An essay donated by Susan Humphreys
"Confused by the Confusion" over Pope Francis &
Roman Catholicism. The author's personal opinion.
Confused by the confusion:
There was a great deal of talk in late 2013-SEP about:
- The Pope's interview with a Catholic journal, and
- Comments he made at a recent meeting of Catholic gynecologists.
Many folks seem confused. Some claim he is sending mixed messages. Others are perturbed that he isn’t coming right out and condemning the doctrines of his church.
I don’t understand all the confusion. I think the Pope has found himself caught between that proverbial rock and a hard place. I also think he is a smart man. If he makes major changes in church doctrine or dogma, he probably realizes that he might trigger create a schism in the church. The church can’t afford to lose membership if it is to continue as the Catholic -- universal -- church.
The church is facing a major exodus of members throughout the world. Their official numbers show growth, but they are computed on the basis of baptisms and do not account for the many people who are Catholics in name only, and have drifted away from the Church. Many maintain nominal membership (not wanting to give up the sacraments of baptism, marriage and burial). Others are leaving the church for Evangelical Christian groups, which they find livelier and less stuffy.The numbers of men and women taking vows and joining the religious groups has been declining for years in North America and they are running out of bodies to do the work of the church.
The encyclical “Lumen Fidei” (Light of Faith) -- which Pope Francis co-authored with Pope Benedict XVI -- was quite illuminating! 1 The whole authority, power, wealth of the church and it’s Pope, Priests, Bishops and Cardinals rests on the foundational doctrine that The CHURCH is God’s creation not man’s creation, and since God is infallible, The CHURCH is infallible and THE CHURCH is the Pope, Priests, Bishops and Cardinals as well as the doctrines/dogmas and everyone else on down the line.
- If the Pope admits that his predecessors made errors, that the doctrines/dogmas were set by men not by God he would be throwing into question the whole issue of fallibility and lose the justification for their authority. If they don't represent the opinions/wishes of God who do they represent?
- IF he fails to admit that past errors were made, the work was done by men not by God, he loses credibility.
Authority without credibility is nothing more than the brute force of the Tyrant. Which explains why dictators go to such lengths to hold “credible” elections and why the two Popes joined together in their encyclical to prove the TRUTH of their faith/FAITH/church/doctrine/dogma.
Why is the Pope is simply calling for a change in “attitude” towards one of openness, welcoming, and forgiveness. That is already part of the church doctrine/dogma. However, it is a part that he realizes has been pushed aside/overlooked/forgotten by church authorities who are more focused on the sins of others, while ignoring their own sins, and the sins of the Church. Popes are, after all, infallible. Church doctrine states that when a pope makes a statement "ex cathedra" it is infallable"
"... when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians ... he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church." 2
The Protestant movement split over this issue (among others) -- the belief that ordinary men have the same authority/Faith as the church leaders and then have as much of a right to read the Bible for themselves and set the doctrines/dogmas of the church.
The Pope is really stuck, why bother to be a Catholic IF the Church isn’t infallible, and IF regular folk have as much authority in setting doctrines/dogmas as the princes of the church?
The pundits are also perturbed that he won’t change the Church’s position on celibacy. I think that the insistence on celibacy stems from the belief that women are a distraction and take men’s minds away from higher thoughts. Note many other religious groups have also promoted celibacy for their monks and nuns. Note also the way some dress their women, covering from head to toe with baggy garments and veils. AND why there was such a fight among women religious in our country in times past to change the dress code.
NOTE at least one religion fully understood sexual ecstasy, seeing the experience as transcendent, and wrote a book about it! Look at what the church did to St. Theresa. I love that sculpture of her, The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa. 3 That looks to me like a woman consumed and frightened by sexual ecstasy. The distinctions between sexual excitement and the adrenaline rush that comes from the beat of drums, extreme sports, wild music, fiery sermon and the transcendent feelings from a spiritual experience aren't so different!
I also think the position against women and for celibacy was also about undermining the power and authority of Pagan religions -- including more recent Neo-Pagan religions -- where the women priestess had and continue to have as much if not more power than the men!
If we look at history I think that many if not all of the problems of the church stem from the fight for authority and wealth! It has never really been about TRUTH! Nor about doing what is best for the people. 4
How does the Pope bring about change without losing everything? That is the billion dollar question and the spot between that rock and the hardplace that he finds himself in.
An addendum to the above essay on 2014-OCT-01:
Since I wrote the above essay Pope Francis has made the news again. This time for saying he wants a missionary church like that of St. Francis:
"We need to give hope to young people, help the aged. and open ourselves toward the future and spread love."
He has organized an advisory group of eight Cardinals to begin discussing ways to bring about change. The Cardinals he has selected are from around the world, outside the inner Vatican circles.
Their task won’t be an easy one. I hope they put front and center in their minds the memory of the long history of missionary abuses of the Church that have contributed to the hate and distrust and religious strife that we see today in all parts of the world.
I lived in New Mexico for many years. The Conquistadors first arrived in the area in 1540 and brought Catholic friars with them. The history of the southwest is a long one of abuses by the Catholic Church and of good things done by the Church. For example the Catholic Church opened the first schools and hospitals in New Mexico. They also enslaved the local Indians. In 1680 the Pueblo Indians had enough and threw all the Spaniards out of New Mexico and martyred several of the abusive priests in the process. The Church in New Mexico had problems with alcoholic and sexually abusive priests long before the sexual abuse scandals became the problem it has seen in recent years. New Mexico was seen by some to be a “dumping ground” for problem priests.
Other parts of the world have their own stories to tell about the evils committed by the Church and it’s priests.
It wasn’t “love” that was spread by the missionary zealots. It was something quite the opposite and our world is still reaping the rewards of the fear and hate of "the other", the ones that were different, that was sown.
The above essay represents the personal opinions of its author. Some readers may not agree with the points raised here. We invite them to write about their beliefs and submit them to this web site's "visitors' essays' section.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Pope Francis, "Lumen Fidei," The Vatican, 2013-JUN-29, at: http://www.vatican.va/
- "First Vatican Council, "Session 4, EWTN Global Catholic Network, 1870-JUL-18, at: http://www.ewtn.com/
- "Bernini's portrayal of the ecstasy of Saint Theresa," Sexuality & Love in the Arts, 2009? at: http://sexualityinart.wordpress.com/
- Robert Cladensi, "Earthly Mission: The Catholic Church and world development." Yale University Press, 2013-OCT. Available in Kindle and Hardcover versions. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
Review by The Economist: "Few will approach his [Calderisi’s] book with an open mind. The faithful will find his candid assessment of the church’s transgressions unsettling. Its critics will find his praise of its mission similarly discomforting. Both can learn, though, from his work."