Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Who is Pope Francis to judge?

He's Pope Francis, that's who.  My problem isn't that Pope Francis simply repeats a tried and true biblical formula about the potential fate of the rich and powerful.  The Bible has more than one passage that suggests a dire outcome for those who cling to coins and chariots rather than faith in the Almighty.

My problem is that everyone runs around talking about how nice and swell and non-judgmental and open and merciful he is.  Sure, it can be a type of mercy that boldly calls out sin as sin.  But the fact that he only seems to do it against those things that certain people rage against, while avoiding like the plague speaking so directly about other sins that those same people support, is the issue.

In Pope Francis's discourse, it appears that below the waistline the only real mortal sins are those emanating from the wallet of the wealthy and powerful.  Inside the clothes are merely lifestyles and choices that technically run afoul of Church teaching, but are issues we can lovingly and graciously and mercifully agree to live together and commune together over despite the differences.

No. It would be better if Pope Francis maintained a similar tone across the board.  Condemn the powerful and the wealthy all you want, but also the narcissist and the hedonist, the sexually immoral and the decadent.  Let fly against both types of sin the same.  Or move forward with mercy and compassion.  One way or another.  It isn't as if it can't be done.  In reality, the Church has done just that under Popes JPII  and Benedict XVI.  While they stood firm on the Church's teachings on homosexuality, or abortion, they were also critical of rampant greed and consumerism, and even Capitalism run amuck. 

Where most Catholics would be
if they thought about it
But Pope Francis has, in contrast, almost set the sins below the waistline aside, reforming our approaches to them and even pushing the boundaries of tolerance and even inclusion and acceptance, while doubling down on the greed and powerful (often defined specific ways) beyond what either of the previous popes came close to saying.

I can't help but feel that this discrepancy is a major part of the angst many traditional Catholics feel.  Even if some were complacent about the rampant greed and corporate corruption by the powerful, it's not as if most would have excused them or would do a Gordon Gekko about how good greed happens to be.  And if the Church leaders had to speak about issues like gay marriage and abortion, it's because society was reimagining the moral fabric of our culture and demanding nothing less than conversion and conformity to this new morality.  In the face of that, responses had to be given.

But now we have Pope Francis, who while continuing to stand on the technical teachings of the Church regarding those personal - dare I say, liberal - issues, seems almost to set them aside as minor topics with which we can lovingly and respectfully agree to disagree.  But against those who have long been the targets of the modern progressive movement,  the jaws of Hell yawn ever before them by way of the wrath of the Thrice-Holy God. 

As long as that is his tone, please spare me the nice and happy Pope who's all about love and giving mercy a chance.  He merely has chosen to be that way toward one side of the sinful coin.  Against the other side is, ironically, the fire and brimstone I've seldom heard toward homosexuality or abortion, but aimed instead at the enemies of the post-Christian Left.  Exactly why remains to be seen.  But it is a fact that I cannot reconcile with the image of 'the sweet and kind Pope who never judges.' 

"Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God." 1 Cor 6.9-10

"He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble.”  Luke 1.52


  1. Pope Francis is saying stop worrying about sins that you will never commit yourself. It's very unlikely you are going to have gay sex. It's very unlikely that you or your wife will have an abortion or facilitate one for someone else. He wants us to focus on the sins that we do and will commit ourselves.

    People want to ignore their own sins and focus on the big ones when in reality the big ones aren't really relevant in their own lives. The percentage of people having gay sex and abortions is very low compared to the world population or even the Catholic population.

  2. My problem there is that, if you are correct, then there are millions upon millions who Pope Francis is not speaking to. Likewise, the percentage of people who are rich and powerful is also pretty low. About 1% I believe. Perhaps a little higher. But you see the point. It isn't that he speaks to this or that. Previous popes have done spoken to both areas of sin. It's that there is a clear and obvious difference in his tone and approach depending on the topic at hand. My point is, don't say he's Mr. Nice-never-judges when he clearly does. Even if we have reasons we think he does so. The fact is, he does.

  3. BTW, thanks for the comment. I appreciate the perspective.


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