Hope for endangered Catholics?
Since his installment as Pope of the Catholic Church, Francis has shaken things up in the Vatican. He has made it his mission to return the Church to what Jesus commanded it to be—the help and refuge of the poor, the depressed, the abused, and the obsessed. He has voiced a new tolerance in the Church for all those who do not fit the mold. He has demanded a tolerance for those human beings who society and Christianity in particular have neglected and abused in recent years.
While not changing Church doctrine on contraception, abortion, or gay marriage, the Pope has made it quite clear that the hierarchy and clergy are to stop their obsession with these issues at the expense of helping the poor. He said that this obsession is hurtful to many and that is both wrong and un-Christian.
This gives hope to endangered Catholics, but will the hierarchy and clergy listen to the Pope? It is too soon to know, but hope is better than utter despair.
It is very likely that the Cardinals and Bishops who have spent their ecclesial life obsessed with contraception, abortion, and homophobia will not change overnight. Parish priests will do what will please their Bishop.
If Pope Francis wants a Church whose hierarchy is more like Jesus, he may need to retire many of the old men who are sitting in palaces and mansions around the globe running the Church at a local level. Then he needs to replace them with holy, humble men cut from his cloth. Sadly, it is impractical to hope that women will be ordained anytime soon.
Cardinals, Bishops, and priests need to begin following the command of Jesus and start acting like shepherds and ministers not politicians. On contraception, instead of trying to impose Church doctrine on its own flock and everyone else, the clergy should spend its efforts being teachers and ministers counseling their women members on the reasons the Church feels contraception is a sin. They should cease the political harangues about Obamacare over contraception, and stop advocating a government shutdown to defund it.
On the issue of abortion, the Church should comfort those facing an unwanted pregnancy. It should reassure that person that the Catholic community will be there to assist that woman spiritually, emotionally, and financially during the pregnancy, and after the baby is born. If the mother chooses to keep the baby rather than put it up for adoption, the Catholic community—that insists the mother carry the baby to term--must be there to help the mother raise that child if she is not emotionally or financially able to do so alone.
Unfortunately, it is easier for Church leaders to harp about abortion, stage demonstrations, and instruct the faithful who they should vote for politicians who would enforce the Church’s teaching on everyone rather than be shepherds of their Catholic flock. Unfortunately this forces the Church to get in bed with politicians who agree with them on abortion, but who vote to decimate all programs that help the poor. Pope Francis seems to be saying that is the wrong way.
The same is true about gay marriage. There is a fine line between condemning an activity and condemning the individual. Unfortunately the rhetoric of the Church has too often been abusive and hurtful to the children of God who were born gay. This ugly rhetoric is wrong, but so is the action of Church leaders who act like politicians not shepherds on this issue.
Instead of comforting, consoling, and welcoming God’s gay children in the church, they advocate laws taking away civil rights form people simply because they are gay.
The Church does not need to change its doctrine on these issues, it just needs to get out of the political arena and stop the divisive talk. It runs people out of the Church. Even in the wealthiest parish, some parishioners are Democrats. In the poorest ghetto, there will still be some Republicans. Political rhetoric from the pulpit, that asserts that anyone who does not follow the political beliefs of the pastor is divisive. That’s the point the Pope was making.
Far too many Catholics are endangered because the Church looks down on them because of their political beliefs, or for who they are. Pope Francis seems to give hope to those Catholics. Maybe this man of God can bring Christ back into His Church.