|Pope Francis Time's person of the year|
Well, when he stays within the realm of liberation theology he appears to be sincere and although he is not saying anything radical in terms of catholic doctrine on poverty he walks the walk more than many a previous pontiff. The problem is on those occasions when he does address the social issues that the Church has been so wrong about for millennia he speaks softly but changes nothing. In fact he is quietly reinforcing the misogyny and the homophobia while giving the impression of moderation. For example on same sex relationships…
“The teaching of the church … is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about those issues all the time.”…and fine, I don’t want him to talk about it all the time, mainly so that it becomes a non-issue. But by telling us he doesn’t want to talk about it because it is an issue he is entrenching the dogma.
Optimistic liberals will point to the fact that he has removed some prominent ultra conservatives such as Cardinal Raymond Burke from the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops as a sign that Church teaching is poised to change but I suspect he is just trying to ease these hot button subjects under the cultural radar by taking the hard-liners out of the limelight.
In case you think I am being unfair to Frank over this, on the few occasions when he has had to respond seriously to controversial events on the ground he has reverted to type, for example by endorsing an anti-gay sermon given by the Bishop Scicluna of Malta in response to a Maltese Civil Unions Bill that aims to legalise adoption by same sex couples. He has also confirmed the assessment issued under Benedict by the Doctrinal Congregation criticising American nuns' group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious ( LCWR), and accusing them of "serious doctrinal problems which affect many in consecrated life." The assessment called for the organisation's reform to ensure its fidelity to Catholic teaching in areas including abortion, euthanasia, women's ordination and homosexuality which suggests that he is not prepared to allow any liberalising opinions free rein either.
There is no doubt that this Pope is doing a wonderful PR job for the Catholic Church. Outside of the atheosphere very few commenters are stressing the child abuse scandal which has not gone away or been adequately dealt with and I can’t count the number of “lapsed Catholics” I have seen on social media who are claiming to be lured back into the fold by Frank’s fine words. But fine words… high fat dairy… root vegetables etc… he needs to act in accordance with his pontifications.
It would be unrealistic, I know, to expect a revision of Church doctrine no matter how liberal a Papacy he is pursuing and besides unless he is prepared to make some radical ex-cathedra infallible pronouncements the next Pope could easily reverse the direction of travel. So I want to modify my previous advice (well, you never know…). So Frank, here it is. Keep on with the anti-poverty schtick but also stop actively opposing those things we know work to alleviate it; empowerment of women, sex education and easy access to family planning and abortion services. Nobody expects you to hand out condoms with the Eucharist but stop campaigning against programs, like the U.S. Affordable Care Act, that do facilitate access to cheap contraception. Also if you are going to insist on running hospitals around the world, stop imposing Catholic dogma on the professional health workers who staff them and free them to make clinical, not ideological, decisions.