Saturday, September 21, 2013

is the pope anti-conservative?

slate | The new head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has given his first long interview. In three sessions with Father Antonio Spadaro, editor of the Jesuit publication La Civiltà Cattolica, Francis outlines his thinking on a series of issues, from poverty to homosexuality to women in the church. What does the interview tell us? It tells us the pope is a liberal. He’ll pull the church to the left, not just on sexuality, but on every issue that pits tradition against freedom or progress. Here’s a breakdown of the English translation of the interview, published by the Catholic journal America.

11. Developing dogma. Spadaro, according to his own paraphrase, asks Francis “about the enormous changes occurring in society.” Francis steers this question toward the need for doctrinal reform in the church. He reads Spadaro a passage from St. Vincent of Lerins: “Even the dogma of the Christian religion must follow these laws, consolidating over the years, developing over time, deepening with age.” Francis elaborates:

“Human self-understanding changes with time, and so also human consciousness deepens. Let us think of when slavery was accepted or the death penalty was allowed without any problem. So we grow in the understanding of the truth. Exegetes and theologians help the church to mature in her own judgment. Even the other sciences and their development help the church in its growth in understanding. There are ecclesiastical rules and precepts that were once effective, but now they have lost value or meaning.”

The pope’s meaning is clear: The church, like other institutions, makes mistakes. Four centuries ago, it was wrong about the cosmos. A century and a half ago, it was wrong about slavery. As science develops—about sexual orientation, for instance—will the church “grow in its understanding” and “mature in its judgment”? I can tell you how Francis would answer that question: God knows.


ken said...

"The pope’s meaning is clear: The church, like other institutions, makes mistakes. Four centuries ago, it was wrong about the cosmos. A century and a half ago, it was wrong about slavery. As science develops—about sexual orientation, for instance—will the church “grow in its understanding” and “mature in its judgment”? I can tell you how Francis would answer that question: God knows."

A little to euphoric perhaps, the author here needs to show something specific where the Catholic Church will take something that is clearly written in the Bible as a sin and something someone should confess and seek forgiveness for and make a new determination it no longer abides by what the Bible says on the subject.

We all now understand who is obsessed about homosexuality. The Pope had pretty lengthy interview covering a wide range of topics, An interview that would have most Protestants agreeing and happy to here. In that interview he says what has been defined here as "classic hate the sin love the sinner" talk:

“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing."

This of course is very good, and will be welcomed for many confused and guilt ridden who find themselves participating in homosexual activity and they can be sanctified from this sin like anyone can from any sin, some are at my church. But I really doubt those who want their activity to be fully accepted, are not going to be happy that someone is loving their person and praying that God reveals to them the wrongness of their actions and has mercy on what they are doing.

The Pope follows with:

"This is also the great benefit of confession as a sacrament: evaluating case by case and discerning what is the best thing to do for a person who seeks God and grace. The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better."

Gay street is not looking for Catholic Christian love and ultimately God's mercy to bring them to confession and repentence from their homosexual actions.

As for the judging part, the pope is right who are we to judge, we all our sinners and continue to sin, we don't know the secrets of any person's inner war against his sin, the blood of Christ continues to cleanse us of every sin as we confess them.

God is greater than anyone's sin, as again the pope said with great balance:

“How are we treating the people of God? I dream of a church that is a mother and shepherdess. The church’s ministers must be merciful, take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the good Samaritan, who washes, cleans and raises up his neighbor. This is pure Gospel. God is greater than sin. The structural and organizational reforms are secondary—that is, they come afterward. The first reform must be the attitude. The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost."

Tom said...

What you're saying is true as far as it goes, Ken, but the views you express are closed, fixed like the rules of chess, where the Pope's statement is open.

Let me explain what I mean by example. As I'm sure you know there are statements in the New Testament enjoining slaves to obey their masters. Yet surely you wouldn't have disobedient slaves forced to seek confession and forgiveness? Why not? Have you abandoned the Bible?

ken said...

I wouldn't force anyone to confess, so I am not sure what you
mean by that. It would be up to the person's conscience and God to confess and
seek confession, I can't, and nobody can force someone else to seek
forgiveness, to be forgiven, it is the individual who voluntarily confesses and
asks for forgiveness.

As for your other question...why not? Let's first look at the text you quote,
we'll use the NAS because KJV uses the term bondservant, and I know you want
the thrust of the word slavery and I don't want to deprive you of that, however
the word could be defined either way :δοῦλος doulos (dou`-los) n.

1. (involuntarily) a slave

2. (of necessity) a bond-servant

3. (figuratively) a voluntary, fully devoted servant

Of course in the New Testament reading slavery was not tied to race or
superiority like it was in America:

Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with
fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; 6 not by way
of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God
from the heart. With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men,
knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from
the Lord, whether slave or free.

And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that
both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.

As you can see from the text, the American idea of slavery wasn't exactly
Biblical, in fact many will preach today using this scripture rather correctly
in describing what sort of employee or boss you should be. With the idea of no
partiality with God and equality, and the treatment of all with love and
kindness, and all of us can be grafted in to the same blessing as Israel
(it was wrong for a Jew to enslave another Jew), the Biblical argument was much
stronger against slavery. The Bible was not abandoned to end slavery but
instead it was used.

Tom said...

1. First, and I probably should have said this before: I'm not some kind of neck-bearded atheist who has discarded the Bible. I'm reading it with you, but reading it in light of a point the head of the Roman Catholic church has just made. Presumably he feels the point is important.

So let me try to make my point again:
2. The issue you dismiss above -- the historical change in the Church's position on slavery -- that issue was raised by the Pope in all seriousness.

You pick and choose from the Bible in order to claim that it is plainly antislavery. Once you're free to pick and choose intelligently, you make your point very well. And I agree with you!

But what I'm actually directing attention to is the process of picking and choosing.

You have disparaged picking and choosing from the Bible in the case of homosexuality. On the other hand, on slavery you pick and choose enthusiastically and at length. (Not accurately -- for example Jewish folks are clearly permitted to enslave each other in the Bible -- but certainly enthusiastically.)

CNu said...

Perfectly stated, and precisely why I refer to this pernicious activity as "pseudo-litigation".

No judges, no precedent, no settled case law and no underlying common law. Just breath, britches, and a buybull...,

Nakajima Kikka said...

From where I sit in the Buddhist corner, there seems to be a LOT of wishful, even delusional, thinking floating around on Pope Francis' views. Look, the Pope is a very clever man, and all those years he spent living under various South American dictatorships taught him the virtue of speaking in a tone of utmost moderation, reasonableness and flexibility. He's so good at it now that there's even a certain coyness to it that's positively alluring.

Make no mistake, though. The doctrinal content concerning what is and is not "sin" has not changed. What he wants to change is the approach to dealing with "sin"; one that is therapeutic rather than punitive. So, in the case of homosexuality, the Pope still believes that same-sex sexual relationships, committed or not, are improper, and that only opposite-sex sexual relationships provide humanity the potential to *fully* express itself in a positive, creative and life-affirming way.

At the same time, he doesn't believe that responding punitively to those involved in same-sex relationships is either effective or appropriate. Instead, I believe the Pope believes the appropriate response is akin to that shown towards a troubled friend. You're concerned for his well-being, and make him aware of that and why (but not in a badgering way), while at the same time allowing him plenty of freedom to work through his troubles, and always remaining by his side. Through thick-and-thin, as it were. This is a lot closer to what the Pope actually means, I think. The Pope should seriously consider making this crystal clear but putting it in some kind of theatrical format, like a stage play.

The same goes for any other "sin" you can think of. That's how I see it.

Tom said...

Yeah, I think even Catholics who haven't had a chance to get the straight story from a Buddhist yet are mostly more or less up to speed on that, thanks.

If the pope changed the basic doctrine you're talking about -- which was the Church's line already -- the media circus would be 3 points up the Richter scale from where we are. What has changed is he is making some comparisons to previous cases were Church doctrine did eventually alter. That's big enough to get people excited.

Nakajima Kikka said...

Hey, there's a lot of wishful, even delusional, thinking floating around out there about Buddhism, too. Like the claim that Buddhism promotes vegetarian/veganism, for example. Or that Buddhism is a pacifist religion, like the Quakers and Amish. Nothing could be further from the truth.

But people so often project. Even me. :) That's what I see a lot of progressives doing with the Pope's recent statements right now.

CNu said...

Sober up lads. Pretending that the ecclesiastical hierarchy is the final arbiter of church doctrine, and that hard lines which only date back to 1930 Casti Conubii and 1968 Humanae Vitae aren't changeable - seems very naive to me. I'd look to the institutional policies and perspectives of the real barons of catholicism to determine what comes next

Tom said...

Ohhhhh, progressives. I see what you're saying. They're almost as bad as the freaking right wing. So they're going nuts? I try not to look.

Nakajima Kikka said...

So you're saying to find out what comes next, go where the money is? Maybe, but within Catholic parishes, is there any serious philosophical movement towards the kind of American Protestant individualism and rationalism that would bring them to the same place that Episcopalians and Lutherans are now?
U.S. Buddhist temples are full of people who, for one reason or another, are not particularly welcome in Christian churches. A few are atheists (or just don't buy basic Christian theology), but a lot more are with us because they're gay, or divorced, or alcoholic, or neurotic, or even psychologically ill, and Christian churches can't seem to find a place for them. Buddhists take in all the spiritual wreckage of a Christian culture, and we do what we can to stabilize them so they are at least functional and don't end up wandering the streets a few years down the road.
While the Pope's recent statements show a willingness to modify the current punitive system of behavioral control in favor of a more humane, therapeutic approach, I see nothing as yet that would induce me to encourage one of the above "spiritual wrecked" people to return to the particular Christian denomination of their youth.

Nakajima Kikka said...

The big problem with progressives is their refusal to recognize the cyclical nature of time.

Tom said...

I don't understand what you mean by that?

I don't even know what my problem with them is. They say a lot of the right things (imo) but in practice they tend to be batshit insane. I feel the same way about a lot of my fellow Catholics, frankly, and about the western Buddhist converts I've met.

Politically I'm closer to "progressive" than to anything else, I just can't take their bullshit.

Tom said...

Maybe they're all ok and I'm crazy. That would be a pain in the ass for me personally but I'd feel a lot better about the world.

CNu said...

Parishes are breakeven operations which hardly contribute to the diocesan funding requirements. We lost our parish priest - the beloved Fr. Gerry - at the end of June. By himself, this singular, corpulent, jolly, good-hearted priest did everything that a priest and two assistants might be expected to do. In addition, being a mexican national, his spanish was flawless and his heavily accented english most endearing.

I have not seen any of the sisters affiliated with the parish since Fr. Gerry's departure, parish finances are way down, and the "whip" sent in to replace him due to his purported ability to fund raise - is an arrogant, whiny, lazy, pompous asshole whose homilies I can hardly stomach. This priest can't even get anybody to cook meals for him. I consider him doctrinally and generationally representative of the judgemental and legalistic type whom Pope Francis decried.

"Individualism" and "rationalism" are not the keys to moving catholicism. Service is the key to moving catholicism, the type of service embodied in the convents, embodied in good-hearted latin american priests, and even it appears in the discerning soldiers of Jesus who have looked long and hard at what has emanated from American catholicism and rejected it as compromising the moral foundation of the church.

CNu said...

I'm going to guess that Catholic higher-ed and catholic healthcare share more in common with Presbyterian/Episcopalean rationalism than they do with legalism/judgementalism:The 10 largest Catholic universities in the United States, as
measured by enrollment, are DePaul, St. John's, Loyola, Saint Louis, Georgetown, Boston College, Fordham, Villanova, Notre Dame and Marquette. In 2011, their annual operating budgets, taken together, totaled $6.27 billion. All by themselves, these 10 schools spent roughly the same amount as more than 17,000 parishes, and three times as much as all the country's dioceses.

According to the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, there are 251 degree-granting Catholic institutions of higher education in the United States. Most are fairly small financial potatoes, but their total assets still easily dwarf the official institutional structures.

Turning to hospitals, just one Catholic system -- Ascension Health, the country's largest, with 1,400 locations in 21 states and the District of Columbia -- had revenues of $15 billion in 2011, exceeding the combined haul for all parishes. There are 56 Catholic health care systems in America, and in 2010, the Catholic Health Association reported they had total expenses of $98.6 billion. That's almost 10 times the amount spent by parishes, and a fraction under 50 times the amount spent by dioceses.