There’s been a lot of Pope Love on my social media feeds this week.
The cute little Fiat in lieu of a limo.
The hugs, and the spontaneous kisses.
Of all the Popes I’ve read about and remember in my lifetime, Francis certainly seems like the coolest. He speaks up for the young, the poor, the immigrant, the Earth, and he was explicitly critical of the American justice system and the death penalty. He has given dire warnings on the consequences of greed, globalization, and getting caught up in consumerism.
All my progressive, liberal friends agree. He’s a nice, humble, compassionate man.
But yes, Virginia, the Pope is Catholic, and with that comes a slate of very disagreeable ideas:
- He opposes gay marriage and gay adoption
- He opposes transgender rights
- He opposes all forms of birth control (even if their use would prevent the spread of disease and enhance women’s lives in poor countries. Women have no rights unless they have the right to choose not to become pregnant.)
- He has ruled out women as priests, and refuses to bring the idea up for discussion
- He opposes abortion, and young Catholic girls around the world have been prevented from terminating pregnancies, even in the cases of incest and rape. One girl who made the news recently was younger than my own daughter.
This picture makes the rounds a lot.
But no one mentions or posts the clarification The Vatican issued soon after:
This means that all salvation comes from Christ, the Head, through the Church which is his body. Hence they cannot be saved who, knowing the Church as founded by Christ and necessary for salvation, would refuse to enter her or remain in her. At the same time, thanks to Christ and to his Church, those who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ and his Church but sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, try to do his will as it is known through the dictates of conscience can attain eternal salvation.
I can’t imagine any other Pope in history even making the first statement, can you? This acknowledgement that people can be atheists and good people is (sadly) revolutionary for a Pope. But read the clarification carefully. Don't leap ahead of the Pope -- he's not condoning willful rejection of God or Jesus or even the Catholic Church.
You can be a good person and not believe in God, but you can’t be good enough. You still have to believe in the Catholic Church and its doctrine (not the Lutheran church or the non-denominational Christian church or the Mormon Church, and definitely not shul or synagogue). That list of “he opposes” statements above are based on a belief in the Catholic bible and the catechisms, and he has tremendous authority in the Church.In countries around the world, the Catholic Church’s influence is still strong, and people’s lives, health, and futures are being hampered and put at risk because of religious belief. In our very own country, how many legislators and judges base their policy and legal decisions on the teachings of their faith instead of an objective, rational and logical interpretation of the Constitution? (Too many.)
I do not question Pope Francis's compassion, sincerity, humility or his genuine concern for others. I believe absolutely in the right of every human being to hold his or her own beliefs, until those beliefs turn into actions that harm others. If only it were easier to discern where the line is and get people to step back and not cross it.