Oct 11

Pope Francis, Change and Conservatism

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

Pope Francis

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.


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  1. Baby steps….as you imply….baby steps.
    I do not profess to have a close up connection to religion as you do Don. I just know it’s not for me.
    With a non-practicing Jewish father and a non-practicing Protestant mother, I was sort of a ‘mutt’ when my parents decided to send me to the walking-distance Lutheran church to try on religion…….it didn’t fit. And they didn’t want to adopt me anyway.
    I knew at an early age that it was mostly bunk. And, since I saw science as a more convincing answer to many of my questions, I walked away from any sort of organized religion.
    In the interest of honesty here, though, I will admit to returning to a local church after my late-life divorce…..it seems the eligible single woman gravitate to church, so adult singles church groups are a fertile hunting ground. I know…..I’m a pig.
    Anyway, this Pope is different and I’m pleased by his leadership on important issues of the day, but as you point out Don, it’s business as usual on the sex front. Couple that with the Catholic Church’s propensity to cover up it’s scandals and to flaunt it’s opulence, and they lose my admiration.
    You would think that as the human race advances technologically, religion would begin to fade, but there is little evidence of that. I guess that when science baffles, myth seems more appealing.

      • Don Bay on October 12, 2015 at 18:47

      I have to admit that I’m puzzled by the strength of religion in the face of the scientific advances humanity has made, but I guess it’s just easier to let God do it. I often say it’s just a blind spot.

      Pope Francis is saying a number of things that need saying, but at bottom the Roman Catholic Church is dependent for survival on adhering to totally illogical and dangerous myths. The Pope’s message is great marketing and in the short run may serve to fill those empty pews for a while, but as Yoggi Berra said, “It ain’t over until it’s over.”

      1. “Let God do it”…..Exactly!…that’s how non-thinkers use God as a crutch.
        If the car hits Johnny and he lives, ‘It’s Gods will’. If the car hits Johnny and he dies,….’It’s Gods will’……This God guy has all the bases covered!

          • Don Bay on October 13, 2015 at 13:00

          You hit the nail on the head. Pope Francis is saying a lot of stuff that makes sense in today’s world, but the Roman Catholic Church is basically saying, “Let God do it.” When will believers realize that it’s up to humanity, not some deity?

  2. I think you balanced this very well. For me, Francis is a true hero to be able to stand up for what he does, no matter how little it may change the Catholic church. He comes from liberation theology’s birthplace and it shows. I have even wondered if they will find a way to get rid of him.

    As for the Catholic church, as you know they have been devastating in Africa with their nonsense about no condoms. But there have been bright spots even there. In our village the local priest wouldn’t let us do our Stepping Stones program inside the church because it advocates and explains the use of condoms. But he lives with one of our facilitators and they have children together. Doctrine and humanity rolled into one.

      • Don Bay on October 12, 2015 at 19:03

      You point out some of the inconsistencies of the Church. Pope Francis is announcing some very important messages that relate to the survival of humanity, but the Church’s foundational dogma is leading to the destruction of humanity. Talk about mixed messages.

      I find myself wondering if the positive messages Francis is putting out there now are going to be countermanded by one of his successors. We know for a fact that the hardliners in the Roman Catholic Church are very unhappy with his messages. This is just one pope; others will follow. Will the positive messages of today survive under future popes?

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