Three cheers for Pope Francis

Dove peace
Dove peace (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Pope with the good name is all over the news these days with his remarks about the church being too obsessed with social issues, notably including abortion and birth control. And I say hooray for Pope Francis.

Not because I have any insight into his intentions, or any links with Catholicism beyond a bunch of good friends and an MFA from that fine Jesuit institution, the University of San Francisco. But because the Pope seems to be espousing peace and justice and inclusiveness, even going so far as to put them above dogma.

In case you missed it, Pope Francis told a fellow Jesuit interviewer, “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time. The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. We have to find a new balance.”

Subsequent reports and commentaries and punditries have hastened to clarify that nothing has changed. Contraception is still forbidden, abortion is still a sin, and the remarkable folks of Catholics for Choice are presumably still in limbo. But compared to his predecessors, Benedict XVI and John Paul II, who were never noted for liberalism, this pope has a real heart.  His tone throughout the interview is conciliatory, and the message is all about mercy and compassion, love over dogma.

Dogma hasn’t been working very well. It’s an invitation to I’m-right-and-you’re-wrong conversations that end as fast as they begin: My Church Knows Best. My Religion Is The Only Religion. I’m Right And You’re Wrong. Let The Government Default.

If there are answers to the challenging issues of today, they are not being found in these sorts of exchanges. But if we were to start substituting kindness for meanness, conciliation for rigidity, collaboration for obstinacy, imagine what might happen. World peace.

You go, Pope Francis. Even if you spell it with a different vowel, I’m proud to share your good name.

Pope denounces abortion, gay marriage

With all due respect to the Catholic faith, and to the legions of good people, clergy and laity alike,who are among its believers, this space takes serious issue with the Vatican.

Pope Benedict XVI used a famous Portuguese shrine to the Virgin Mary on Thursday as a stage to denounce abortion and gay marriage, just days before Portugal is expected to join five European countries that have legalized same-sex weddings.

In a speech (in Fatima, Portugal) to Catholic social service groups, Benedict called for initiatives aimed at protecting “the family based on the indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman, help to respond to some of today’s most insidious and dangerous threats to the common good.”

He also said he expressed his “deep appreciation for all those social and pastoral initiatives aimed at combating the socioeconomic and cultural mechanisms which lead to abortion, and are openly concerned to defend life and to promote the reconciliation and healing of those harmed by the tragedy of abortion.”

The common good, according to the pope, would suffer from individuals being allowed to marry those whom they love. And tragedy? What he and his allies are invoking — in this drive to dictate what women may or may not do with their own bodies — is a return to the brutal reality of back-alley abortion. That will be the tragedy beyond healing.

The pope’s remarks came on the third day of a four-day visit (to Portugal) aimed at shoring up Christian belief in increasingly secular Europe, although it has been somewhat eclipsed by the sexual-abuse scandal confronting the Vatican in recent weeks. Benedict also has used the visit to signal a more forceful tone in confronting the abuse, which he has called a “sin inside the church.”

Although it is 90 percent Catholic, Portugal has seen a notable shift away from Catholic teaching in recent years. The country legalized abortion in 2008 and its Parliament recently approved a bill permitting same-sex marriage. President Aníbal Cavaco Silva is expected to sign the bill into law in the coming days.

The church has opposed the measure, but Portuguese society appears to be largely supportive.

Portugal would be the sixth country in Europe to legalize same-sex marriage, after the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Norway and Sweden. France and Denmark recognize same-sex unions, which convey many but not all of the rights enjoyed by married couples.

Individual rights, women’s rights and gay rights are slowly going forward in a few places around the globe.  Pope Benedict XVI would like us all to go backward.

Pope Decries Gay Marriage in Portugal Visit – NYTimes.com.