Agreeing With the Pope

I am a longstanding and loud critic of the Catholic Church, but I’m seeing signs in the new pope that I think are positive. He’s not ever going to be what I want him to be, of course, but he’s saying and doing things that may move the church in very small increments in the right direction. I like what he said in a recent homily:

Wednesday’s Gospel speaks to us about the disciples who prevented a person from outside their group from doing good. “They complain,” the Pope said in his homily, because they say, “If he is not one of us, he cannot do good. If he is not of our party, he cannot do good.” And Jesus corrects them: “Do not hinder him, he says, let him do good.” The disciples, Pope Francis explains, “were a little intolerant,” closed off by the idea of ​​possessing the truth, convinced that “those who do not have the truth, cannot do good.” “This was wrong . . . Jesus broadens the horizon.” Pope Francis said, “The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation”:

“The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must! Because he has this commandment within him. Instead, this ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God. That we can kill in the name of God. And that, simply, is blasphemy. To say that you can kill in the name of God is blasphemy.”

“Instead,” the Pope continued, “the Lord has created us in His image and likeness, and has given us this commandment in the depths of our heart: do good and do not do evil”:

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

Yes, all this talk about the blood of Christ is nonsense. But that last line is refreshing and inviting. I’ve long said that I don’t really care whether someone believes in God or not. I’d rather they not, of course, but as long as they’re on the right side of the issues that I’m passionate about I am happy to work with them. I have volunteered at homeless shelters and soup kitchens run by Catholic priests and nuns and I’ll continue to do so.

So yes, Pope Francis, I am happy to meet you at the place where we are doing good. But I’m still going to criticize you strongly when you do bad. I expect I’ll not soon run out of opportunities for either of those things.

31 comments on this post.
  1. greenspine:

    Let’s not get too excited until we see what his real actions are. Anyone else remember the last pope telling everyone to cast off material things and live a life of humble poverty, while surrounded by enough gold to make a conquistador embarrassed?

  2. Trebuchet:

    Not surprisingly, the church is already taking it all back.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/05/24/vatican-representative-just-to-be-clear-atheists-are-still-going-to-hell/

  3. Dr X:

    “Yes, all this talk about the blood of Christ is nonsense”

    There is likely a Vatican/RC infighting dimension to this language. He was speaking Italian, to a mostly Italian congregation of Vatican employees and staff at his daily Mass. These are relatively brief, informal and possibly off the cuff homilies. He actually used language from the Consecration of the Mass to say that the Sangue di Cristo, blood of Christ, was “por tutti,” for all. These daily homilies are reported in the Italian press, so basically his audience for the comments is the Vatican staff, the Curia (the mostly Italian bureaucracy) and Italian Catholics.

    Behind this particular homily, there is a long story about a 15-year battle over the Vatican Congregation of the Liturgy forcing local churches to change the vernacular translations of the Mass to conform as close to exactly with the Roman (Latin) missal. It has been a contentious process with most people, including Catholic priests being unhappy with the new translations, and the Curia Congregation in charge, behaving in a very authoritarian manner. Well, who’s surprised?

    Perhaps the biggest point of contention has been over changing the words during the consecration from “for many” to “for all.” For many is actually the correct literal translation from the Latin version. Anyway, this was mostly a fait accompli in the US two years ago, but it’s just happening now in Italy, where they are fighting to keep “por tutti” instead of “por multa,” the latter being demanded by the liturgical congregation of the curia.

    Italian Catholics, priests and bishops are pretty angry about their wishes being ignored and they’ve been hoping that this new pope would give an indication that he would take their side.

    Given that one of the problems this pope faces is an entrenched, corruption-ridden Curia, this may send a signal that he is sympathetic to their opposition in the provinces. And it may say to the Italians, I hear you. Not exactly a shock if you know about the power struggles in the Vatican and the significance of this pope who has been throwing off conventions.

  4. matty1:

    Reminds me a little of this Christians, go and find friends who are Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, agnostics, atheists – not for the purpose of converting them to your beliefs, but for friendship, understanding, listening, hearing.

  5. democommie:

    Ed:

    You think maybe Pope Frankie Goes to the Vatican is gonna pull a Gorbachev and just dismantle the fucker–that would be way kuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhl!

  6. Reginald Selkirk:

    It doesn’t matter, we’ll all be baptised Mormon after we die; atheists and catholics alike. Some popes have already been baptised Mormon.

  7. Dr X:

    @Trebuchet:

    Not surprisingly, the church is already taking it all back.

    Actually, he’s not taking anything back, but it might be understood that he is because what he said was misinterpreted in blogs and by local news outlets. First problem is that everyone completely misses the point of saying “por tutti,” for all, speaking in Italian to Italians. In my comment above, I explained a signal this is probably sending.

    Second, the dispute over the words centers around redemption, not salvation. It may sound like hairsplitting, but if you look at the plain definition of the words, it’s a significant distinction in theological terms. Redemption refers to compensation for some fault or shortcoming. The idea here is related to original sin in Catholicism. Salvation involves protection from future harm. Redemption makes salvation possible, but it isn’t guaranteed.

    And that’s what all this arguing is about in the language of the consecration of the Mass. Is the language referring to redemption “por tutti” or salvation “por multa”? Redemption also means that goodness is open to anyone, even those who won’t “go to heaven.” The pope was not speaking about salvation or heaven or resurrection of the dead.

    So there has been no taking back of anything, just a great deal of misinterpretation of the remarks by bloggers and news organizations who understandably don’t know anything about the inside politics or the constructs the pope was using. This was a Mass in a residence-chapel for employees, an informal address, that would ordinarily only be covered by a few Italian MSM reporters in Rome who focus on the intricacies of Vatican politics.

    I’m not arguing about whether there is any truth to any of these constructs, whether or not they’re idiotic or whether all this legalism is about things that aren’t real. I’m just saying that the remarks were misunderstood by an audience that they weren’t intended for and things that weren’t there were read into them. He wasn’t saying atheists can or can’t go to heaven. He was saying they are redeemed, they can do good and Christians should work for good with all persons doing good.

  8. anubisprime:

    Matters not a ecclesiastical jot what Francis says the hatred and antipathy to atheists, in particular, is deeply ingrained in the curia and thus the sheeples minds.
    And as pointed out this was a fairly internal affair…more like a staff meeting then a edict, which it is not and no intention that it was, but it seems rather that he is prepared to tolerate them at a distance, or is that admit they exist?.

    Using around about convoluted homilies might signal Francis is down and ‘kewl’ with atheists, which in itself is a giant stride forward in rationality coming from a pope, but that is still a vast interstellar distance to tromp to have the same attitude apparent in the body RCC.

    It is a fair bet that the majority of the Cardinal pack and Vatican movers and shakers will be of the opinion that one of their former colleagues actually hit it four square out of the ball park when he declared that atheists were actually sub-human.
    I cannot really see that rule of thumb being overturned by a pep talk to the cleaners.
    Most of the curia will ignore it, and the rest will claim to not have heard it or claim it was a misunderstanding in the translation!
    They are already in damage control mode as Trebuchet @ 2 has pointed out.

    And I would lay odds that that would be one aspect of Frannies ‘mutterings best of’ which will be left off the album and not be repeated in any church globally for the foreseeable future…

  9. grumpyoldfart:

    So tell me Francis, have you declared Psalm 14:1 null and void? No I didn’t think so.

    The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.

    This religious fop is not interested in making friends with atheists. All he’s trying to do (and quite successfully) is to stop people talking about his child raping priests.

  10. Dr X:

    Anubisprime,

    Of course the Curia will try to ignore him. They all have their own agendas and they regularly manipulate, deceive and play corrupt games behind the scenes. But the reactions to this remind me to some extent of the way ideologues tend to react to any sign that an enemy isn’t all bad or that an enemy migh be making moves toward reform, moves that are especially easy to dismiss when they enemy is working to reform a corrupt, resistant system. The research urges me to say that partisans and ideologues on all sides are equally guilty of reconfiguring the opponent’s good acts so that they anything good is dismissed or reconfigured to minimize the efforts. We see with Obama that the right reconfigures everything to confirm the ideological line that everything he does is bad and at best, can only have the momentary appearance of being good. The last few years have me mostly convinced that liberal-minded are just fractious and contrarian enough to show more subtelty in reaction to signs of daylight on the other side, but maybe I’m giving to much credit.

    I’d rather wait and continue to see what this pope does. He’s new in the position and has already made some some symbolically radical gestures. If he means it, over the next couple of years we should see more use of his power, but first he has to consolodate his power, making some appointments and figuring out who will have his back and who, if anyone, will tell him the truth.

    In a couple of years, if he isn’t dead, I think we’ll know if he’s making headway, or if his efforts are failing, or if it was all just a window-dressing approach to reform.

  11. Dr X:

    Grumpyoldfart,

    There are plenty of contradictions in the bible and between the bible and what popes and Christians often do and say, but this statement from the pope isn’t at odds with this quote from Psalms.. Go back and read my first comment, the part about the belief that redemption by Christ’s blood made good possible for all–that’s the belief. The Psalms are OT–pre Christ, pre-redemption. The pope was talking about the effect of redemption. The internal Catholic argument, now occurring in Italy, is about whether that language in the Consecration of the Mass should be, for all or for many, about redemption or salvation, respectively.

  12. mvemjsun:

    To me this seems like a method of controlling atheists. If we fight them then they say we are wasting our potential to do good given to us by their god. Also when we do good they can give their god credit. Plus I do not really care if heir imaginary friend would invite me into his imaginary heaven for a real forever. Every description I have heard of heaven is boring or even worse like a church service. Who would want that forever.

  13. laurentweppe:

    Matters not a ecclesiastical jot what Francis says the hatred and antipathy to atheists, in particular, is deeply ingrained in the curia and thus the sheeples minds.

    Anyone who calls over a billion of human being “sheeples” deserves nothing but scorn and contempt. Your place is among the Randologist and other self-proclaimed aristocrats of the mind love to pretend that they are inherently intellectually superior to the masses and entitled to treat tham like cattles

  14. anubisprime:

    Dr X @ 10

    Well yes to be fair, a line that I thought I would never use in relation to a pope. it is early days and as you say he is working out the back stabbers from the acquiescent.
    He has a little glimmer of light there, if he maintains health, the Cardinal pool is ageing with bits dropping off.
    Another decade and a choir boy would be able meander into a enclave and emerge the other side remarkably virgin intacto.
    But it depends on if he replaces like with like as they inevitably tumble from their perch?

    I think the older members of both curia and the sheeple base will not be best pleased if the reforms that are needed desperately actually occur.

    I could believe that priests being allowed to marry might be a hard fought engagement but could happen because the RCC is at the lowest ebb both morally and ethically it has ever had to admit to.
    Moral of the troops must be rock bottom and every day it seems their traditional whipping boy…teh gheys…are thriving far better then the RCC ever thought possible just a decade ago, when they had all but battered them back into the closet.

    I think the atheist thing was uncomfortable for the majority but to even mention it took cojones not normally associated with popes in particular and RC denizens in general.

    The magisterium is a vast slick sick oily black noisy contraption of dubious maintenance, it is doubtful it will last to the end of the rail-track way in the distance.

    Frankie has not a long time so toes are going to get stomped on, the likeliest reaction will be consternation and uproar, I sense schism in the air.
    The fundy Jesuit wing with their teh ghey hatred and holocaust denial in their hearts, against the modernisers with their women in the curia and priests getting hitched and teh gheys being treated with respect and atheism never condemned from the pulpit again!

    Odd that Frankie is a Jesuit, that is one reason I distrust this new image overhaul.

    A distraction from the scandals, possibly, create a straw-man view, let the sheeples and nattering classes play with it and paw it to death, and meanwhile bury the growing stinking pile of evidence of Vatican incompetence and criminality under the footpath out back while no one is paying much attention, that sounds much more Catholic to me, but I suppose I am biassed here.
    A religion will fight tooth and nail to maintain relevance, the Vatican are waging a last stand, whether they realize it or no, but they tend to try and motivate their core base in such times, looking to gain converts by a tad of rationality has never figured before in tactical longevity when pews are emptying and finding acolytes damn near miraculous.
    Funny enough the last few interviews on TV with a ‘ young priest from the inner cities’ featured gents from the African wing of deluded-R- uz…I have not seen a caucasian young ‘un for a while!
    All the rest are or have been, or are near retirement age and advanced dotage!
    But it might just be a coincidence I suppose.

    Frank needs time to work out the exit strategy from several embarrassing situations flooding the Vatican in tray.
    And a breathing space might buy him that time….to do what exactly is another question!
    Maybe just a technique to shield the Catholic criminality from their victims in the pews and confessionals!
    The deluded have short attention spans, maybe Frank is hoping the legions lose the thread of the scandals, and when those scandals once again surface in the media, as they surely will, the RCC hierarchy can just claim ‘old news and dealt with!’ and not a jeebus sunbeam will question because it is easier that way!
    But that would be damned cynical, which is precisely why it must be a contender.

    I still doubt deeply that the Catholic Church really realizes the predicament it is in, denial or just ignorant I cannot say, but they seem keen on bizzyness as usual at any cost.
    They seem dimly aware that any possible salvation must be in the African sub continent, cos they are blown, sometimes literally, every where else!
    But even that is a long shot seeing as the opposition has staked a claim there a couple of centuries back.
    Mind you the ‘opposition’ are not immune from internecine warfare, I might even say that the C of E will schism almost certainly, the present head honcho is even more clueless then the last one!

    I would be irony indeed if the one issue that splits up the two major xtian delusion would be teh gheys & atheists, cos if these outfits do fold and fragment like so the clergy from both scams will never regain the prestige they once demanded and took as their self imposed right!

  15. democommie:

    “The last few years have me mostly convinced that liberal-minded are just fractious and contrarian enough to show more subtelty in reaction to signs of daylight on the other side, but maybe I’m giving to much credit.”

    There is a huge difference between a number (even a fairly large number) of “liberal-minded” bloggers and writers doing what you accuse them of and the concerted, professional and paid effort of the ReiKKKwing to simply lie about everything that they want to lie about.

  16. Ichthyic:

    Next up, the Pope has a seance with George Carlin, decides to resurrect…

    Buddy Christ!

  17. Ichthyic:

    It was pretty clear during the last Pope’s tenure that the curia was little more than an extortion and racketeering conglomerate.

    how quickly people forget the “butler’s letters”

  18. Ichthyic:

    Anyone who calls over a billion of human being “sheeples”

    would you prefer “thoughtless and ignorant people who live in denial and would rather not know the truth”?

  19. Ichthyic:

    ..and yes, I would even include Ken Miller in that, when it comes to his views on Catholicism, religion, and his concept of god.

    it’s amazing what the human mind is able to compartmentalize.

  20. Ichthyic:

    Second, the dispute over the words centers around redemption, not salvation.

    post hoc rationalization on your part.

    He clearly mentioned “all of us meeting up in the end”, which DOES mean he considered the issue one of being “saved”.

  21. Dr X:

    “Ichthyic”

    post hoc rationalization on your part.

    I understood what he was saying the first time I read it. I believed that it was being misunderstood in the blogs where I read about it because I understand what the Catholic church teaches on this, and I also understood the internal politics as a context immediately because I knew what was going on in the Italian Catholic church around this issue. How do you think you know what I was thinking, ( i.e., that my comment is a post hoc rationalization), when you don’t know what I know on this subject or why I know it?

    He clearly mentioned “all of us meeting up in the end

    He clearly pointed out that all of us will meet up in the end? What I read is:

    If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.

    “There” isn’t the end. There, where we will meet, is in the encounter of doing good together. And he’s saying: atheists and Christians can meet, there, in the encounter of doing good, because atheists can do good. All can do good, because all, tutti, were redeemed by the sangue di Cristo.

    If he said all will meet in the end, I missed it. I’ll accept that if you can point to the quote and retract if you do. But I didn’t see that the first time I read it or in repeated readings. I’m getting old and my mind isn’t what it used to be, so please show me. And if you can’t, would you consider reevaluating your interpretation?

  22. Dr X:

    Icthycic:

    Pet professional peeve. All rationalizations are post hoc. You can just write: “rationalization,” just as you can write “lesbian.” No need to write post hoc rationalization or lesbian woman ;-)

  23. Dr X:

    Demo,

    I know. It’s was more sort of like saying: and I thought you were a good boy, Johny. I still think liberals are better about these things, but I’m appealing to some here to distinguish themselves as better than conservatives by not falling into the same biases.

  24. Dr X:

    I’m not a fan of the word sheeple, but, yes, some people are just obedient and take their views from whatever they’re told by the particular authority figures they accept. The trouble with this word as it applies to predicting the effects on Catholics is that Catholics don’t exactly seem sheeplish. They seem to be more of a composite representation of their local cultures than a representation of what the Vatican or the local hierachy tells them. In the US, actually, they tend to be a little more liberal than the general population and much more liberal on matters like sexuality than Catholic officialdom. Same-sex marriage, for example, 54% favor and 39% opposed in a recent poll.

    As far as heaven and hell and who goes where, the majority of the general Catholic population that I know seems content to make up their own theories on this, most tending to be quite liberal about who gets into heaven. And it’s debatable whether the most conservative Catholics, the hardliners, should be understood as sheeple meekly following instructions, because they’re fine deviating where it doesn’t suit their conservative predilections. They’ve just found in the conservative side of the Catholic Church, a claim to justify their preexisting attitudes and prejudices. Same, is true, I suppose, for liberals Catholics who reject sexual teachings, but embrace teachings on war, violence and economic values.

  25. isisuptown:

    Oh, it’s condescending, but if it comforts my Catholic mom to ‘know’ her atheist children can be ‘redeemed’, then it’s a positive. She’s praying, “like St. Monica” (St. Momica).

  26. dingojack:

    Dr X – you could rationalise why you will fail (or, more rarely, succeed) which would not be ‘post hoc’.
    Dingo

  27. Dr X:

    Dingo,

    They can only be pre hoc in Oz because everything there is opposite what it is here.

  28. dingojack:

    I knew you were gonna say that!
    ;) Dingo

  29. dingojack:

    Déjà vu (all over again).
    Dingo.

  30. Raging Bee:

    …We must meet one another doing good…

    …where “good” is defined by the Pope and Catholic doctrine. Which gives the Church plenty of wiggle-room here, even if this was a formal proclamation of Church policy, which it isn’t.

  31. democommie:

    Dr. X @23:

    Cool. I sorta though that might be it, but occasionally I like to be sure!

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