Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Popes and Politics

I read this piece this morning, and have some thoughts. You can go read it as well, but in sum, a self-described liberal Catholic predicted things about Pope Francis and now he isn't seeing it come to fruition, so he is trying to figure out why he was wrong, and he seems to pin it on doctrine not mattering as much as social connections for liberal Catholics. This is where the author is primarily mistaken:

Don't worry if you cannot read it. It would just induce a rage tornado.

The above graph did not come from the piece I read this morning, but it is relevant to my point. I do not like to identify faithful Catholics as merely liberal or conservative. I look at charts or infographs such as the one above and start arguing with myself: "But I like fairness AND freedom. I like science AND theism." Then my head implodes because my first and most important identification is not with an American political party, but with something much bigger than that. I believe that following the teachings of the church allows for a foot in each camp: our beliefs simply cannot be identified using American political lingo. That isn't to say we cannot lean different ways and all still be in line with Church teaching. It means the terminology fails to encompass the entirety of the Catholic faith.

Next, the author posits that doctrine must not be important to Catholics that do not seem to agree with Church teaching, yet still go to Mass and profess to be Catholic. This leads me to wonder how many people look for social reasons to belong to a church versus doctrinal reasons?  We are all sinners. We all have our own areas in which we fail to do what we believe is the right thing to do, and that looks different for every person. We all want to feel a sense of belonging and community (most of the time). Does that mean doctrine eventually gets thrown out of the window in favor of human connection? I am Catholic because of doctrine, and natural law, and morality, and theology, and, and, and... I believe what the Catholic Church teaches. I struggle with understanding it at times and seek deeper understanding. I also have had times where I felt put out socially by the Church. (Ever try to baptize a baby when you can count on one hand the number of people you know that meet the guidelines for a Godparent?) What keeps me Catholic and in love with my faith, is the logic. The doctrine matters to me.

Now, on to the popes.

Thanks, Catholic Memes. 

I will admit it: I get a little bristly when I hear people that tend to hate on the Catholic Church talk about how much they love Pope Francis. At least, I did. It was upsetting, because I loved Pope John Paul II. His writings on sexuality and economics (not typically together, ha!) are fascinating. He radiated love. He was my pope for most of my life. Pope Benedict XVI was a fine example of someone that specialized in endurance. His papacy was not easy, and he showed great courage in stepping down. Pope Francis just was the last shot of a fabulous hat trick for many Catholics. They all have different leadership strengths, and all have made me proud to be Catholic. 

So, is the difference in Pope Francis versus previous popes that he is saying the same thing, but people just believe that he loves all when he says it? What is the threshold there... what determines someone means what they say? All three popes have preached love and acceptance, but used different words. My take away from all three pontiffs has been the same: I am called to be a witness to Christ, and to love others. I am not called to merely tolerate those different than me: I am called to love. 

I do not feel annoyed anymore by the great love for Pope Francis. Why should I? He is doing a fantastic job of showing the world why I love the Catholic Faith. 

The author ends his piece by asking the question: When does a church without a doctrine cease to be a church at all?

This question (and the article) seems to pit doctrine against community, or attachment. I do not think it has to be one or the other. I believe our generation of Catholics has the monumental task of rejuvenating catechetics. Too may of us do not know why we believe what we believe: how can we be expected to be a witness to those that are not Catholic? The why is an important step in our actions speaking louder than words. Pope Francis seems up to this challenge.

So I issue a thank you to our Pope. I thank him for being the shining example we needed of love, and I really thank him for his joy and humor. He brings so many of us hope.

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  1. Thanks, Jess - very thoughtful post.
    I think you're right that community and doctrine are not contradictory; often we come for the community, and stay because of the doctrine! I am reminded that our word "devil" comes from the Greek Diabolos, which means divider. Christ is the unifier, both/and!
    God Bless,
    James Milliken

  2. People of a liberal bent love Pope Francis for the same reason they love(d) Obama, each human being was seen as a savior from the former evil Tyrants, BXVI and W. Well, this is really clericalism at its worst. It reminds me of Israel insisting that they have a king even though God warned them that they might want to reconsider. They really need to trust in God instead and not in princes. Well, at least we can pray for them. (Also ask for prayers that we need, too.)
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