Turin, Italy, Sunday. (Luca Bruno/AP via CSM)My readers will already have heard about Laudato Si’, the encyclical Pope Francis released this week addressing climate change and economics (WebCite cached version). Media coverage of it, including that it was leaked a few days early (cached), and that Rightists have gone berserk over the Pope having dared support both environmentalism and (they think, erroneously) communism, has been addressed thoroughly enough that I saw no point in mentioning it here.

But the Pope continued to push buttons even after that incendiary encyclical. The Christian Science Monitor reports on his assessment of how the Holocaust was handled while it was underway over 70 years ago (cached):

Pope Francis on Sunday denounced what he calls the “great powers” of the world for failing to act when there was intelligence indicating Jews, Christians, homosexuals, and others were being transported to death camps in Europe during World War II.

He also decried the deaths of Christians in gulags in Russia under the Stalin dictatorship, which followed the war.…

“The great powers had photographs of the railway routes that the trains took to Auschwitz to kill Jews, Christians, homosexuals, everybody,” Francis said, citing the death camp in Poland, and asked: “Why didn’t they bomb” those railroad routes?…

Lamenting the cynicism of world players in the 1930s and 1940s, Francis said: “the great powers divided up Europe like a cake.”

He also cited what he called the “great tragedy of Armenia.”

“In the last century, so many, millions, [of Armenians] died. But where were the great powers then? They were looking the other way,” the pope said.

The CSM goes on to explain, as I noted at the time, that the Pope had referred to the Armenian Genocide using that word, “genocide,” thus pissing off Turkey (which rather childishly and petulantly refuses to acknowledge what happened).

I may not be Pope Francis’s biggest fan, but I definitely appreciate his candor in this regard. For too long we’ve done a dance of making excuses for why the world’s regimes made little to no effort to intervene in Germany during the Holocaust, in spite of an awareness of what was going on. The Pope is correct when he points out that the Allies could very well have bombed certain railroads, and taken other measures, to interfere with the diabolical infrastructure by which the Holocaust was carried out. It’s convenient to counter with the excuse that there was a war on and Germany was heavily militarized, and it wouldn’t have been possible to completely destroy the Holocaust machinery — but they might have done something, and doing something would have been far better than doing nothing.

Of course, something that would be even better than the Pope being honest about how the Holocaust was handled, would be for him to release the Vatican’s records from that era. There’s been chatter that he might do so, given that as a Cardinal he’d supported doing so. Hopefully this might actually come to pass in my lifetime.

Photo credit: Luca Bruno/AP, via CSM.

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“Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’” (Matthew 7:23, New American Bible)I’ve blogged before about Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, who some 2½ years ago had been convicted of failing to report the abuse of a minor (WebCite cached article). In the real world most of us live in, being convicted of criminal wrongdoing while on the job usually results in an automatic firing from that job.

But in the strange, surreal, alternate universe of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, that doesn’t hold true. The bishops don’t generally like to have to pay too much attention to insignificant little things like criminal courts. They’re above all that, you see. So Finn was able to keep his post.

Until today. As Religion News Service reports, at long last — 2½ years after his conviction — the Vatican deigned to allow Finn, finally, to resign (cached):

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of an American bishop who was found guilty of failing to tell police about a suspected pedophile priest.

The Vatican on Tuesday (April 21) said the pope accepted the resignation of Bishop Robert Finn, who led the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri.

The resignation was offered under the code of canon law that allows a bishop “who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause” to resign.

What’s remarkable about this is not that it took so long for the Vatican to act, or for Finn to quit. The Church had long resisted admitting Finn had done anything wrong in the first place — even after his conviction. But what’s remarkable is that he was let go after 2½ years. That amount of time strongly suggests there had originally been no intention of having him leave. Something changed — maybe 1½ to 2 years later — that made this happen … but what was it? I have no idea.

The other thing I’ve noticed, in reporting on this, is that media outlets (including the RNS article I cited, plus many others) make little or no mention of the 2½ year delay between Finn’s conviction and his resignation. I can’t imagine why that’s the case. This delay is certainly noteworthy, and anyone reporting on it ought to have mentioned it … even if only to concede there’s no known reason for it. Religion reporters appear to have taken a pass on that part of the story. It’s hard to imagine why, but they have. For this reason, I’m marking this as an example of a “journalism FAIL.” The delay should have been reported, if not thoroughly investigated — but it wasn’t.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic, based on Mt 7:23, NAB.

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baby cryingPope Francis is, in a lot of ways, refreshing. As I’ve noted a number of times, he frequently walks to the beat of a different drummer. Sometimes he steps on the toes of his own Church, but other times it’s someone else he pisses off. The latest example is of this latter sort. This past weekend, as CNN and many other outlets report, he dared refer to the Armenian Genocide which kicked off in 1915, a century ago now (WebCite cached article):

Pope Francis risked Turkish anger on Sunday by using the word “genocide” to refer to the mass killings of Armenians a century ago under the Ottoman Empire.

“In the past century, our human family has lived through three massive and unprecedented tragedies,” the Pope said at a Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian massacres.…

His use of the term genocide — even though he was quoting from the declaration — upset Turkey.

The nation recalled its ambassador to the Vatican for “consultations” just hours after Francis’ comments, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said. Earlier, Turkey summoned the ambassador from the Vatican for a meeting, Turkish state broadcaster TRT reported.

As a matter of national policy, Turkey has denied the Armenian Genocide since it occurred, and never tolerates anyone suggesting it did happen. Not only do they deny the word “genocide” applies (using any number of specious, convoluted semantic arguments to do so), they’ve downplayed each and every specific aspect of this atrocity, making it seem as though it was “no big deal,” that not many people were killed, and some of the Armenians killed had rebelled, and that some Turks were killed, too. Note that most of these arguments resemble those used by Holocaust deniers, who are similarly fact-deprived and deluded.

Turkey was so angry over this, that country recalled its ambassador to the Vatican over this … as though this were some kind of meaningful event. If I were Pope Francis, I’d say, “Good riddance! Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out!” Perhaps it’s appropriate that the Turks used this childish tactic; the Vatican pulled the same stunt a few years ago, recalling their nuncio to Ireland after Taoiseach (prime minister) Enda Kenny criticized the Holy See after the Cloyne Report‘s release.

At any rate, it’s long past time the Turks grew up, accepted what happened a century ago, and admit their ancestors tried to wipe out the Armenian people. There’s no reason for them not to own up to it; after all, 100 years later, no one who took part in this genocide is still alive to be tried for “crimes against humanity.” If Canada could apologize for the residential school system, and if the U.S. could apologize to Hawai’ians for seizing their kingdom, then Turkey certainly can grow up, suck it up, admit the truth of its own past, and stop childishly denying historical reality.

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Pope Francis Photo 1Pope Francis has been making headlines continually since his election nearly two years ago. And I’ve blogged about a lot of them. Some of his remarks have been reasonable — remarkably so, given the institution he heads — but others border on, or are, irrational and weird. An example of the latter, as the (UK) Guardian reports, is a statement he made just a few days ago (WebCite cached article):

Pope Francis has chided couples who choose not to have children, saying the decision is a “selfish” act. The statement, made in his general audience in St Peter’s Square, will be seen as especially controversial in Italy, which has recorded a steady drop in its birth rate for decades.

“A society with a greedy generation, that doesn’t want to surround itself with children, that considers them above all worrisome, a weight, a risk, is a depressed society,” the pope said. “The choice to not have children is selfish. Life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies: It is enriched, not impoverished.”

As is usual for religious figures, the Pope seems to think his own subjective notions apply to everyone on the planet. He compounds this by making subjective judgements about people who don’t do what he thinks they should. The premise that everyone on the planet is obligated to live in the way he personally prescribes, is of course laughable and absurd. Couples do not, in fact, have to have children. They’re free to decide to do so, or not, whatever they wish. Yes, even Catholic couples. And contrary to what Francis said, there are many reasons couples might choose not to have children; they might, for example, not wish to pass on some genetic problem; they might not think they have the economic wherewithal to raise a family; and, of course, they simply may not wish to have any children. Those choices aren’t necessarily predicated on the childless couple being “selfish” or part of “a greedy generation.” So the Pope has no reason to assume so.

What’s also remarkable about this statement is that it appears to contradict something he’d said a few weeks ago, as the National Catholic Reporter explained at the time (cached):

The pontiff has also made what appears to be an unprecedented statement that Catholics may have a moral responsibility to limit the number of their children, while reaffirming Pope Paul VI’s ban on artificial means of birth control.…

… Francis made a statement that seems without precedent for a pope, suggesting that parents may have a responsibility to limit the number of their children, saying: “This does not signify that the Christian must make children in series.”

Telling the story of a woman he met in a parish in Rome several months ago who had given birth to seven children via Cesarean section and was pregnant with an eighth, Francis asked: “Does she want to leave the seven orphans?”

“This is to tempt God,” he said, adding later: “That is an irresponsibility.” Catholics, the pope said, should speak of “responsible parenthood.”

One wonders, then, exactly what it is that Pope Francis thinks about couples having children? Maybe he thinks each couple must have one or two kids each, but no more. I can’t really say, but that sort of thing seems to be what he was veering toward, taking both statements together.

I suppose this weird shuffle is a natural product of the fact that Roman Catholicism encourages couples to have children — due to its doctrinal presumption that sex is solely for procreation and its prohibition on contraception — in light of the fact that children are an economic and societal burden, so that having too many can create a lot of problems (both within families and societies at large). The result of this is that Catholic leaders like the Pope can’t help but swerve back and forth on the topic, because there’s no logical way to resolve the paradox (which, I note, they have constructed for themselves).

I won’t even touch the inherent ridiculousness of a celibate man doling out life-instructions to normal couples. It goes without saying that — by definition as well as by choice — they haven’t a fucking clue what they’re talking about … and that’s all one needs to say about it.

Hat tip: RationalWiki.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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