All last week I had to listen to reporters falling all over themselves to praise Pope Francis’s performance in front of Congress. And then Francis had a private meeting with prominent anti-gay activist Kim Davis, and all of a sudden everyone is feeling confused and betrayed.
I feel the need to remind people occasionally that you should be listening to The Non-Prophets, because we’ve talked plenty about Pope Francis’ “progressive” persona, and we’ve been openly skeptical of him since the beginning. So here’s your reminder, because even Bill Maher used to gush about this guy:
I think the pope might be an atheist like I think Obama is. He said this week, ‘Pope Frank’ said the Lord has redeemed all of us, not just Catholics, even the atheists. And I was like, I’m going to book my flight to heaven right now.
The fact is that the Catholic Church was not ever becoming as progressive as anyone media seemed to think. On day 1, the pope hired a PR guy who used to work for Fox News. No, seriously, read all about it here. Francis was really good at saying platitudes that sounded like forward movement on certain issues, but were really just repackaging of traditional Catholic dogma.
So for instance, Francis would say something like this:
If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?
Which sounds really nice and open minded, except that a few days later some Bishops scurried up behind him to “clarify” this remark:
Pope Francis’ remarks reiterate Catholic teaching that the Church is open to all people, including those with same-sex attractions, but homosexual activity is contrary to the Gospel of Christ — just as all sexual activity outside of marriage would be. A priest must be able to live a healthy, celibate lifestyle, whether or not he has ever experienced same-sex attractions.
Which is absolutely nothing new! What did you think that “love the sinner but hate the sin” stuff was that you’ve been hearing from every Christian, ever? It means that we are all fallen, depraved, unclean, terrible… but don’t worry. By accepting the salvation of Jesus, you can be forgiven. Homosexuality is still bad, but the pope’s not the judge of that. God’s going to judge you. Just recognize that it’s a sin.
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!
I don’t even need to a link to decipher that one, do I? Oh all right, here’s catholicism.org’s Brian Kelly.
If you read the article here you will see that the Pope was simply reminded the faithful that there can be, and is, goodness, or natural virtue, outside the Church. And that Christ’s death on the Cross redeemed all men. He paid the price so that every man could come to God and be saved. If Catholic Online is insinuating that Pope Francis has “reformed” the irreformable dogma, outside the Church there is no salvation, then that is shameful and disingenuous.
Again… the Pope was not saying anything new. He was just reiterating the standard church doctrine that atheists can be saved once they become Christians. Remind me how this was revolutionary, again?
Okay, I’m gonna give this one more shot. “Pope Francis says all priests can forgive women who’ve had abortions!” screamed the headlines.
Pope Francis shook up the Catholic world — again — on Tuesday by announcing that priests around the world will be authorized to forgive the “sin of abortion” when the church begins a “Year of Mercy” this December.
“The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented,” the Pope said, adding that he has met “many women” scarred by the “agonizing and painful” decision to have an abortion.
Francis’ announcement will give all priests full authority to absolve Catholics contrite about their role in a procedure that the church considers a grave “moral evil.” In the United States, many priests already have that power, but Vatican officials portrayed Tuesday’s announcement as “a widening of the church’s mercy.”
Are you seeing the pattern yet? Pope Francis didn’t “shake up the Catholic world.” He didn’t “widen the church’s mercy.” All he did was repeat the fact that if you are a sinner — which you definitely are — you can be forgiven by acknowledging and confessing your sins to priests. And hopefully giving them money. That is essential Catholic doctrine, and has been for many centuries. Come on!
But the things he regards as sins are the same old tired social issues that right wing Christians in this country all hold dear. When you come right down to it, the bottom line is that in the eyes of the Vatican, you are a bad person if you have abortions. Or have sexual relations with people of the same sex. Or deny the divinity of Jesus Christ. All Francis has ever said is that as long as you admit that these things make you bad, and you tell a priest that you are very, very sorry, then you may be forgiven and still go to heaven. That’s it. Business as usual.
But I don’t admit that any of those things are bad, so the Catholic church is still wrong on all counts. Are we on the same page here?
One silver lining in all this is: It’s very good news indeed that the Catholics recognize that the social climate of the modern world has shifted beneath them. Pope Francis doesn’t really hold progressive ideas, but he does at least recognize that he has to pander to progressives. That means that we’re gaining ground; traditional church positions are not culturally acceptable to many people anymore, and they know it. But Francis gets zero credit for causing that cultural shift. He’s just trying to cram Catholic doctrine into a package that is more palatable to people. Don’t fall for it.