In Brief—A discussion of Roman Catholic Pope Francis and his positions on poverty, capitalism, inequality, capital punishment and climate change contrasted with the Church’s dogma relating to contraception, abortion, priestly celibacy and the ordination of women.
Rationality versus Irrationality—
On the papal throne where corrupt popes once sat, now sits a humble man who has chosen a moral life over one of pomp and excess. Pope Francis, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, the first Jesuit and first pope from the Southern Hemisphere to hold that high office, heads the Roman Catholic Church in the Vatican. A fresh wind blows through the Church…or does it?
Before discussing Pope Francis, there may be some who think an atheist is presumptuous in discussing the Catholic Church. On the contrary, I am quite familiar with Catholicism. I attended a Catholic boarding school, studying Catholic doctrine and attending mass twice a day. Consequently, as a youth, I briefly planned to become a priest. As a UCLA graduate and aware atheist, I attended a Catholic law school and took a mandatory class in Catholic doctrine along with the usual torts and constitutional law. I have no hesitancy saying that I probably know more about religion than most religious Christians. Knowing about religion and Catholicism is one of the reasons I am an atheist.
Having established my knowledge of Catholicism, I must say that many of Pope Francis’ statements are a breath of fresh air after years of his predecessors saying the same old stuff. His vocal positions on inequality, poverty, rampant capitalism, the “justice” system, climate change and immigration have resulted in hope for change and perhaps even in increased church attendance by many who had justly given up hope.
Progressives have hailed Pope Francis’ statements supporting positive change while conservatives have applauded his positions on traditional matters of Church doctrine. Something for everybody. Good marketing strategy if looked at from a business or religious perspective. What does all this mean when looked at from a perspective of reality?
Pope Francis, born of immigrants in Argentina, was undoubtedly influenced by the environment of poverty and political oppression he experienced during turbulent times. Coupled with the gospel of compassion preached by the Jesus of the Bible as well as his Jesuit training, it is understandable that he is speaking out in behalf of the oppressed, the poor and homeless and all humanity who suffer under the effects of human-caused climate change. It is a refreshing change to hear the present pope speak out for the many marginalized in a world that is run by a favored few. But what has changed in Catholic doctrine?
The Catholic Church remains deeply rooted in unchanging and irrational dogma regarding the role of females, contraception, abortion, gay marriage, homosexuality, divorce and priestly celibacy, all of which Pope Francis fully supports. Meanwhile, Catholics around the world by sizable margins ignore Church doctrine and live as normal humans. Human sexuality is both an unhealthy obsession and illogical cornerstone of Catholic doctrine. That has not changed for centuries and will not change in the future. To change is to undermine the foundation and legitimacy of the Church.
Therefore, while it is refreshing to hear Pope Francis speak out on important matters of survival and compassion, we would be foolish to expect change in the foundation of the Catholic Church. Let’s take the gifts offered by Pope Francis, but we must not expect miracles. Miracles are a delusion. Reality governs the universe.