Pope Francis divides atheists | The Washington Post

55

Nobody can accuse the Catholic Church of being democratic, but as an atheist I’ll paraphrase Winston Churchill’s remark about democracy: Pope Francis is the worst pope we ever had, except for all the others. I’m no papal historian, but I’m pressed to think of a less bad pope. True, I have nothing bad to say about Pope John Paul I, perhaps because he was pope for only 33 days.

Although Pope Benedict XVI unified atheists whenever he made pronouncements on atheists, gays, pedophilia, and all matters sexual, his successor, Pope Francis, is a divider rather than a uniter within the atheist community. Some atheists see this pope glass as 1/10 full, while others see it as 9/10 empty.

For instance, what are we to make of this statement from Pope Francis? “God’s mercy does not have limits and therefore it reaches nonbelievers, too, for whom sin would not be the lack of faith in God, but rather, failure to obey one’s conscience.” Pope Francis added that God forgives those who do not believe and do not seek faith, as long as they follow their own conscience.

I like the pope’s emphasis on conscience, though I neither want nor need forgiveness for not believing in a nonexistent deity. I doubt that the pope would appreciate someone telling him, “Zeus will forgive you for not believing in him as long as you follow your conscience.” Following one’s conscience instead of a religious “authority” is exactly what atheists and humanists do. We are also guided by reason, empathy, and a growing knowledge of the world to help live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good. No need for gods and other supernatural forces.

Promoting conscience must make a lot of conservative Christians squirm. Is the pope saying it doesn’t matter what you believe about Jesus as long as you are a good person? Not quite, but he comes closer to that position than any pope in my memory. I’d say the difference between conservative and liberal Christians is that conservatives place belief above behavior and view this life as preparation for an afterlife, while liberals place behavior above belief and focus on improving the human condition.

The issue for me is not just how much of Catholic theology this or that pope believes, but which parts he emphasizes and which parts he mostly ignores. Pope Francis is concentrating more on peace, poverty and social justice than on abortion, gay marriage and contraception. He even gave a limited shout-out to gays, asking “Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?” But he conditions his benevolence on a search for the Lord.
 

Written By: Herb Silverman
continue to source article at washingtonpost.com

55 COMMENTS

  1. On the one hand Pope Francis should be commended for such radical, modern, thoughts at least as far as the Catholic church is concerned.

    On the other however, this frightens me in that this is the start of the same tactic the Church used in the past to incorporate other religions/peoples. They take what is common to the group in question, make that part of doctrine in order to bring those people into the fold. While I believe that church adopting modern ideas like reason and evidence would be a good thing, this tactic is still as sinister as it was in those hundreds of year past.

    I can only hope that adopting modern ideals breaks more of the religious away from the church than it brings in the non-religious.

  2. I’ll just say it. I’m very worried lately about this pope’s election. The way an organized and official cover up of child rape (and sometimes adult suicides as a result of) could be so quickly dropped (relatively) by the bowing out of Benedict makes me realize just how big of a sleeping giant we are battling against (faith).

    Mike

  3. Agree with the author. I just want to add, To ALL Atheist and Anti-theist:

    Do NOT get distracted with the pope’s comments or ideas. This organization must come down. This is the ONLY way to stand up for justice on behalf sexually molested children. Up to today, there is NO any move or real action from any pope to speak the truth on all the crime they did to thousands of victims children. Mark my word, until this Francis pope die, they will not do anything to open up and hand down all the criminal actors to the police for justice. What good does it make if their Dog forgive or not?

    If it’s not us who stand up for these kids, who else?

  4. “Pope Francis added that God forgives those who do not believe and do not seek faith, as long as they follow their own conscience.”

    That seems quite a statement, coming from a Pope. He is saying you don’t need to believe, just do what you think is right. Yes, I know you don’t need him to tell you that. The point is, he seems to be thinking rationally. Well, at the very least his words are rational.

  5. Pope Francis, is a divider rather than a uniter within the atheist community

    he doesn’t devide me. I am still 100% against the catholic church as an institution with any political influence/

  6. Are we divided? I don’t think so. I don’t feel it. This guy hasn’t done one single thing to raise Catholic women above the status of reproductive slaves. Jesus didn’t dig women and his church reflects it. This pope is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    • In reply to #11 by LaurieB:

      Are we divided? I don’t think so. I don’t feel it. This guy hasn’t done one single thing to raise Catholic women above the status of reproductive slaves. Jesus didn’t dig women and his church reflects it. This pope is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

      The whole clergy vowed to have no relationships with women and no sex. These are pedophiles, gays and Sheldon Coopers. They are hardly the people to be making fair rules for women or to be conseling married couples.

  7. There’s no doubt this Holy Jo is wilier than the other Holy Joe.

    Hah, catch me if you can ! Shadow boxing is my speciality, plus caring for the poor !”

    Why almighty Jesus allows a world where there are poor people is beyond my theological understanding. Either He doesn’t care, or He can’t do anything, or He is evil.

    I do like Herb’s sense of humour !

  8. I really liked this article. It pretty much reflects what I think myself of this new Pope. He’s a nice guy who has to put up with the system. I didn’t hear him say one mean thing yet. He sounds a lot like a humanist. At least, you can talk to someone like that.

  9. I found this article excellent,

    Bottom line: Pope Francis may be as good as it gets, but the Catholic Church just doesn’t allow popes to get that good.

    And this is where it is pretty clear he’s not so hot, he has chosen this path of hypocrisy, whatever he thinks beneath the surface (which I suspect is not so different to the last pope) I have a lot more respect for Catholic priests who have been excommunicated on the basis of disagreeing with the church. I only wish more Catholics would follow them.

    • In reply to #15 by Reckless Monkey:

      I have a lot more respect for Catholic priests who have been excommunicated on the basis of disagreeing with the church.

      Yes, but sometimes you can change some things from the inside. Just look a Gorbachev’s case.

      • In reply to #17 by Fouad Boussetta:

        In reply to #15 by Reckless Monkey:

        I have a lot more respect for Catholic priests who have been excommunicated on the basis of disagreeing with the church.

        Yes, but sometimes you can change some things from the inside. Just look a Gorbachev’s case.

        This would be great if this were the case. And I would be happy to be proved wrong. Having said that, he just told a bunch of doctors that they should refuse to perform abortions. So I want some clear answers from him, is he really a moderate or just another politician. Now he is meant to be the head of his church, he is meant to be capable of delivering the infallible word of god. Now let’s here it. He is either a political appointment playing his part and has little or no real power, or he is capable of ruling over his church and determining the direction of his church. So is he unwilling or just unable, either are useless while millions world wide are infected by AIDS it is time to do something other than just saying ambiguous nice things on one hand and then doing nothing on the other. I really do hope I am wrong, We’ll see.

        • In reply to #21 by Reckless Monkey:

          In reply to #17 by Fouad Boussetta:

          In reply to #15 by Reckless Monkey:

          I have a lot more respect for Catholic priests who have been excommunicated on the basis of disagreeing with the church.

          Yes, but sometimes you can change some things from the inside. Just look a Gorbachev’s case.

          This woul…

          Quite right. I’m glad somebody has pointed this out. This Pope might be acting a little softer to Atheists than the last ( who blamed the holocaust on us) but you should look carefully about all his statements.

          He is very anti reproductive rights of any kind – given the millions of people who have either died from Aids or been infected with HIV because the Catholic church has campaigned in every country they still have influence in (including an unholy alliance with the Bush administration) to prevent the distribution of condoms and have an official line that condoms spread aids rather than prevent it. They have vilified Bill Gates as a “eugenicist” because he has a charity that seeks to distribute condoms.

          It is is this sort of insidious lying that really angers me; the child abuse covering up angers me too but in that case they have officially recognised the problem. Theres no sign of a similar attitude to the death and misery they are causing on a world wide scale with their supernatural beliefs about reproduction.

    • In reply to #15 by Reckless Monkey:

      I have a lot more respect for Catholic priests who have been excommunicated on the basis of disagreeing with the church.

      Yes, but sometimes you can change some things from the inside. Just look a Gorbachev’s case.

  10. Maybe the Catholic Church will evolve to eventually become more benign, even if just to compete with the existing liberal Christian denominations. Antitheism is fine with some religions, but is misplaced with some innocuous faiths like Baha’i for example. Maybe Catholicism will eventually go that way. We should at least have a conversation with it, as it may help it mutate.

  11. The Pope can smile and say as many warm and fuzzy things as he wants, but the RCC is run by a bureaucracy of money handlers in the practical world and theologians shackled to Aquinas in the spiritual world. Neither group is going to change their ways in the foreseeable future, and if push comes to shove, they will get together when B16 dies and annul Francis with a new election (or just poison him first as per Catholic historical tradition).

  12. Our tone in articles and comments on popes is still way to serious and deferential bestowing on them a validity they should instead systematically be denied. Ridicule, scorn, and reminding the world of the crimes of their preposterous (history’s longest running) crime syndicate should become a standard component whenever and wherever popes and their international cult delivery apparatus -the RCC- is the topic.

  13. Reminds me of the deluded logic of republicans, when they lose an election they count it as a win because now people will discover how terrible it is to have democrats in power.

    It’s a tremendous victory, a lethal compromise to the doctrine of Xianity, or at best a stim-pack that might get them another generation into the future. This is what happens when their arrogance and amorality (Faith over Works, John 3:16, Nicea resolution) turns them into a pack of AIDS promoting, child-raping, genocide apologists. They have to buck up and swallow the pill of basic decency and stop preaching hatred if they want to continue making a dollar off of fools.

    Maybe I’m naive, but I believe compromising the Faith vs. Works stance will necessarily obliterate Catholicism and Xianity as a whole. This is what it looks like when Xianity dies. Further steps to survive may include Unitarian/Jeffersonian compromises. For the first time in the history of Catholicism, the Church is endorsing morality. Because ‘Works’ do not establish determination towards Heaven or Hell, Xianity is amoral shamanism. Now that they endorse morality, they may stop pushing shamanism.

  14. The Pope can continue to speak as he likes, and the Catholics will just continue as they had, I am doubtful what he said would actually change the way people act and behave. He is a leader that is chosen by a selected few anyway, so obviously he can’t be assumed to be representative of the majority of Catholics.

    Will those Catholics that were hateful of gay folks suddenly become more accepting to those who are gay because of what the Pope said, for example? I doubted it.

    The important thing to remember is, whatever the Pope said didn’t really matter. Popes come and go, and they can have as many different views in as many issues there are in the world.

    • In reply to #24 by TexasRanger:

      Will those Catholics that were hateful of gay folks suddenly become more accepting to those who are gay because of what the Pope said, for example? I doubted it.

      Interesting. I’ll expand the thought experiment: If a person were losing their homophobic views, could the Pope’s condemnation keep them on that side of the fence?

  15. When were atheists ever united? That’s what’s getting me. If he’s divided what wasn’t united then it must be some sort of miracle, or more gobbledigook like that 3-in-1 trinity stuff. (But also see my #9 on this thread)

  16. Wow. Lots of “anti-theist” hate in these comments. I smell fear with a touch of panic. Fear that if people like the Pope, then they will stay Christian or become Christian.

    One thing is certain: if you spew hate all over a figure that almost everybody in the friggin’ world seems to like, then all it will do is rebound on you. That’s regardless of whether or not you have a valid point.

    This is a brand new Pope, so no one can say how his pontificate will evolve. But right now we have a Pope who is more forgiving, less judgmental, and (importantly to me) more concerned with the poor than with people’s bedrooms. He sets examples through personal actions. He spoke recently on the disparity of wealth in the world and its consequences, and did it from the heart: he put aside his prepared speech and winged it.

    You do not have to villify someone else in order to promote your own agenda. I’m glad to see a more liberal, less dogmatic Pope. He isn’t everything that I would like him to be, but then again… who is? I’ll applaud his good points and continue to oppose his bad points; regardless of who he is. He has said some really great things, and yet I still support abortion.

    My desire to see a secular world isn’t at all impacted by the fact that Francis seems to be a good guy. But I’m not going to call him a deceptive snake trying to trick people into the fold just because he is doing things that make people like him.

    • In reply to #27 by downshifter:

      Hi Downshifter,

      This is a brand new Pope, so no one can say how his pontificate will evolve.

      I suppose that’s true, up to a point. Benedict XVI’s unprecedented (in recent centuries) resignation demonstrates that the Vatican hierarchy is not completely powerless, however. The peaks of all hierarchies are sustained by the endorsement and approval of those at the lower levels, and never underestimate the power to influence which resides in a bureaucracy.

      While it is obvious, even to an outsider, that power is rarely and grudgingly delegated that still leaves: The Vatican upper classes and the Church’s tendency to feudalism, control over resources such as treasures, property and money, experts and those with ‘knowledge’ (particularly theologians, and those who know secrets), persuasion (direct, indirect and subliminal), Cannon Law, violence (incl. threats), coercion (incl. potential blackmail), moral persuasion (because you never know your luck!), the management of group dynamics (e.g. via press releases and sermons), social influence and tradition.

      The bottom line is that Francis has come to power following at least a century of the Vatican moving to a more conservative and doctrinaire position. This has – again clear to even an outsider – greatly influenced the career progression and selection of the Church’s upper classes (Bishops, Archbishops and Cardinals). Francis is at least as much a product of the Vatican as he is it’s Pilot.

      The extent to which Francis will be able to press for change is constrained.

      But right now we have a Pope who is more forgiving, less judgmental, and (importantly to me) more concerned with the poor than with people’s bedrooms.

      Is emphasis sufficient reason to put our hopes in Francis? Let’s wait and see. Actions speak louder than words.

      He sets examples through personal actions. He spoke recently on the disparity of wealth in the world and its consequences, and did it from the heart: he put aside his prepared speech and winged it.

      … and emptied the Vatican’s treasury … or maybe not.

      You do not have to villify someone else in order to promote your own agenda.

      Fair enough.

      I’m glad to see a more liberal, less dogmatic Pope.

      Time will tell.

      He isn’t everything that I would like him to be, but then again… who is?

      I can think of lots of people who are everything I could wish them to be. Perhaps my standard is lower than yours. I tend to be a man of principle; I don’t mind if people have weaknesses, so long as they’re honest about them, and address them. I do mind if people don’t at least explain why they set aside principle for pragmatism.

      My desire to see a secular world isn’t at all impacted by the fact that Francis seems to be a good guy.

      But earlier you said:

      This is a brand new Pope, so no one can say how his pontificate will evolve.

      Make your mind up – has he demonstrated (already!) that he is a good guy, or not?

      Peace.

    • In reply to #27 by downshifter:

      Wow. Lots of “anti-theist” hate in these comments. I smell fear with a touch of panic. Fear that if people like the Pope, then they will stay Christian or become Christian.

      One thing is certain: if you spew hate all over a figure that almost everybody in the friggin’ world seems to like, then al…

      I agree with you – I’m not sure that non-belief (under all the many labels we have for it) needs to be a commonality. My complex/confused thoughts around theism may never match exactly with anyone else’s, and that’s just fine, because in my world, my beliefs are mine alone. Perhaps I’m lucky – I don’t need to have an opponent against whom to bounce my values and beliefs; I don’t need to draw comparisons with believers (whatever their chosen labels may be) to highlight my own position. Attacks on others (for example, this pope) seem in many cases to be a subtle call to arms, a call to ‘think like me’ when in fact, as you point out, such attacks tend to be self-defeating as they merely polarise opinions and positions. Dealing with the morality of actions and the consequences of such actions seems to me to be a more relevant and hopefully more effective way of addressing the strangeness in our world.

    • In reply to #27 by downshifter:

      Wow. Lots of “anti-theist” hate in these comments. I smell fear with a touch of panic. Fear that if people like the Pope, then they will stay Christian or become Christian.

      No not afraid of this, and I don’t ‘hate’ the Pope. I hate that because of the Catholic Church (among others) children have been raped and their rapists have been protected, contraception is still being fought against, euthanasia is not legal, gays cannot marry in most places and I could go on…

      So I’m asking the question and wishing the media would do the same what does this man who’s religion I don’t believe in but still has so much impact on my choices and those of those I love actually think? What does he actually intend to do? He could, as Pope be very clear and say Homosexuality is not a sin, Condoms are okay. Why does he dance around the place saying conciliatory things in public but then tell a bunch of doctors that they should not perform abortions? I think he should be politely made to answer some very specific questions or give up being Pope.

      But right now we have a Pope who is more forgiving, less judgmental, and (importantly to me) more concerned with the poor than with people’s bedrooms. He sets examples through personal actions. He spoke recently on the disparity of wealth in the world and its consequences, and did it from the heart: he put aside his prepared speech and winged it.

      Okay where is your evidence he is more forgiving? Take for example him saying he could not judge homosexuals, he was then pressed further and had to admit it was still a sin. So what he was saying has not changed one jot of Catholic doctrine, he still believes gays will go to hell and that it will be God who judges them. Logically, therefore he is not doing them any favours, he should be warning them about hell. If he is claiming to not know if god is going to send them to hell, then what is the point of him, don’t claim to be Pope.

      We seem to be congratulating this guy for being a regular nice guy, he’s bloody well claiming to be the human voice box for the creator of the universe! He is claiming an authority that has an impact on anyone who happens to have been unfortunate to be born into a catholic family and the rest of us have to put up with their interference in health care and education.

      You do not have to villify someone else in order to promote your own agenda.

      Not vilifying, asking what he believes. I believe he will either reveal himself to be a political PR move by the Vatican or as conservative as the last Pope with nicer manners. He can vilify himself.

      I’m glad to see a more liberal, less dogmatic Pope.

      No actual evidence of this so far.

      He isn’t everything that I would like him to be, but then again… who is?

      Gods representative on earth would be.

      My desire to see a secular world isn’t at all impacted by the fact that Francis seems to be a good guy.

      That’s good, I am genuinely glad he has at least gone this far even if it just shifts some Catholics or makes them feel freer that’s good too.

      But I’m not going to call him a deceptive snake trying to trick people into the fold just because he is doing things that make people like him.

      Does he think Homosexuals will go to heaven?
      Will he and the Catholic church continue to attempt to block Gay Marriage?
      Will he continue to attempt to stop doctor performing abortions?
      Will the Catholic Church continue to convince governments to stop euthanasia?
      Will he commit to releasing documents on known Paedophile Priests to the relevant authorities?
      Will he support contraception, especially in third world countries?

      I wouldn’t go so far as to call the guy a deceptive snake (a bit harsh on snakes for a start). But his position is meant to be one of authority, either he has it and should be unambiguously clarifying all of these positions or he is a politician, with little real power and therefore of little use, nice guy that he may be (and I don’t doubt he is).

      He is in a position to do some good or real harm through action or omission, until now he has said some ambiguously nice things and then avoided comment when pressed further, all of the evidence points to him being just as conservative as the last Pope but less willing to be honest about it. Please remember also that no-one is forcing him to do this job, he needs to answer some questions.

    • In reply to #27 by downshifter:

      One thing is certain: if you spew hate all over a figure that almost everybody in the friggin’ world seems to like . . .

      Hi Downshifter.

      Since Catholics are about 1/7 of the world population, and not all of them like this Pope, where did you get that “almost everybody in the friggin’ world” assertion? Sure sounds like wishful-thinking to me.

      You do not have to vilify someone else in order to promote your own agenda.

      I do have to vilify religions as rich, harmful scams, no matter who their internally-selected mouthpiece is, since they are built on unhistorical, confected, illogical, contradictory, often-revised myths, clearly stolen from previous fairy stories, and depend of faith (belief without evidence) enforced by indoctrination, fear and punishment to keep their sheepish tithers comforted, corralled and passive.

      I’m a non-religious anti-theist because of what faith-heads have done and continue to do to innocent children and mind-numbed adults (both mentally and physically), so I don’t care what they believe, or how much spin their managers – old celibates in skirts and funny hats – put on their dogmas.

      Religions are based on false presuppositions, have evolved to be finely-tuned to herd their members, have caused untold damage to the human species, and deserve all the ridicule and distaste they have richly earned over many centuries.

      At least in some enlightened parts of the world I can say things like this and no longer be ostracized, suppressed, hated, vilified or killed for having the audacity to ‘think outside the book’…. Mac.

      • In reply to #53 by CdnMacAtheist:

        In reply to #27 by downshifter:

        One thing is certain: if you spew hate all over a figure that almost everybody in the friggin’ world seems to like . . .

        Hi Downshifter.

        Since Catholics are about 1/7 of the world population, and not all of them like this Pope, where did you get that “almost everyb…

        In a nutshell.

  17. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just too cynical of anything coming from the catholic church, but Francis’ retoric, on the one hand, smacks of spin issued from the vatican as a kind of damage control – “Talk to them nicely. Don’t draw any flak our way, we’ve enough already”.
    Yet on the other hand, could this really be a conscious shift to tap into 21st century society and culture? Either way, I’m sure the vatican has been hearing it’s death nell chimes for a while now so who knows – a last ditch attempt at being human?

  18. The fact that so many people see Pope Francis’s statements as a departure for the Church confirms a widespread misunderstanding as to what the Catholic Church actually teaches. Everything he says has been explicitly laid out in Catholic teaching for over fifty years and implicitly for long before that. He is communicating a way of life that is already widespread among many Catholics, but unknown to many others.

    The problem, as Pope Benedict remarked, is that too many people get their understanding of Catholicism from unreliable sources, in particular the secular media. This selective reporting inevitably colours their understanding of what it means to be Catholic. For example, most people will be aware of the letter from the bishops of England and Wales about gay marriage (even if its content was widely misreported) because of extensive media coverage. However, how many people know about the letter written by the same bishops a month later challenging the faithful to make practical efforts to support those facing hunger, both in their own communities and overseas?

    This lack of basic information sadly extends into parts of the priesthood. In my personal experience, a significant number of priests are reluctant to empower their congregations for fear of losing control. This directly contradicts Catholic teaching and, as well as educating priests who should know better, many dioceses in this country are now educating the laity directly to ensure that the true message gets through.

    Along with some atheists, I’m applauding Pope Francis. He has been able to capture the imagination of the popular media so that they are now reporting the Catholic faith more accurately. Of course, some Catholics at all levels of the Church disagree with his words and actions, but they need to ask themselves who is more in line with the Christian message.

    • In reply to #29 by Humbug:

      The fact that so many people see Pope Francis’s statements as a departure for the Church confirms a widespread misunderstanding as to what the Catholic Church actually teaches. Everything he says has been explicitly laid out in Catholic teaching for over fifty years and implicitly for long before t…

      Speaking as a Catholic who is ‘active’ within the Church, Humbug is spot on.

    • In reply to #29 by Humbug:

      The fact that so many people see Pope Francis’s statements as a departure for the Church confirms a widespread misunderstanding as to what the Catholic Church actually teaches.

      I see no departure, it’s just more of the same condescending bullshit with a post-modernist spin.

    • In reply to #29 by Humbug:

      Hi Humbug.

      The fact that so many people see Pope Francis’s statements as a departure for the Church confirms a widespread misunderstanding as to what the Catholic Church actually teaches.

      I will go further: It confirms a widespread misunderstanding of how the Catholic Church actually functions, and what it actually is.

      Everything he says has been explicitly laid out in Catholic teaching for over fifty years and implicitly for long before that. He is communicating a way of life that is already widespread among many Catholics, but unknown to many others.

      Like this?

      The problem, as Pope Benedict remarked, is that too many people get their understanding of Catholicism from unreliable sources, in particular the secular media.

      As some regular visitors to richarddawkins.net will know, I am no lover of Big Media. I hear you. On the other hand I have to ask – given the oh-so-easy example that you set up above – is there the possibility that the Church sends mixed messages. This is obviously a rhetorical question, and it begs for deeper study. The media get lots of things wrong – it is, frankly, astonishing that anyone knows anything remotely factual – but are the media, by their errors and poor focus, sending Catholics a message? Are they saying that Catholics need to be clearer? It seems to me that they are and, moreover, they are merely holding up a mirror to the Church.

      You may argue that the media’s mirror is something from a fairground – that it vastly distorts some parts of the real picture of the Church – and I wouldn’t argue. Secular, humanist and atheist organisations would say exactly the same – we too suffer. Nevertheless, without prejudice, some parts of the reflection are very accurate and some of what we see is ugly for a reason not connected with the media …

      This selective reporting inevitably colours their understanding of what it means to be Catholic. For example, most people will be aware of the letter from the bishops of England and Wales about gay marriage (even if its content was widely misreported) because of extensive media coverage. However, how many people know about the letter written by the same bishops a month later challenging the faithful to make practical efforts to support those facing hunger, both in their own communities and overseas?

      To beg for forgiveness of a sin by pointing to a good deed does not take away the hurt.

      To point to something on which we can all agree does not take away the fact that we disagree on something else.

      One wrong + one right ≠ all right.

      This lack of basic information sadly extends into parts of the priesthood. In my personal experience, a significant number of priests are reluctant to empower their congregations for fear of losing control.

      Why are you making the Church’s problem our problem?

      If priests are doing and saying things that are not in accord with the teachings of J.C. and the revealed truth of former popes, then say so – report these acts and omissions to the hierarchy. Get involved.

      This directly contradicts Catholic teaching and, as well as educating priests who should know better, many dioceses in this country are now educating the laity directly to ensure that the true message gets through.

      I’m really not interested in the internal machinations of any organisation of which I am not a member. They generally tell me nothing I couldn’t work out for myself. Thanks anyway.

      Along with some atheists, I’m applauding Pope Francis. He has been able to capture the imagination of the popular media so that they are now reporting the Catholic faith more accurately.

      Fair enough. I’ll give it some time, you’ll be disillusioned with the media again (if not Francis) soon enough.

      Of course, some Catholics at all levels of the Church disagree with his words and actions, but they need to ask themselves who is more in line with the Christian message.

      Ah … politics. Always so easy for the pundit, yet so much more complex for those who get involved.

      Peace.

    • In reply to #30 by Peter Grant:

      The Catholic Church is a force for good?

      Peter, this debate is infamous for many Catholics. It is often used as an example of how NOT to explain the Catholic faith, and resulted in the creation of Catholic Voices.

      http://www.catholicvoices.org.uk/page/what-catholic-voices

      This group educates lay Catholics as to what the Church really teaches and then equips them with the media skills to enable them to communicate that message. It was originally set up to prepare the way for Pope Benedict’s visit to the UK, but it has proved very popular and is continuing to expand.

      There are vital debates to be had about the nature of what it means to be Catholic and whether it is a force for good, but that debate can only take place when Catholicism is understood by both sides. The good news is that Catholic teaching is clearly explained in the Catechism and the documents of Vatican II, so we don’t need to take Anne Widdecombe or Archbishop Onaiyekan as Gospel.

      • In reply to #32 by Humbug:

        In reply to #30 by Peter Grant:

        This group educates lay Catholics as to what the Church really teaches and then equips them with the media skills to enable them to communicate that message.

        The group’s media skills would explain why it has a “Campaign for Conjugal Marriage” rather than a Campaign to Stop Gay Marriage. The words lipstick and pig spring to mind.

    • In reply to #30 by Peter Grant:

      The Catholic Church is a force for good?

      Thanks for the link, Peter; I enjoyed watching that debate. The audience swung quite markedly against the motion in the final vote, suggesting that the great majority of the audience did not regard the Catholic Church as a force for good in the world. I concur with this view, and this is the background to the topic of the present article by Herb Silverman about Pope Francis, who is more focused on the pastoral and socioeconomic concerns of the Church than on its doctrinal and disciplinary concerns which were the focus of the previous two popes. Pope Francis would like the Church to return to the more open and inclusive ethos that prevailed in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, but it is only a cultural change that he seems to be seeking to bring about – it would be a mistake to expect any change in doctrine. Perhaps Pope Francis practises something similar to the Mohammedans’ taqiyya.

  19. Just a reminder that the Catholic Church is the Catholic Church. Priest excommunicated in Melbourne last week.. Not for child rape. That only gets you defrocked after decades of abuse. No this guy challenged the Church rules. So not just sacked as a priest but sacked as a Catholic. I guess he should give thanks that he’s not actually been burnt at the stake.

  20. In reply to #37 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

    Everything he says has been explicitly laid out in Catholic teaching for over fifty years and implicitly for long before that. … Like this? [Catholic Church confirms atheists still go to hell, after Pope Francis suggests they might go to heaven]

    Stephen, this is an excellent example of how Catholic teaching is misrepresented. The quote attributed to Rev Thomas Rosica is that atheists “cannot be saved” if they “refuse to enter [the Church] or remain in her.” This is a partial quote from Vatican II which states:
    “It would be impossible for people to be saved if they refused to enter [the Church] or to remain in the Catholic Church, unless they were unaware that her foundation by God through Jesus Christ made her a necessity.” (Lumen Gentium (LG) para 14)

    In other words, the only people who aren’t saved are those who believe that the Church was founded by God but refuse to enter it. An atheist does not believe in God, much less in a Church founded by Him and therefore is rejecting something he or she believes to be untrue. This makes it entirely possible to reject the Church and be saved. If you take the quote in the context of LG as a whole, this becomes even clearer (see paragraphs 15 & 16) and demonstrates why Pope Francis was fully consistent with Catholic teaching.

    So what we have here is very selective quoting of Catholic teaching in a way that misleads rather than informs. What we can’t determine from the article is whether the editing was done by Rev Rosica or The Independent. Either way, I take your point that the Church needs to be far clearer in the way it communicates.

    Incidentally, you may be interested to know that LG also states: “Despite incorporation in the Church, the person is not saved who fails to persevere in charity, and remains in the bosom of the Church ‘with his body’ but not ‘with his heart’.” (Para 14) It’s a reminder to us all that membership of the Church is, in itself, no guarantee of salvation.

    is there the possibility that the Church sends mixed messages.

    I agree absolutely. I am inspired by Catholic teaching, but I am often desperately ashamed of the way it is sometimes presented, even by its senior members. I was shocked, as an adult, to read the documents of Vatican II – they describe a Church I believe in and want to be part of that is so different to the one presented by some of its representatives.

    “When religious education is neglected, doctrine misleadingly compounded or shortcomings evident in the religious, moral and social life of believers, then we must admit that the true face of God and of religion is veiled rather than revealed.” (Gaudium Et Spes, para 19)

    I see the solution to this as being education. We should be studying Catholic teaching for ourselves and not taking religious instruction blindly from those in authority. I feel so strongly about this that I have prepared a series of talks about Vatican II which challenges people to go back to the original documents rather than rely on commentaries (even from me!). I have given these talks twice within my parish and am now hoping to share this with a wider audience.

    some parts of the reflection are very accurate and some of what we see is ugly for a reason not connected with the media

    Again, I agree completely. “The Church, with sinners clasped to her bosom, is at once holy and in constant need of cleansing.” (LG para 8). Pope Francis himself, when asked “Who Is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” responded: “I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.” (http://www.americamagazine.org/pope-interview)

    As Catholics, we are told to put our faith in Jesus Christ. While others will help us on that journey, they are imperfect and not to be worshipped themselves. Nobody in the Catholic Church follows all the Church’s teaching all the time and we therefore have to differentiate between the ideal that we believe will bring fulfilment and the imperfect way each of us tries to imitate it.

  21. In reply to #40 by Humbug:

    In reply to #37 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

    Hi Humbug,

    [Catholic Church confirms atheists still go to hell, after Pope Francis suggests they might go to heaven] … this is an excellent example of how Catholic teaching is misrepresented.

    I don’t see how. If members of the Church say one thing, then say another thing and the two things don’t match, then we only have the Church to turn to for clarification.

    On that basis you can’t claim that the Church is being misrepresented. You can, and do, claim that some in the Church are not presenting the correct picture. The internal disputes on doctrine within the Catholic Church are not my concern, as previously advised. One of the ways in which the Church looks less-than-beautiful, returning to my distorting mirror analogy, is that doctrinal disputes are just confusing.

    Imagine a political party that couldn’t decide who was the best person to lead them. They, publicly, have a dispute over who is best – flip-flopping between candidates and generally giving the impression that the argument is more important than actually governing, deciding policy, or engaging in democratic debate. Would the public be right to consider this, at the very least, confusing and counter-productive? [with apologies to any Australians who might recognise where the example comes from]

    Journalism is often mislabelled a profession, it is not. At best journalism is a semi-skilled trade – something akin to being a self-employed Mini-Cab Driver but without the need for a licence, advanced driving skills, a criminal record check, passing a driving test, knowledge of the local roads, insurance, automotive club membership, or even a car. As a result entry requirements are non-existent and the resulting quality of almost all journalism is, putting it mildly, highly variable.

    We cannot, with the best will in the World, constantly expect that journalists will rise above the common herd and write sparkling prose that fully explain every detail. At best, we can expect that they will reflect the understanding of their readers (viewers, listeners, etc.) and add some titbit of additional detail, or a new angle, that will raise the knowledge and understanding of their readers bit by bit. Even with this lowly goal in mind, the daily output of Old Media, to be succinct, is not encouraging.

    The Catholic Church needs to get its story straight. That isn’t the job of journalists.

    I take your point that the Church needs to be far clearer in the way it communicates.

    Cool. [That dates me.]

    … is there the possibility that the Church sends mixed messages.

    I agree absolutely. I am inspired by Catholic teaching, but I am often desperately ashamed of the way it is sometimes presented, even by its senior members. I was shocked, as an adult, to read the documents of Vatican II – they describe a Church I believe in and want to be part of that is so different to the one presented by some of its representatives.

    I can only repeat what I said before:

    • It’s your problem, own it.

    • It’s not my problem (or any non-Catholic person’s problem).

    I see the solution to this as being education. We should be studying Catholic teaching for ourselves and not taking religious instruction blindly from those in authority.

    That sounds like Martin Luther – you dangerous Protestant radical you!

    I feel so strongly about this that I have prepared a series of talks about Vatican II which challenges people to go back to the original documents rather than rely on commentaries (even from me!). I have given these talks twice within my parish and am now hoping to share this with a wider audience.

    I’m sure that’s all wonderful stuff, but it has nothing to do with my liking or disliking Francis (as per the OP).

    … some parts of the reflection are very accurate and some of what we see is ugly for a reason not connected with the media

    Again, I agree completely.

    Well at least we agree on something.

    As Catholics, we are told to put our faith in Jesus Christ. While others will help us on that journey, they are imperfect and not to be worshipped themselves

    I get the part where people make mistakes. But if I’m going to develop a positive impression of Francis I need to see some greater consistency in both the Church’s ability to get its story straight and Francis’ ability to steer the ship. Until then.

    Nobody in the Catholic Church follows all the Church’s teaching all the time and we therefore have to differentiate between the ideal that we believe will bring fulfilment and the imperfect way each of us tries to imitate it.

    As I said in an earlier post today, people in the media and, like the Catholic Church, who want to get the best from the media need to understand that in the age of the Net we are in a global conversation and that we need to be thinking in terms of globally coherent and consistent conversations. To many of us this will seem like dumbing-down (addressing only the lowest common denominators in global society), but we can only raise that denomination by starting with what we have.

    Francis and your Church are failing to make headway with most atheists because they are failing to understand that imperative.

    Peace.

  22. Why object to a Pope concentrating more on poverty, peace and social justice. Surely anyone concentrating on those has got to be listened to,. In any large organisation there will be good and bad parts and you can still actually say this, this and this is wrong but you seem to be moving forward and getting this and this right.

    I like the pope’s emphasis on conscience, though I neither want nor need forgiveness for not believing in a nonexistent deity.

    I like that to, and just cos it came from a pope it doesn’t make it any less true .

  23. I, like many above, don’t believe there’s any such thing as a ‘good’ Pope. That there’s nothing any Pope can do to fix the wrongs caused by the Catholic church or aid humanity.

    That said, a Pope would be in the position to ease some suffering if they had the guts to defy the church. For example, permitting the use of condoms in Africa, giving away all the churches money to feed the poor. (that alone would probably solve world hunger)

    I also don’t think there’s any chance of this nice-guy popes words converting a bunch of atheists to the dark side. I can’t realistically imagine any atheist thinking “hang on, this Pope guy says God doesn’t hate me after all, maybe I can start beleiving in him”. Except for maybe a few misguided people on the fringe who aren’t atheists for rational reasons.

    My opinion is that the catholic church is still pretty benign and no Pope is going to make any headway in curbing the rise in non-beleivers on a global scale.

    Islam on the other hand…

  24. Why object to a Pope concentrating more on poverty, peace and social justice. Surely anyone concentrating on those has got to be listened to,. In any large organisation there will be good and bad parts and you can still actually say this, this and this is wrong but you seem to be moving forward and getting this and this right.

    Of course he’s doing something right.
    As the latest in a long line of old, self-righteous men sitting atop a gilded tower full of riches, he’s one of the first to ask OTHER PEOPLE to help out the poor a little bit, instead of telling everyone to hate gays and atheists like the last one.
    Nevermind that the dissestablishment of the catholic church could probably end world poverty in an instant, it’s his WORDS that really count.

  25. Seraphor comment 48

    Of course he’s doing something right. As the latest in a long line of old, self-righteous men sitting atop a gilded tower full of riches, he’s one of the first to ask OTHER PEOPLE to help out the poor a little bit, instead of telling everyone to hate gays and atheists like the last one. Nevermind that the dissestablishment of the catholic church could probably end world poverty in an instant, it’s his WORDS that really count.

    The disestablishement of the RCC would do nothing to end world poverty, that would take a radical rethink of global capitalism, current thinking and all that that entails, which is not remotely realistic. So the issue becomes one that says urging people to help out the poor and disadvantaged is something eveyone should agree with regardless of what they think of the messenger and the rest of his ideology. Yes argue that the RCC could do a lot more, by getting rid of the condom bans for starters. Argue that they are hypocrites for that stance that keeps certain groups in contined poverty certainly. But to go against this particular statement just because it’s made by the pope? Surely you’re leaving yourself wide open to accusations that you don’t actually care about the poor and dispossessed.

    It is the poor and dispossessed that cling to religion the most because they have nothing else but that. Until they do religion will persist. All the education and rational thinking in the world is no use if the person that SEEMS to be caring for your starving children are the priests. Atheists care just as much or as little as any other group, so those that care should be saying ‘yep he’s got something right now lets criticise or try and push him in the right direction to achieve that, criticise his subsequent deeds, not this statement.

  26. Even if he succeeds in stripping away all the vindictiveness, corruption, secrecy and meanness of the RCC, there remains the fundamental issue of God’s existence. Or non. Not even the cuddliest institution in the world should be entitled to exist based on something untrue.

Leave a Reply