Pope Francis is Modernizing the Catholic Church

Someone asked me to weigh in on this, so what the hell? It’s the religious news item of the day, so I suppose it’s social and culture worthy. Pope Francis: Gays, Abortion Too Much Of Catholic Church’s Obsession.

Pope Francis faulted the Roman Catholic church for focusing too much on gays, abortion and contraception, saying the church has become “obsessed” with those issues to the detriment of its larger mission to be “home for all,” according to an extensive new interview published Thursday.

As often happens, stuff like this gets couched and framed in terms of conservatives vs. liberals or “progressives.” In reality, the real debate is only over how quick of a pace things move in order for the church to remain relevant to the most people. Move too fast, or too slow, and people drop off at either end of the spectrum.

The Catholic church is nothing if not very, very smart about this stuff. It operates, in a sense, like a well run mob or protection racket. You want to milk the time, attention and money of the flock for the long term. You want the mommies & daddies, their children, and their children, and so on.

I also give credit to the church for being so much more ritualistic in form than in the protestant realms and later, fundamentalism I grew up with. Rituals, traditions, etc., can fill an important “grounding” or “normalcy” role for folks, instilling a sense of family and community. You don’t have to breathe hellfire, instilling guilt and shame at every turn. Feel guilty about something? Pop into the confessional, tell the man, and perform some ritual as penance. All tidy, relatively painless. No harm done.

In my experience over the last 15 years or so with my wife’s family—attending various weddings, baptisms, first communions, etc., in Catholic churches—I’ve always felt a sense of welcome and plain old RELAX! that I’ve never seen in a fundamentalist, Baptist church. It’s gotta be the simple ritual, reciting, etc. Homilies are short and to the point, too—not hour long boring “sermons.” So there’s that. I could go on. You get the point.

Or, perhaps to put it another way, its depth is in its shallowness.

On the issue of child rape, bad all the way around. Of course, molestation happens in all denominations. And, of course, the sin is exacerbated by the way the Catholic Church has dealt with it institutionally. On the other hand, there’s nary a young teen in fundamentalist “born again” circles who isn’t forever questioning his or her “salvation,” and whether they’re going to burn forever in hell—often for having normal, “sinful” thoughts. Nobody ever talks about this mental anguish and torture of impressionable young people.

OK, anyway, there’s my general, rambling take. Two thumbs up for Pope Francis, I guess.


  1. Amy on September 21, 2013 at 11:12

    I agree that the way the Church handled the matter of molestation egregiously and tried to cover up and shuffle the guilty priests for far too long. ; Molestation by clergy doesn’t happen more frequently than in the general secular population, as a percentage of guilty clergy and their victims compared to the secular guilty molesters and their victims.

  2. gabriella kadar on September 21, 2013 at 10:01

    Next day after the interview was published, the Vatican clamped down on the poor dude and he announced that RC doctors should not perform abortions due to reason of conscience.

    I do wish the RC church would emphasize the responsibility of the ‘father’ in regards to the unaborted. But it’s always about mothers.

  3. Richard Nikoley on September 21, 2013 at 10:26


    Arguendo, isn’t that kinda the other side of the coin?

    Women can get an abortion at will, keep a child at will. Regardless of the wishes of the bio father. If she decides to keep it, she can then use the law to make his like a living hell. Im my business, I’ve encountered dudes whose paychecks were so garnished they were left with less than $100 per paycheck.

    …And to add insult, they are denied any contact.

    Sorry, I’ve seen too much of this and I have little sympathy for women in this. The law is there, lobbied for, and it’s used relentlessly.

  4. Amy on September 21, 2013 at 11:02

    Respectfully, Gabriella, women are the gatekeepers of access to sex. Don’t want to get pregnant? Don’t have sex. It really is that simple, but not the answer this libertine age wants to hear. Rape, etc. are exceptions, not the norm. Different discussion. OOW pregnancy always occurring, yes; again, different discussion. My bottom line: abortion is murder. I know many people disagree. I am Catholic. Even when I went off the Res for a few years, I held to that belief.

    I’m lukewarm on Francis, but the press is eating up everything he says as though he is proclaiming doctrine rather than giving his opinion. Much like the POTUS, the Pope cannot simple decree a doctrinal change and let that be that. Legion cardinals and clerics must debate and conference about any doctrinal change before it can be codified and decreed. In this respect, I think Francis is trying to get Catholics to return their focus to their faith first. If you resolve that one aspect of your life and not let the worldly concerns of homosexuality and abortion deter you from developing your relationship with God and your fellow Catholics as a faith community, you might find that the issues surrounding homosexuality and abortion begin to resolve themselves.

    Many people don’t care to read the Catechism of the RCC or any Catholic apologetics. I heard someone ask me once “Why would you want to be part of a religion that wants to kill gay people?” I was taken aback more than a few steps. As far as I know, even murderers are not supposed to be killed for their crimes; it is for God to give them life and for God to take it away, and to adjudicate the eternal punishment. So, Catholics do not want to “kill the gays.” Catholics and many other denomination of Christians acknowledge that homosexual attraction exists, and encourage those who feel it to live in chastity and turn their sexual energies into benevolence and service to their community. Likewise, those not called to marriage are also called to a life of chastity and service, and to not give in to their urges for self-gratification by using another person for sexual satisfaction. There is a whole body of writing on the meaning of sex and the dignity of persons…Theology of the Body by JPII.

    • Bob on February 5, 2014 at 06:06

      You are wrong! The pope can and does issue edicts when ever they see fit. The pope does not answer to any legislative body!

  5. Richard Nikoley on September 21, 2013 at 11:50

    “Catholics and many other denomination of Christians acknowledge that homosexual attraction exists, and encourage those who feel it to live in chastity and turn their sexual energies into benevolence and service to their community.”

    Amy, you’re totally leaving hermaphrodites out, here.

  6. Amy on September 21, 2013 at 12:00

    I guess they could do it with themselves. Technically masturbation? To be a fly on the wall in that confessional!

    People are marrying parks and bridges and even their dogs. Why not yourself?

  7. Richard Nikoley on September 21, 2013 at 12:10

    “I guess they could do it with themselves.”

    Would the church approve?

    “Technically masturbation?”



    “The Catholic Church teaches that ‘Masturbation constitutes a grave moral disorder’ and that ‘both the Magisterium of the Church—in the course of a constant tradition—and the moral sense of the faithful have declared without hesitation that masturbation is an intrinsically and seriously disordered act.’

    “Although ‘it is said that psychology and sociology show that [masturbation] is a normal phenomenon of sexual development, especially among the young,’ this does not change the fact that it ‘is an intrinsically and seriously disordered act’ and ‘that, whatever the motive for acting this way, the deliberate use of the sexual faculty outside normal conjugal relations essentially contradicts the finality of the faculty. For it lacks the sexual relationship called for by the moral order, namely the relationship which realizes ‘the full sense of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love.'”

    I guess there’s still some modernizin’ to do, Francis.

  8. Amy on September 21, 2013 at 12:23

    Masturbation is obviously not open to procreation. I just can’t see Francis getting on board with declaring World Beat-Off Day for Catholic youth, but you never know. Perhaps he’ll broach the subject in a one off sound bite on CNN and then the media can declare it for him.

  9. Richard Nikoley on September 21, 2013 at 12:45

    “Masturbation is obviously not open to procreation.”

    Test tube babies have been dissed! Marginalized!

  10. gabriella kadar on September 21, 2013 at 13:27

    Not just test tube babies, Richard. Also the sperm wash centrifuged inserted through the cervix type starts to life. Or the turkey baster babies.

    Okay Richard, I’ll be a bit more specific here: men who want to have children with their wives, both agree, do so and then said man decides it’s just too much for him, takes off and refuses to either provide financial support or maintain contact with the children he had claimed the desire to procreate. There’s lots of them types in this world and it has a very adverse effect on the children.

    The newsworthy stuff is when mothers abandon their children.

    I’m not referring to women who entrap men or pretend they are on the pill or whatever.

    Yes, Amy, I agree, usually women are the gatekeepers except for situations of voluntary sexual intercourse.

    I am also not anti-abortion. I don’t think it is appropriate as a form of birth control because I define birth control as ‘contra’ captive. But situations arise, contraceptives are not 100%. I know a woman who has 4 children. Three of them were conceived while she was taking the pill. After kid no. 4 she had her tubes tied. That worked. The abortion clinic here in Toronto serviced an awful lot of married women accompanied by their husbands. Yes, I think these people should have done something more permanent like snip them tubes (whosever).

    I don’t understand why masturbation is a bad thing. Frantically masturbating to the exclusion of all other activities is a problem. When masturbation becomes ‘the thing’ in a person’s life, then it’s a problem. I just can’t see the Pope telling people that wanking off once or twice a day is a good thing but wanking off more than 5 or 6 times per day is overdoing it. :0 I guess it’s about drawing the line someplace except the someplace is extreme as usual.

  11. William on September 22, 2013 at 16:18

    “Rituals, traditions, etc., can fill an important “grounding” or “normalcy” role for folks, instilling a sense of family and community. ”

    I got my toe wet with the Catholic church a dozen or so years ago, and found the rituals, and most homilies to be quite grounding, much in the same way some aikido groups practice the Shinto religion, and Omoto-Kyo sect in particular with all their rituals. I don’t have to be a true believer while attending mass, nor do I have to sign on the dotted line to adhere to Shinto beliefs in my aikido practice. It is what the philosopher George Santayana called, and referred to himself as, “aesthetic catholic,” even though he was agnostic. This is a nice label, considering catholic priests who oversee mass, range from the Thomas Aquinas reason set, all the way down to commies.

  12. Paleophil on September 22, 2013 at 17:53

    Quite on target and brilliant, William. I doubt it’s shallowness so much as the ritual and traditions that make Catholicism more intuitively welcoming to some. It’s the doing of religion that can work and feel natural when done well. Dogma and detailed written doctrines are the main problem, not so much shallowness, which is more a problem of modern secular society.

  13. […] yesterday, and first-time e-mailer today. I'm not sure if it was my comment that sparked you to post on Pope Francis, but I appreciate it all the same. I've long valued your perspective on everything, and figured it […]

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.