Monday, September 28, 2015
Pope Francis - A Gentle Old Man
In essence, nothing much has changed in the Roman Catholic Church. From its inception the Roman Catholic church has claimed all authority for itself. The Pope, being the Vicar of Christ and the mouthpiece of the Christian god, has access to the truth for all time. And when he speaks "ex cathedra," he cannot err. He is infallible.
Additionally, the Pope rules not just the many millions of Catholics around the world, but he is the temporal ruler of the Vatican, which is a political state. It even has an ambassador. And we send our ambassador to the Vatican; for what purpose I do not know. Some 50 years ago, this was an huge issue because of our notion of church v. state. Many felt we had no business sending an ambassador to a religious cult. We did it anyway.
Thus, it should not be surprising when political robots such as Scalia and Santorum and other "devout" Catholics conclude that their religious doctrine trumps our Constitution. For that is what the Roman Church teaches and that is what it has taught throughout its too-long life; nothing trumps Catholic dogma.
Down through history, the Roman church has been as much a political institution as a religious one. And in every place where it had enough power, it demanded obedience to its doctrines and policies. Nothing has changed, in spite of the "sweet" face of Francis.
I really hoped things would change under Francis. But nothing has; nothing of substance. Francis has, as some say, brought a breath of fresh air into the church, especially when arguing the church has spent too much times on issues having to do with sexuality.
But despite the efforts of Pope Francis to slightly alter the church's emphases, the Roman Church still considers women as lesser than men, to be 2nd-class citizens by disallowing them from participating in the priestly work of the church. Women's orders remain under the thumb of the pope and Francis, as we have seen, is perfectly capable of putting Catholic women in their place if they start questioning the system.
Nothing has changed. Homosexuality is still considered a deviation and an abomination. The church continues to move slowly on priestly sexual predators. Ordination in Roman Catholic theology confers a special blessing which is not and never will be, available to the laity. Those ordained gain a special status in the sight of god which can never be taken away.
And much Catholic theology drips of ancient mysteries and cultish practices. The Mass continues to be said in churches around the world and the people participating truly believe that their god demands blood sacrifice for their sins, and that when the priest says a few "magic" words the wafer and wine become the physical flesh and blood of the long dead mythical Jesus and that by eating and drinking said flesh and wine they will be saved from hell forever.
I really hoped things would change, but that was a false hope. Francis has come and gone and is now back in Rome. Prior to leaving, however, it is said he met privately with our homemade piece of Kentucky piety, Kim Davis, following which he made an incredibly anti-American statement. Roman Catholics, said his highness, may be justified in not doing their jobs if their job involves activities contrary to Catholic doctrine. In other words, Kim Davis, just got a papal blessing for her refusal to do her job.
[The above paragraph needs to be clarified and modified. Evidently, Pope Francis did not meet privately with Ms. Davis, but with a group of people, and at no time addressed her particular situation as a county clerk in Kentucky.]
Whatever comes of this eventually, one thing needs to be said very clearly to every public servant: YOUR PERSONAL BELIEFS DO NOT TRUMP THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION! And if you find yourself in such a situation, you must resign immediately!
If Pope Francis said what he was initially reported to have said, he is wrong. But we must understand that the Roman church is not a democratic institution. The Pope is an authoritarian figure, heading up a non-democratic structure and ruling via Canon Law. Nevertheless he as well as his followers in this country should respect our Constitution and democratic procedures.
This is true because the U.S. is a secular country. While our citizens believe in wide variety of deities, we as a country are not subject to any of them. Our founding fathers made that clear. We believe in the Constitution. Our laws are based upon the Constitution. We do not allow discrimination. While people are free to engage in whatever religious activities their little hearts desire, they cannot use their religious beliefs to deny other citizens their rights. A landlord cannot deny an apartment to Sikh people because he/she does not like the Sikh religion.
If there is conflict between a person's religious beliefs and the U.S. Constitution, the Constitution wins every time, which is a good thing because the Constitution guarantees the right to hold a religious faith in the first place. Thus, while a Roman Catholic like John F. Kennedy, could be president he could not command obedience to Catholic doctrine.