I admit, my antipathy for Catholicism runs deep. That has to do with its all-male, celibate priesthood, its veneration of Mary to — for all intents and purposes — divine status, its homophobia, and my first marriage. I’m copping to my own bigotries right off the bat here.
Nevertheless, I was taken aback by the over-the-top ebullience that many of my fellow Protestants were expressing on Twitter and Facebook yesterday. People were gushing, people were admitting to crying. And, most astoundingly, people were using the first person plural: “We have a new pope!”
Far be it from me to burst your bubble, but he’s not your pope, and he’s not my pope. If you or I, non-communicants in the Roman Catholic Church, were to approach the altar when Pope Francis was presiding at mass, he would not serve us the Eucharist. He wouldn’t recognize your non-Catholic marriage as sacramental in the eyes of God. And, if he agrees with his immediate predecessor, he does not think you attend a church. You attend an “ecclesial community.”
Like many, I have hoped that the Catholic Church would continue its progression, which began at Vatican II. But it hasn’t. The last two popes have rolled back those reforms, and there’s much evidence that this pope will continue in that vein.
Further, we’ve got to be honest about Pope Francis, and the other 114 cardinals who voted, all of whom have risen to the top of the single largest bureaucracy in the world. You don’t become a leading administrator of a bureaucracy by being a reformer. If Cardinal Bergoglio had been a reformer, he wouldn’t have become a cardinal.
I can say without equivocation that the original Francis (of Assisi) would never have been appointed a cardinal.
As I wrote last year, in the wake of the Penn State scandal and its implications for denominations, there are certain ironclad laws of modern bureaucracies:
- Moore’s Law: Large bureaucracies cannot possibly achieve their goals.
- Parkinson’s Law: In a bureaucracies, work expands so as to fill the time available to complete it.
- Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy: In any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself.
Let’s just take the first one, for instance. As a leader, rising through the ranks of the church, Bergoglio was passionate about fighting poverty. But, according to Moore’s Law, the Catholic bureaucracy cannot possibly end poverty — that’s because its existence depends, in part, on the existence of poverty, and there’s nothing that a bureaucracy values over its own self-perpetuation.
Before you condemn me as an unrepentant curmudgeon, let me confess that I hope Pope Francis will usher in a new era in Catholicism — one that is compassionate toward GLBT persons, one that does a thorough housecleaning of sexual predators, and one that moves past centuries of misogyny. But I’m not Pollyanna. My hope is thin.
And to my fellow Protestants I say, take a deep breath. He’s not your pope.