I want to go on record, if you have yet to figure it out, that I am very pro-Pope Francis. No, I'm not a Catholic. Yes, I find many of the teachings of the Catholic Church to be antiquated and needlessly obstinate. Yes, the Catholic Church as an organization, without indicting every last one of its followers, has proven itself repeatedly to be a corrupt institution with a Circle-the-Wagons mentality that would be the envy of any suburban police department. My view on it is, the church is always going to have a Pope. Why not be glad that there is a Pope who is right about a lot of things in addition to the things that the Pope – any Pope, by virtue of being the spiritual and practical head of Roman Catholicism – is going to be wrong about?

It doesn't take long for any positive statement about Francis to prompt some rocket scientist to point out that he is anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, and anti-contraception. Is it supposed to be useful to point out that the Pope – the leader of the Roman Catholic church – believes these things? The only less useful contribution to the discussion would involve an image of a peeing Calvin. Thanks for stopping by to remind us that the Pope is not in favor of abortion. Without your Sherlock-level sleuthing skills I have no idea how anyone would have figured out that the prelate of Roman Catholicism believes the basic doctrines of the Catholic Church for two millenniums*.

Given the reality that any Catholic Pope is going to support those teachings, why not take some satisfaction in the elevation to a position of power, visibility, and authority of someone who reminds the billion Catholics on the planet that anti-abortion and anti-gay does not summarize the entirety of Catholic doctrine and the teachings of Jesus? If anything, it is remarkable (and commendable) how little Francis has talked about these things and how often he has reminded his followers that they comprise only a small part of the belief system of Catholicism as defined by the scriptures and the teachings of the church over time. Hell, he hasn't even been half-bad about the church's major and long-running problem with sheltering child abusers.

It is so "sophomore year of college" to go around reminding everyone that the Pope isn't cool with abortion and think that this has somehow been an intelligent thing to say, a useful contribution to the discourse. No shit. Absent single-handed power to redefine Catholic doctrine (which, since the institution is as political as any other of its size and scope, he does not have) I'm not sure what he is expected to do about that even if he disagrees. Which he of course does not, being a Catholic. If you can't look at this guy's two years in power and the near-constant attention he has drawn to global income inequality, the staggering lack of compassion for the poor and socially disadvantaged, the constant recourse to war and violence by the most powerful nations on the planet, and the narrow-minded obsession of American religions with penis and vagina related issues at the expense of all others and recognize it as a net positive, I don't know what to tell you. You might be a lost cause.

*I looked it up, it's correct. I swear.

46 thoughts on “POPE SPRINGS ETERNAL”

  • This Pope does seem like a nice guy, but my biggest objections to the Catholic church lie in the areas of human sexuality, gay rights, and a woman's right to choose, so unless they move on those issues, everything nice and agreeable that the Pope says won't mean a toss to this non-Catholic.

  • Emerson Dameron says:

    Reddit contrarians will rip into any comment about a powerful and troubled institution. It's the extremely poor man's veneer of intellectual cool.

    I voted for Nader in 2000, so I had to get that out of my system.

    Francis is a big improvement.

  • Up to the previous two Popes, the Catholic church has been non-partisanly broad in their definition of "pro-life". With their wish to be part of the "Religious Right", the US Bishops have narrowed that definition down to exactly and only one thing, along with becoming a propaganda wing of the Republican party (eg. every election year – with great public fanfare – refusing Eucharist to any prominent Catholic politician with a (D) after his name. Republicans have anti-life policies too? Meh.) Now all those guys who pronounced "We are all Papists now" when it was politically useful for the purpose of showing contempt for Obama are ordering the Pope to STFU about anything but that exact one thing.

  • I agree. While the Catholic Church as an institution can go fuck itself, we might as well be slightly pleased that the current Pope, rather than pushing it to make it even worse than it already is, is pushing it to improve. With 20 or 30 such guys in succession, the Church might even be reformed into a decent organization.

  • I like the guy.

    From what I understand(not much) Francis will have to change as many of the cardinals as possible before leaving the job. I believe he is doing that. I hope he can make the change stick.

  • Not sure I want an image of John Calvin peeing. Oh, wait, you were talking about religious leaders and meant the cartoon Calvin, not the Protestant Reformation leader John Calvin.

  • I like the fact that he approaches his papacy with the idea that we don't agree on everything, but we do agree on some things, so let's focus on that.

  • Francis, like the Vatican, is very complex. However, you need to remember that the Vatican, with 2000 years of political intrigue under its belt, is a hotbed of privilege, treachery, political maneuvering, backstabbing, and — when necessary — extreme prejudice.

    Francis, despite being an absolute monarch, still has to work within the system in which he finds himself. It's much like the king of Saudi Arabia who, despite being an absolute monarch, has to kowtow to the radical Wahabbists in the running of the kingdom. (BTW — If anyone wants to really understand the Vatican, I suggest you read "Absolute Monarchs" by John Julius Norwich. Very scary indeed.)

    Francis is limited by the reality of the situation. He can't really knock down all the pillars at once. So he has to choose his fights carefully. Otherwise, he will end up with strychnine in his cocoa.

    He says some nice things. His economic views are interesting. However, even there, he is way to the right of some of his earlier predecessors. He hasn't come close to this.

    "Let the working man and the employer make free agreements, and in particular let them agree freely as to the wages; nevertheless, there underlies a dictate of natural justice more imperious and ancient than any bargain between man and man, namely, that wages ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner. If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accept harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford him no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice."

    That's from Leo XIII in 1891 (Rerum Novarum) and it sounds apropos today.

  • Davis X. Machina says:

    That's from Leo XIII in 1891 (Rerum Novarum) and it sounds apropos today.

    That's because it's still Church teaching today. Every pope in my lifetime sounds like that, even the ones you don't like (i.e. JP II)

    Just remuneration for the work of an adult who is responsible for a family means remuneration which will suffice for establishing and properly maintaining a family and for providing security for its future. Such remuneration can be given either through what is called a family wage-that is, a single salary given to the head of the family fot his work, sufficient for the needs of the family without the other spouse having to take up gainful employment outside the home-or through other social measures such as family allowances or grants to mothers devoting themselves exclusively to their families. These grants should correspond to the actual needs, that is, to the number of dependents for as long as they are not in a position to assume proper responsibility for their own lives.

    Laborem Exercens 19.

  • As Popes go, he's okay. He gets most of his flak from those that have nothing to do with the church.

    I have nothing to do with churches but the guy is at least interesting. Since EWTN is part of my shitty cable system, I checked what they had for video of Francis yesterday. It's endless. One of ETWN's stupid commentators was bitching that Francis got all his climate change information from the most "radical" scientists.


  • Davis X. Machina

    There is also the Catholic Doctrine of "Occult Compensation." If someone, someone like an employer, is screwing you out of what is justly yours, you can basically steal what is coming to you.

    You hear a lot less about that than you do about same-sex marriage or abortion.

  • I don't really know what you expect here. As always in these cases it is merely a question of whether the few points where person A who despises organisation B finds themselves in agreement with leader C of said organisation outweighs the various reasons for A's dislike of B.

    Surely you can't expect a rabid anti-communist to warm up to the new leader of a hypothetical communist party by pointing out that she is in favour, say, of coal mining? The whole nationalisation of all industries thing and that all humans are equal thing would still be deal breakers to an anti-communist even if they are pro-coal themselves.

    Same in this case; so what if somebody agrees with the pope on climate change and peace? If they consider his organisation to have a harmful effect on politics, medicine, the environment, and the overall welfare of individual humans that is two orders of magnitude stronger than anything the pope achieves by speaking sense on two randomly chosen isolated topics, why should they be impressed?

    (Especially if his official solution to climate change is for everybody to live in abject poverty but have five to eight children per family in perpetuity. AFAIK at least his recent climate change document argues that there is no need to stabilise the world population. I guess food and water for everybody will just drop from the sky or something, and an extra five billion people won't have any impact on the environment?)

    If you have certain political and philosophical views then being unimpressed with Francis is not sophomoric, it is merely a case of looking at the big picture.

  • @Alex SL: Exactly. Catholic doctrine, which all popes espouse, is out of touch with reality. I agree with Hitler that dogs are adorable and a vegetarian diet is probably best for health (though I myself live with cats and eat meat), but I agree with Hitler on nothing else.

  • Leading Edge Boomer says:

    The pope is not going to overturn centuries of doctrine, even if they are not based on actual Christ-ian principles. But he's working at the edges. He's said, re gays, "Who am I to judge?" If he gets the time, he might be able to influence practice about contraception because its prohibition so greatly affects the poor, and reduces the need for the abortions that the church opposes. He views abortion as a forgivable sin. The changes to annulment are cosmetic, the church needs to change about divorce. These are useful starts to get the church out of the faithful's collective pants and bedrooms.

    Since I had trouble understanding the words in his televised speech to Congress, I found the pre-speech transcript here:
    And an analysis of his salient points here:

    IMHO, the main underlying theme was communitarianism.

  • I recently read "God's Bankers", on the history of the IOR*. Great steaming piles of fetid dingo's kidneys, that was a horrifying experience. Francis is cleaningoutthe Augean stables, and there's no river handy. I hope he's got a food taster. I have made a study of Papal corruption and it was worse than I knew.

    For comic relief, look up the sedevacantists. They're the folks for whom JPII and BXVI were insufficiently Catholic, so you can imagine what they think of Francis.

  • I'm far from expert in these matters, but he seems to have chosen his battles wisely so far. Perhaps we'll see him parlay his popular capital into more controversial stands later in his career. He is, after all, only two years in.

    That said, a lot of the criticism I hear is the same that follows Obama: that he is little more than a velvet glove on the iron fist of the church (in Obama's case, the wealthy elite). A better salesman, who can read the public mood and respond appropriately. But the product sold is still a piece of shit. Sophomoric? Yep. Wrong, or not worth pointing out when someone is singing his praises? I don't think so.

  • I take satisfaction that after decades of using the Pope and his church as tax-exempt political auxiliaries, wingnuts now have a bad case of exploding heads.

  • If you view religion as a countervailing power to organization via force of arms (government) and organization via money (banks, corporations), the shifting alliances and antagonisms among the three, and how they enlist various population groups to their side in order to gain power is an interesting spectacle.

    Dawg, we're dumb. But, what the hell ya gonna do?

  • @MajorKong; the Catholic church has been progressive on science and (some) social issues for at least half a century. At various time in my elementary schooling (military family–we moved frequently), I attended Catholic schools and every one taught evolution…and some of the nuns were very progressive. I remember being shocked at the age of 9 to learn that many Protestants were convinced the world was only 6,000 years old because that was nothing I ever learned. In the past couple of decades, I've seen Duggar-family values (subservient broodmare wife, handmaiden daughters) becoming more and more popular among the rightwingnuts.

    I haven't been a Catholic since the 1980s since I absolutely disagree on their stance toward women, and I can't fully embrace Francis because of his views on women, but I do believe he's better than any of the popes in my living memory.

  • "In this way arose feudal Socialism: half lamentation, half lampoon; half an echo of the past, half menace of the future; at times, by its bitter, witty and incisive criticism, striking the bourgeoisie to the very heart’s core; but always ludicrous in its effect, through total incapacity to comprehend the march of modern history.

    "As the parson has ever gone hand in hand with the landlord, so has Clerical Socialism with Feudal Socialism.

    "Nothing is easier than to give Christian asceticism a Socialist tinge. Has not Christianity declaimed against private property, against marriage, against the State? Has it not preached in the place of these, charity and poverty, celibacy and mortification of the flesh, monastic life and Mother Church? Christian Socialism is but the holy water with which the priest consecrates the heart-burnings of the aristocrat."

    K.Marx, F.Engels – Communist Manifesto, Ch 3 (1847)

  • What Alex SL said:

    (Especially if his official solution to climate change is for everybody to live in abject poverty but have five to eight children per family in perpetuity. AFAIK at least his recent climate change document argues that there is no need to stabilise the world population. I guess food and water for everybody will just drop from the sky or something, and an extra five billion people won't have any impact on the environment?)

    There's the elephant in the room as far as I'm concerned. I feel/think that almost every problem could be solved or mitigated by fewer people. There aren't enough resources left.

  • I think Larry Wilmore nailed it with his "Extremely Low Bar" award. Francis is better than the last two, but he is still head of a fundamentally destructive organization. Embracing family planning solves almost every other problem we have. You keep getting that wrong, it doesn't matter what else you say about the poor.

  • Townsend Harris says:

    Totally stealing this:
    "a corrupt institution with a Circle-the-Wagons mentality that would be the envy of any suburban police department"

    Priests and cops have a lot in common:
    some commit the crimes,
    many more act as accessories after the fact.
    The two cultures corrupt or fire honest priests and honest cops.

  • I am with Bitter Scribe: I am taking extreme delight in watching rightwingnuts twist themselves in knots explaining why we shouldn't listen to THIS particular pope except when he talks about how to control vaginas. I also delight in rightwing Catholics saying that this pope is wrong on everything but vagina/sex control. How is that possible that the pope is wrong? Thought he was infallible?

    I do not care for the Catholic church one iota, but I will hand them this: at least they are consistent on their protection of life line. They abhor abortion, right to die AND the death penalty. So they don't do the quick step that the evangelicals do on that particular matter.

    Regarding family planning, poor people and the church, don't forget that the church also wants their members to be sure to slide them cash as well–and some priests and parishes directly connect the level of donation to the level of service provided by the church. So that also contradicts any message this pope might be delivering on making sure the poor do better.

  • He at least gave a glimmer of hope when he told the Filipinos that Catholics don't need to breed like rabbits. I guess this means either stop having sex or use birth control.

  • Coming from someone who's taken a vow of celibacy, it probably means stop having sex or use the rhythm method, which is very poor because most women are horniest when they are most fertile.

  • There has been this trend that seems to insist that before any forward motion can happen absolutely everyone has to agree about absolutely every thing. And thus, no change is possible and argument continues. Whatever happened to working where you CAN agree. Sure a Pope by job description heads a largely misogynistic organization; but IF he also wants to mitigate the horrors of global warming instead of screaming about the Rapture coming for all the "saved ones", could we not see our way through to working on what CAN be changed?

  • @Syrbal/Labrys: I believe in working where you CAN agree. Unfortunately, the Catholic church is on the wrong side on global warming because it advocates unlimited human reproduction. So it looks like we can't even agree there. Sorry.

  • Mothra points out that at least the consistency of the church is just a wee bit admirable when it comes to abortion and the death penalty. Damn. So close and yet so far.

    One way Catholics live in the real world is their acceptance of science and a lot of what it brings. Not everything but they don't start stupid as do evangelicals.

  • On the Scale of Papal Possibility, he is indeed pretty impressive. The problem for me (and I suspect many women,) is that being anti-contraception and anti-abortion are NOT issues incidental to his broader critiques of capitalism, etc. They are central to my ability to control my life. No, I don't expect the Pope to come out in favor of either, but I also am only minimally impressed with any talk of economic and social justice when access to birth control and abortion are central to both for all women and most families. So I think responding to him with those critiques is quite valid and not in the least sophomoric.

  • I was listening to NPR this afternoon and they did a rebroadcast of a "Th8s Amercantile Life" of the simulcast they did in 2009.It featured Dan Savage talking about his mother, his gayness and agnoatheism and the RCC. I recommend it.

  • Beth is correct. The ability to decide whether to give one's body over for close to a year to support a developing human being is fundamental to individual autonomy and bodily integrity, and the Catholic church's stance to the contrary a profound ethical trespass.

  • @Skepticalist; you're right; over the past 20 years, the batshit-insane evangelical mindset has become more accepted in society. It was only the beginning when my kids were in elementary school and the traditional fall Halloween punch-and-cookies-and-costume-parade was stopped to pander to evangelical superstitions; now their former elementary school is forbidden to talk about evolution.

  • The idea that nobody can be valuable to progressive movements unless they side with every single progressive tenant is exactly like the Republican Party's refusal to back any politician who doesn't toe the party line on every issue. "Oh you're on our side on economics, industry, abortion, and immigration, but you're okay with gay marriage? BE GONE WITH YOU!" It's not any less stupid and shortsighted when it's on the other side. I'll never agree with Pope Franics (or, most likely, any other Pope in my lifetime) on everything, but his message of "hey maybe we should spend more time acting on the stuff Jesus said and less time bitching about gays and Planned Parenthood" should be embraced, not disdained because the Pope didn't suddenly become indistinguishable from Marx.

  • As you both say, it ain't all bad. At least most of us on the left cut the guy some slack.

    Someone wrote once that reading the Bible is like eating fish—we take the bones out to enjoy the meat.

  • Totally agree, Nick. I always thought that progressives were able to see the world in all its shades of grey, rather than the black and white/100% with us or 100% against us version of reality that our more conservative breather gravitate towards.

  • I dig Frank, for the breath of fresh air he is.

    However when he repudiates male supremacy, that'll be THE thing that does him in.

  • Given the reality that any Catholic Pope is going to support those teachings, why not take some satisfaction in the elevation to a position of power, visibility, and authority of someone who reminds the billion Catholics on the planet that anti-abortion and anti-gay does not summarize the entirety of Catholic doctrine and the teachings of Jesus?

    Because religion is an entirely unnecessary component of human existence and cult leaders who espouse views like this one adversely impact the health of hundreds of millions of women in the developing world?

    But hey, his choice in headwear is considerably more chill than his predecessors and he looks less like Gargamel than some of his predecessors, so I guess that's progress.

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