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Don't let the Web tell you what to think of the Pope

“Through humility, soul searching, and prayerful contemplation we have gained a new understanding of certain dogmas. The church no longer believes in a literal hell where people suffer. This doctrine is incompatible with the infinite love of God. God is not a judge but a friend and a lover of humanity. God seeks not to condemn but only to embrace. Like the fable of Adam and Eve, we see hell as a literary device. Hell is merely a metaphor for the isolated soul, which like all souls ultimately will be united in love with God.”

Our church is big enough for heterosexuals and homosexuals, for the pro-life and the pro-choice! For conservatives and liberals, even communists are welcome and have joined us. We all love and worship the same God.”

“God is changing and evolving as we are, For God lives in us and in our hearts. When we spread love and kindness in the world, we touch our own divinity and recognize it. The Bible is a beautiful holy book, but like all great and ancient works, some passages are outdated. Some even call for intolerance or judgement. The time has come to see these verses as later interpolations, contrary to the message of love and truth, which otherwise radiates through scripture. In accordance with our new understanding, we will begin to ordain women as cardinals, bishops and priests. In the future, it is my hope that we will have a woman pope one day. Let no door be closed to women that is open to men!”

-Pope Francis

What are we to make of these quotes? On the surface, they appear to overturn virtually every Catholic belief ever taught. Yet that seems so completely, well, un-Catholic, that it is difficult to take the quotes at face value. We wonder about the context from which they were drawn.

For example, the Holy Father supposedly made the statement about Hell sometime around the end of December. Yet we found a more recent article from March 21st where he explicitly warns Italian mobsters that they risked going to Hell if they didn't change. You can find it here: Why would he do that if there were no Hell?

The same December source supplied the quote on women's ordination. But only a few weeks before that another source stated unequivocally that the Pope would not ordain women nor promote any to cardinal. Catholic Online said so on November 4, 2013. The article is here: Why would he make so glaringly opposite statements so closely together if big changes were in the offing? And as we can see now, as no women were made cardinals in February, Catholic Online had the edge on the issue.

As to Hell, we wonder if the Holy Father was not merely expressing the thoughts of John Paul the Great on the matter: simply put, that God wants to embrace us, but we put ourselves in Hell. If so, there's nothing extraordinary about that. As far as our Church being for everybody, well, it is. It is big enough for everybody, every single person, who sees their sin and repents. We would love to know if that played into the conversation at all. But we suspect it does.

We could go on and on as there could much hay made of these passages, but the point, we hope, is made, and it's a rather obvious one these days. Anyone can put anything on the Internet. That also means they can put it up with whatever spin they like, and doctored however they want. This isn't to say that the Pope didn't say some of these things...but it is to say that we should not take (wonderful pun approaching) what we read online as Gospel. What did George Will say well so many years ago? "If the data don't jibe with common sense, doubt the data."

It took maybe 20 minutes of searching this morning for us to find holes in the quotes attributed to Pope Francis. What we need to remember is that, as the website Catholic Online says, the media is trying to hijack the Holy Father, and some areas of the media more than others. Meaning is so very often contextual. And context is often what the writer wants to seem true more than what was actually said or done.

The Church will suffer Her trials. There is no need for the faithful, though, to contribute to them. The media wants the faithful worried; they're stirring the pot for their own nefarious purposes. Why should we believe it over thousands of years of theology? In that context, there's surely no reason to put today ahead of all of history. Especially when today only cares about selling newspapers or driving traffic to websites.

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