Wednesday, white smoke issued from the Sistine Chapel, and soon after it was declared that former archbishop of Buenos Aires Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio had been elected Pope, taking the name Francis. Thus ended weeks of nail-biting suspense on the part of the mainstream media concerning whether the next pope would be a “progressive” who would change the Church’s teachings on contraception, homosexuality, abortion, and the priesthood, and bring the Church into the glorious new modern era of gay marriage and womyn priestesses – or another nasty old “conservative” who would keep the Church mired in the Dark Ages of Oppression and teach what the Church has always taught for 2000 years. I suppose the whole suspense wasn’t quite so nail-biting for me, as my money was always solidly on the latter.
I admit to being a rather lazy Catholic, and having done little research on most of the contenders for the papacy, I was completely unfamiliar with Cardinal Bergoglio. When scouring the news on teh interwebz for information on the new pope after first learning of his election, most of the “mainstream” news stories seemed to read mostly: “sex abuse, sex abuse, sex abuse . . . scandal, scandal, scandal . . .” (and liberals accuse the Catholic Church of being obsessed with sex). Of course the commentary from the readers’ peanut galleries was even more depressingly predictable. While some progressive souls took initial comfort that Bergoglio was apparently a “moderate” and a Jesuit, they soon expressed profound disappointment on finding that (in the words of one gent) he was yet another “dour homophobe” who had – gasp!—opposed the legal institution of homosexual “marriage” in Argentina. (That profoundly inane pc epiphet “homophobe” again. The Church has always taught that any “heterosexual” behavior outside marriage is mortally sinful as well, yet it would be just as moronic to decry the Church as “forniphobic” or “heterophobic.”)
This brings up a rather interesting issue regarding all the self-described “Catholic faithful” who are so insistent that the Church needs to change her moral teachings to match their own opinions.
If the Church can simply change her teachings on faith and morals to jive with whatever happens to be popular at the time, then what moral authority would the Church possess at all? If Church teachings on faith and morals are changeable, and based on popular opinion – rather than on timeless eternal truth – what’s the point of belonging to the Church in the first place? The belief that Church teaching can be changed on whim implies that the Church’s teachings are not based on any divine authority, but merely human opinion and politics. If you feel a need to belong to an organization governed by democratic principles and preaching sexual libertinism coupled and salvation through humanitarian good works (conveniently done by the government), there’s already such an organization for you. It’s called the Democratic Party. Or if you really insist on the whole churchy thing, the Episcopalians will be happy to take you in.
Before some of you get all upset, I’ll make it clear that the following is purely hypothetical, and I have faith that it will never happen; but the moment a Catholic Pope reverses the Church’s unpopular teaching on contraceptives, or abortion, or homosexuality, or any other moral matter, I will promptly leave the Church and no longer consider myself Catholic. No, not because I place my own personal rightwing troglodyte prejudices over the teaching authority of the Church, but because such a reversal would prove the Church’s moral teachings to have no divine authority built on the Rock of Peter and the Fire of Truth, but to be built on the shifting sands of human opinion. If Church moral teaching is nothing more than a weather vane blowing in the winds of popular opinion, there is no reason for me to subjugate myself to it.
On the other hand, if you are an unbeliever, and consider the Catholic Faith to be a bunch of superstitious nonsense, then, really, why should you even care what the Pope teaches? I myself am not inclined to insist that Mormon leaders, or the head of the Church of Scientology, change their teachings to be closer to my own beliefs. Indeed, I think effort would be better spent trying to get people out of those absurd cults, and to know the actual truth.
But I suppose the reality is that liberals both outside and inside the Church – having no tolerance for any beliefs or viewpoints outside the dictates of political correctness- want to turn the Catholic Church into nothing more than yet another mouthpiece for liberal political opinion.
Another thing I find both amusing and confounding is how those demanding change in Church teaching seem to always explicitly or implicitly blame the evils of sex abuse and its cover up in the Church on the Church’s rigid “conservatism” and doctrinal orthodoxy, and talk as though somehow more liberalism in the Church, with a good dose of “gay marriage” and womyn priestesses, would fix the problem. However, many of the bishops most guilty in the cover-up of priestly sexual abuse were anything but conservative. The disgraced Cardinal Mahoney, for instance, pretty much epitomized “liberal Catholicism,” and has been a bane of “conservative” and orthodox Catholics for decades. As had the notoriously liberal and heterodox Archbishop Weakland of Milwaukee, who was involved in one of the first of the major sex scandals to come to light.
While there are shrieks of condemnation and gloom-and-doom for the Church from both the left and the hysterical “rad-trad” right, I think we can rest assured that, for whatever the pros and cons of his reign, will continue preaching the exact same Faith and moral truths that his predecessors have since St. Peter. May God grant him a long, holy, and glorious reign.