Thursday, October 01, 2015

The Pope is still Catholic

I don't get the disillusionment about Pope Francis. He's still the Pope of the Catholic Church. Which means he largely subscribes to official Catholic doctrine. That includes the idea that gay marriage is wrong and that people who agree with the Catholic position should get a special legal exemption to not do their jobs in a way that would be unworkable if every religion got a similar exemption. None of this should be shocking or surprising to anyone.

But Francis has done one major thing to improve the Catholic Church in my humble opinion as a non-Catholic atheist sowhocareswhatIthink, and that is this: For the past 50 years, the Catholic Church has held official positions on a whole bunch of issues that intersect with politics, issues like support of anti-poverty programs, a critique of unfettered capitalism, support for government providing universal health care, belief that the environment needs to be protected, opposition to all wars except the ones that meet the allegedly narrow definition of a "just war", opposition to the death penalty, abortion, and most legislation to help gay people, support of organized labor, et cetera.

For the past few decades the American Church has prioritized its position on issues involving women and sexuality over all others. For years I have wondered why the American Church would be so willing to ignore its position on all those other issues just to be an anti-gay/anti-abortion lobby. It amazed me that American Bishops would threaten to deny communion to pro-choice politicians who were Catholic, but give a pass to all the Catholic politicians who were pro-death penalty or pro-Iraq War (two other things the Catholic Church officially opposed).

The big change that Francis has brought to the Catholic Church is that he is the first Pope, at least since I became an adult, who is not emphasizing the gay, abortion, and sexuality issues over all others. Francis is actually talking about the full range of Catholic positions. To my mind, that shift is a big deal and is a major improvement over how the Church has been acting over the last few decades. However, Francis is not really making any major changes to official Catholic doctrine. This only seems revolutionary because we have all gotten so used to the Catholic hierarchy acting like they were part of the evangelical right. At the same time, it is silly to be let down when this Pope does talk about abortion or gay issues. The Pope is still Catholic.