"Religion is a hypothesis about the world: the hypothesis that things are the way they are, at least in part, because of supernatural entities or forces acting on the natural world. And there's no good reason to treat it any differently from any other hypothesis. Which includes pointing out its flaws and inconsistencies, asking its adherents to back it up with solid evidence, making jokes about it when it's just being silly, offering arguments and evidence for our own competing hypotheses...and trying to persuade people out of it if we think it's mistaken. It's persuasion. It's the marketplace of ideas. Why should religion get a free ride"

Greta Christina

Monday, 6 January 2014

I hear what you're saying Frank but...

They say “be careful what you wish for…” a phrase that maybe I should have been mindful of when writing soon after Francis took over from Benedict XV1 as Pope since Jorge Mario Bergoglio seems to be taking a lot of my advice seriously.
Pope Francis Time's person of the year
For the record I don’t think he reads my blog (or even the snarks I send in reply to some of his more fatuous tweets) but his modus operandi since taking office has been spookily in accordance with my suggestion that he focus his message on poverty and income inequality rather than flogging the mantras against contraception and gender equality and it seems to be doing wonders for his personal reputation. He has already been crowned Time Magazine’s person of the year 2013 and become something of a darling to the liberal left while simultaneously enraging the right for his criticisms of capitalism and corporate greed. So what am I griping about?
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.
Here’s hoping….

No comments:

Post a Comment