Saturday, October 3, 2015

First Saturday Bimonthly

Do I dare piss off the Pope and his supporters?

By Bob Boldt

Surely those who know me would never expect me to mindlessly go along with popular opinion, no matter how widespread or favored. Why then do I view the recent visit of Pope Francis with a somewhat jaundiced eye?

In February of 2014, PBS’s Frontline aired a sobering report on the status of the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican in Rome.
    “Secrets of the Vatican” tells the epic, inside story of the collapse of the Benedict papacy and illuminates the extraordinary challenges facing Pope Francis as he tries to reform the powerful Vatican bureaucracy, root out corruption, and chart a new course for the troubled Catholic Church.”
    The film details a vast coral reef of corruption, venality, sexual misconduct, and worldly power – of one crime built upon another, on another that would make even the Medicis blanch. The tsunami of revelations that most certainly resulted in the astonishing resignation of Pope Benedict now threatens to wash away the very rock upon which all its power and pretense are built. Is it any surprise, then, that the Church would now bring to the fore a pope who would be seen to do battle against these evils and transform the institution into one more representative of its founder, Jesus Christ Himself? This new Vicar of Christ certainly seems to be saying all the right things and performing widely praised acts of charity and humility. But, as T.S. Eliot said [in “The Hollow Men”],

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
From Anna March’s Salon essay, “Pope Francis’ new clothes: Why his progressive image is white smoke and mirrors,” June 22, 2014. With Pope Francis:
...the church has the same focus on dogma over helping the poor, the same oppressive views on women and homosexuals, and the same abhorrent behavior in response to the sex abuse scandals. There is zero flexibility on contraception, abortion, gay rights , women’s role in the church.
    Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI were at least honest salesmen; they told you exactly what you were getting. Pope Francis is much craftier than that. He uses his charm and humility (and a strong public relations strategy) to achieve the same goal as a used car salesman: to separate you from your money.
    This Salon article would tend to support my assertion that this pope may just be a superficial band aid over the festering putrescence that is the contemporary Roman Church. Clearly the Church cannot go on with its tradition of greed, intolerance, sexual malfeasance, and rampant corruption.

Pope Francis departs the Vatican's
diplomatic mission in Washington, DC
Is Francis the Church’s salvation, the Church’s reformer, or just another PR move to cover up a truly malevolent institutional blight on mankind?
    Nobody would love to see the demise of the Roman Catholic Church more than I would. That is why I will continue to have mixed feelings about this Pope. Will he manage to save the Church and reform it superficially, or is he is only a smoke screen covering the continuing machinations of a wicked institution? I’m afraid we are screwed if he does and screwed if he doesn’t save the Church.
    You might as well try to abolish American football as the proven public health hazard it is, as try to abolish the Roman Catholic religion. How do you tell 1.2 billion people they have been shamelessly conned out of their fortunes, their spiritual aspirations, and even their very lives?

But even Naomi Klein [critic of corporate globalism and capitalism] supports his encyclical on the environment.
    Here is where the real money meets the road, so to speak: “Top Pope Advisor Says Vatican Will Not Divest From Fossil Fuels.” [Chris Williams & Janet Redman, The Real News Network, September 24, 2015] The article refers to the Guardian’s article, “Abortion and death penalty come before climate change for church, Vatican official says,” September 25.
    Like the disparity between Obama’s words and his deeds, we should not give the Pope’s words all that much credence until we see what the Vatican actually does. As time goes by, the gap is certain to widen.

“Meanwhile Francis
chugs along as the head of one of the most socially regressive organizations on earth, doing nothing to take on the Church’s indefensible stances on things like birth control, gay rights, discrimination against women, celibacy and countless other issues. He claims the moral authority to reform global capitalism, but he’s somehow not ready to tell teenagers it’s OK to masturbate, which seems bizarre.
    People have such impassioned political fights over the pope because everyone wants the endorsement of the guy closest to God. But what if he’s not closer to God, and is just a guy in a funny hat? Doesn’t that make all this fuss and controversy ridiculous? It seems strange that it’s the year 2015, and we still can’t say that out loud. [–Matt Taibbi, “Why Do We Care Whose Side the Pope Is On?,” RollingStone, September 23, 2015]
Copyright © 2015 by Bob Boldt


  1. Bob, Peter Manseau's op-ed in yesterday's NY Times largely agrees with your assessment: "The Pope’s Confounding Consistency." Excerpt:

    While it should go without saying that the leader of the Roman Catholic Church hews unflaggingly to its opposition to same-sex marriage, his previous comments that the church should “consider” civil unions and the warm welcome he gave to a same-sex couple in Washington raised the hopes of many. Before the world began to parse his every utterance, however, he went further on the issue than his current above-the-fray persona allows.
        As recently as 2009, he dealt with the legal and political implications of same-sex marriage so unambiguously as to suggest there was nothing of a swindle or a mistake about his appointment with Ms. Davis....
        No matter if in his meeting with Kim Davis we cast Pope Francis as a bumbling victim of his own lieutenants, or a back-room wheeler-dealer unwilling to come clean, in his past complaints about judges meddling in matters constitutional and divine, he already lent support to Ms. Davis’s cause no less than her loudest defender, Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and a Republican presidential candidate, who put the same idea this way: “Constitutionally, the courts cannot make a law.”
        It is tempting to see in the pope’s varied messages during his first visit to the United States the ploys of a seasoned political fighter who knows that a move left on the climate and the economy gives him the space he needs to jab right on social issues. That may be part of it. As the future pope counseled, one should not be naïve. The Vatican was an old hand at international politics before this country was born....
        ...[I]n the pope’s view, his church’s struggle against same-sex marriage is “God’s war.”
        Francis has said he sees the devil at work in the question of marriage equality; Ms. Davis has said her refusal to grant marriage licenses was “a heaven or hell decision.” Whatever sets them apart, what the pope and the county clerk ultimately have in common is more than a few moments together in Washington.
        As his papacy continues, Francis will likely infuriate people on both sides of our political divide, but it won’t be because he’s fickle. Cool or uncool, the pope is consistency itself.

  2. Bob while I do like a lot of the things the pope says and compared to those who came before him, he is a fresh breath of air; I cannot see him changing much or anything. He makes a good front man, but the power doesn't rest in the funny hat.