So – Pope Francis, in a rather long interview with America Magazine, happened to mention a few hot-button issues like homosexuality, abortion, contraception and the like. Naturally, those few moments are all the mainstream media cares about. You know, for people who generally like to accuse the Church of having a monomaniacal obsession with pelvic issues, things like this often make me wonder if there isn’t just a wee bit of self-projection going on here. Just a bit.
The truth of the matter is that you’re fairly unlikely to hear a homily preaching against the evils of contraception, etc. Most of the time what you get is preaching on spiritual development, kindness, and whatnot. If anything, your average Catholic Joe in the pew is more in need of some tough love than a pat on the back (especially if his last name begins with B and ends with iden).
People who genuinely want to repent are welcome. The Church is inclusive of the entire human race; she’s just not inclusive of every idea the human race has to offer. Regardless of where you come from, if you’re interested in living a Catholic life, you’re gonna have the Church’s full support.
Why does the Church say that, for instance, having gay sex is incompatible with living a Catholic life? It’s a valid question to ask – indeed it would be better if more people were willing to actually understand their opponent rather than just writing them off as moronic bigots. Is it a tough thing to ask of people who are attracted to their own sex? Well, yeah. But God forbid that Jesus actually meant it when he said, “take up your cross and follow me”. We’re all called, in our own way, to make heroic sacrifices. And it’s usually the case that the big ones are not the ones that we get to choose ourselves. That is often very frightening, since we are relinquishing some control over our lives. But that sort of thing is required for making our friendships work, for making marriages work, and certainly for making our relationship with God work.
If you don’t want to have anything to do with that stuff, then, well, I have to wonder just what you expect from the Church. Trying to bake your cake and eat it too in this situation usually winds up looking a tad bit silly, as this ludicrous video illustrates:
But back to Pope Francis.
I appreciate that a lot of people are cynical about the Hierarchy, and that to some extent the clergy share the blame for that. The sex abuse scandal, and the cavalier attitude those in high places have taken towards it – not to mention the careerism and other sorts of corruption going on – has deeply wounded the moral authority that the clergy used to hold. While a lot of the hostility is unfair (and If I have to hear one more time the idea that celibacy makes men into sexual predators…), it is something that needs to be dealt with if people are going to take the Church on her own terms again. So I appreciate that Pope Francis is actually trying to get people to like the clergy again. I don’t mean to say that his approach is necessarily the best way; he does have a tendency to phrase his thoughts in a manner that is just begging for sensationalist misinterpretations, but he has his finger on the problem.
I suspect that a lot of the good will he has built up will be lost as people gradually realize that he isn’t the Episcopalian priest they think he is – expect the New York Times to run a “Thanks For Nothing, Frank!” article a hear hence. But I hope that there might be a few more people willing to listen at the end of the day. On that note it is also worth quoting some words he made earlier today (via Rorate Caeli):
Each one of us is invited to recognize in the fragile human being the face of the Lord, who, in his human flesh, experienced the indifference and loneliness to which we often condemn the poorest, either in the developing nations, or in the developed societies. Each child who is unborn, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ, bears the face of the Lord, who, even before he was born, and then as soon as he was born, experienced the rejection of the world. And also each old person and – I spoke of the child, let us also speak of the elderly, another point! And each old person, even if infirm or at the end of his days, bears the face of Christ. They cannot be discarded, as the “culture of waste” proposes! They cannot be discarded!