Pope Francis: Much Ado about Nothing

Pope Francis: Much Ado about Nothing March 14, 2013

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.

"Have you considered professional online editing services like www.CogitoEditing.com ?"

The Writing Life
"I'm not missing out on anything - it's rather condescending for you to assume that ..."

Is It Time for Christians to ..."
"I really don't understand what you want to say.Your http://europe-yachts.com/ya..."

Would John Piper Excommunicate His Son?

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Elvenfoot

    And I’ll admit that my patience for this kind of predictable diatribe against the Catholic Church wears thin. However, having once been anti-Catholic myself, I’ll keep my mouth shut and only offer a small correction in your post. The Catholic Church certainly does recognize non-Catholic marriages if they fulfill certain conditions–I think one of them has to be that both parties must have been baptized in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. My husband and I are both converts from Protestantism, and we had no trouble having our marriage recognized.

    • Craig

      Have you come to regard all the “predictable diatribe” as inappropriate? Given the advantage of your more highly evolved perspective, could you better assist those who’ve yet to catch up?

      • Elvenfoot

        Me, highly evolved? BAH HA HA HA!! Oh, that’s funny. Of course I don’t think all diatribe is inappropriate. The Catholic Church does some foolish/sinful things at times; however, I think some of it is completely misunderstood by non-Catholics. I’m not defending any legitimate sins or mistakes, but I don’t see the reason to discount the entire Faith because of that and misunderstandings people have about it. Besides, its teachings and its people’s actions are separate issues to me.

        • Craig

          Sure. Similarly if a man beats his wife and molests his children, we shouldn’t therefore deny the good things he may be doing elsewhere in his life. He may be an otherwise outstanding co-worker or a talented cook. But even if the man is doing a great many other good things, some kind of antipathy still seems in order. Ebullience for the man still seems inappropriate. Right?

          Do the defenders of Catholicism around here understand this?

          • Pax

            We are a Church made up of sinners. By all means, hate the sins.

            I think you’d be in error to dismiss a truth claim just because the claimant may be a sinner, though. The Catholic Church doesn’t derive its authority from the personal holiness of its members.

            And, because we’re talking about individuals, I think you ought to consider the saints as well as the sinners. I hope you wouldn’t want to be judged by association with other sinners who happen to have the same beliefs as you.

            • Craig

              Ever wonder if cliches might be short-circuiting your thinking?

              • Pax

                Snide insults are totally better than cliches though.

                • Beth Walters

                  Dualistic, either/or throwing of words at each other really doesn’t do much in the way of discussion or furthering thinking, for either the readers or the writers themselves, does it?

    • They recognize the marriage, but they do not consider it sacramental. You need to read more carefully.

      • Well, I’m pretty sure I don’t see it as sacramental either.

      • Pax

        Tony, you’re incorrect. The Catholic Church recognizes the marriages of non-Catholic baptized Christians as sacramental. Marriages between non-baptized persons might fit into that category of “recognized but not sacramental”, so maybe that’s what you’re thinking of.

        Canon law specifically states “a valid matrimonial contract cannot exist between the baptized without it being by that fact a sacrament.” (CIC 1055) So, if you’ve got two married, baptized people, it’s a sacrament.

        • The Catholic Church does not recognize all Protestant baptisms. It does recognize some “mainline” Protestant baptisms, but that still leaves out a whole lot of people.

          • Elvenfoot

            It’s my understanding that any baptisms done in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are sacramental. If there are other requirements, then I have forgotten them. I think that’s it, though.

          • Pax

            It leaves out very few people – maybe Mormons and others who reject the doctrine of the trinity.

            • If that is so — and I’m willing to be shown that it is — then why did the Catholic Church and a group of Protestant churches just this year agree to recognize each others’ baptisms? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/29/catholic-protestant-baptism-recognize_n_2575915.html

              • Pax

                This is the affirmation of something that was already long practiced. If you believe in the Trinity, then your baptism is recognized by the Catholic Church.

              • Pax

                Assuming that you use the Trinitarian form of baptism, that is.

              • Steve

                Because the Catholic Church already recognized their Baptisms as valid. The significance of the this statement was the mutual recognition, but the Catholic Church has always recognized water baptisms done in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

            • There is at least one Pentecostal church that believes in the triune God, but practises baptism “in the name of Jesus only.” The United Pentecostals claim that all the baptisms listed in Acts (post-Resurrection) were performed in the name of “Jesus Only.”

              • The United Pentecostals do not believe in the Trinity. They are modalist believing that some times God is acts in the office of Father, Some times he holds the office of Son and some times the Holy Spirit. They believe the official name of God is Jesus. They came out of the Assemblies of God who rejected their Modalism knowing it was not biblical.

    • roger flyer

      elvenfoot–Pretty sure a ‘diatribe’ is appropriate considering the abuses of the Catholic church, wouldn’t you agree?

      • sofia

        Amen, Roger.

      • Elvenfoot

        Of course, but that has nothing to do with its doctrine. Are you picking at its sinful actions or its teachings?

  • Well, he’s still my Pope insofar as there will always be a bit of residual Catholicism in me that will never die. I frequently consider returning to the fold, but every time I do, those Bishops go and make the whole thing ugly again.

    • Craig

      Can you specify the residue?

    • Craig

      I don’t start calling a dog “mine” just because I’ve some of its residue on the bottom of my shoe. And if I knew it would never come off I’d just be really pissed off.

      • Maybe but I suspect you’d still call your father “yours” even if you had a troubled relationship and were estranged.

        • Craig


  • Craig

    I think I’d watch an HBO serious about a pope going atheistically rogue to combat the moral evils of Catholicism, only to be betrayed from the inside and executed.

  • Catholic means universal, so the vision for the Church, which it does not always live into, is one of extending Jesus’ ministry of reconciliation to the entire world. The question becomes of how we interpret that ministry, what does it look like in practice, which is the messy history recorded in the Scriptures of people trying to figure it all out. It’s vitally important that everyone, Catholic and non-Catholic, recognize that the Pope belongs to all of us because it may be that we claim him before he claims us! Remember the words Jesus taught us, which Pope Francis led the gathered in reciting: forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others. Let’s all give that a try!

  • Chris

    You’re just jelly cuz they didn’t pick you.


  • Pingback: It Would Be Better Without Christendom | The Nuance()

  • Patrick S.

    You very ably discuss how bad bureaucracies are. Yet, you strongly favor government bureaucracies to get more and more involved in our lives. That doesn’t square. Either all are really bad (as I believe) or they are our only hope (as many who support ObamaCare, Bloomberg’s Sugar Squad, and the EPA must believe). You can’t have both.

    • Patrick, bureaucracies do some things well. Like keep the German trains running on time, and sending you and me our license plate tabs.

      On other things, like the gospel, bureaucracies are bad — even sinful.

      • Patrick S.

        So the “Laws” on bureaucracies you mention only apply to those you don’t like? Not really “Laws” then, more like

        When you write “…Catholic bureaucracy cannot possibly end poverty…because its existence depends, in part, on the existence of poverty” It would be interesting to know, using just his example, how you think our government welfare offices act differently and more successfully than the Catholic Church.

        • I think the laws hold unequivocally. It’s just that the laws get in the way less on something like license plate tabs. It really gets in the way of the gospel.

          • Patrick S.

            Based on your response, when implemented, ObamaCare will be somewhere on the range from really bad to thoroughly terrible. Can’t wait.

            FYI 1) In MN in the mid-90s the backlog for licenses was around 6 months (many lost jobs over this – not in the public sector, of course, but in the private sector because they didn’t have a valid license); 2) You may be the first person ever to extol the wondrous efficiencies of the DMV.

          • Phil Miller

            I’m still bitter for having to pay the state of Minnesota several hundred dollars every year for a little sticker… No state inspection, though. But still… come on Minnesota. Also, the fact that the price of the little sticker varies according to the value of your car is ridiculous.

            I know this is a tangent, but moving here from out east, I was surprised that I would ever look back at my interactions with the PA DMV fondly… 🙂

            • Elvenfoot

              Phil, we just moved from MN to Colorado. Every year, my husband would gripe with great venom about that very thing! 🙂

  • I’m not in disagreement with what has been said above. What did give me some hope was this:

    “Francis’ papacy is one of firsts. He is the first Jesuit, and first Latin American pope. He also is the first to take the name Francis, for the saint devoted to the poor.

    […] Despite being Argentina’s top church official, Bergoglio never lived in the ornate church mansion in Buenos Aires, preferring a simple bed in a downtown room heated by a small stove. For years, he took public transportation around the city and cooked his own meals.”


    Indeed — there is a lot of progress that needs to be made in the Roman Catholic church, but it’s unlikely that it will go from where it is now to a 180 on issues that were mentioned above with one change of a Pope (something could probably be said here about large institutions with too many redundancy systems built in). That being said, if this Pope will stick to the characteristic above, those are welcome indeed.

    • Elvenfoot

      Wow, lots of nasty comments here about a religion that doesn’t seem to be understood very well by anyone here. I’m beginning to think this thread is not for me, as I am a Catholic (convert from evangelicalism) who just has no use for unfounded charges against the Church–not that all are unfounded. Catholicism certainly has things to fix.

      There is something people must understand, though. The world–and some of you–seems to think that the Church CAN change some of its doctrine, such as that about homosexuality, and chooses NOT to willfully and spitefully. Their just mean and prejudiced and yada yada yada. This is not true at all. Some things CAN be changed, because they are not official doctrine. For example, priests could be allowed to marry at some point. Priestly is a discipline the Church chose to impose on its clergy centuries ago, whereas Orthodox are allowed to marry. Other things that people gripe about, though–women becoming priests, homosexual marriage being accepted and performed, etc–will never ever ever change, because the Church’s views on these topics are official dogma. No pope has the power to change the decree of an earlier pope. They are not monarchs who can do whatever they want.

      Each pope who has decreed a doctrine for the whole Church to believe did not pull that doctrine out of the air or base it on personal preference. Doctrine is decreed officially after the pope determines that a certain belief is part of the mind of the Church as a whole and is being taught as truth by the clergy. For example, the last officially decreed doctrine came to be in the 1800s about Mary being co-mediator (I think that’s what it was, anyway). This had been believed by the Church for a long time; the pope just made it official.

      My point is that if you hate the Catholic Church for its set doctrine, don’t waste your energies pushing and griping about change, because it won’t happen. It won’t happen because it CAN’T happen. Waste your energies pushing for things that could change, if you believe in it strongly enough, and accept that religions are what they are. If you don’t like Catholicism, don’t be part of it and leave it there.

      • “don’t waste your energies pushing and griping about change, because it won’t happen.”

        Why do you call my comment nasty and unfounded, and then agree with everything I said?

        • Elvenfoot

          I’m sorry, Curtis, I’m honestly not following you. I don’t agree with everything you said. Can you please clarify your question?

          • Stating that something is what it is, and will never change, is considered by many to be a retrograde statement.

            I’m sorry we disagree. I respect your beliefs. I respect religion, up to the point it starts causing harm.

            Of course, all Christians share in a religion that has caused great harm, and continues to do so today. But many Christians see that harm, and work to change the church. And we have seen the church change in our lifetime, so we continue to have hope.

            So it is hard to hear a fellow Christian state so emphatically that the church cannot change, by its very nature. I don’t agree with that. But perhaps you are the more honest one, and the Christians who work for change are delusional.

            Which wold be very sad. Because if it is true, then me and many others who work for change would have to abandon the church.

            • Elvenfoot

              It is not retrograde, simply a part of Catholicism. Not only that, immovable, unchangeable doctrine is even more important in Orthodoxy–and both are equally ancient and apostolic, Protestantism is the innovation that allows major changes to theological thinking. This is not to say, however, that Catholicism is not capable of change. There are many things that the Catholic Church does not make final “judgments” about, such as end time theology, and it has made a lot of changes over the centuries in various ways. For instance, no more sold indulgences, no more burnings at the stake for heresy, and personal Bible study is a now a welcome, increasingly popular fixture of Catholic lay spirituality. It does try to change with the times in ways that it can, but even then, it takes awhile. As someone else said here, the Church spans the world and many cultures, and it is not easy to make quick changes–even ones we all agree are good.

              There is a lot of room for theological pondering in Catholicism, too. But in its core doctrine, such as the sacredness of life and the Trinity and the virgin birth and other foundational dogma, it is fixed and cannot change. I don’t see this as retrograde at all but strong and trustworthy. If its dogma is true, then how can we expect it to change? Only those who do not believe it teaches absolute truth would rightfully expect it to change with the times.

              • I don’t believe any religion is capable of teaching absolute truth. I don’t believe the purpose of religion is to teach anything.

                • Elvenfoot

                  Ah, and there is where we are most fundamentally different in our views. What do you feel the purpose of religion is, then? If it cannot tell us anything definitive about God and His revelations to mankind, what is the point of it?

                • Bill

                  Curtis, religion doesn’t have a purpose of teaching anything??? Is this the free-for-all-define-anything-you-want-any-way-you-want blog? I’m beginning to think it is. Well, thank God for blogs, Curtis. You finally get to say the shit that no professor of any college worth its salt would let you say in a classroom.

                  • The purpose of religion is to connect us to God.

                    Instruction may or may not be part of that, depending on the situation. Connection with God sometimes involves the intellect, but not always. In the end, instruction is not the goal of religion. Connecting to God is the goal of religion.

                    You are right. That would be a terrible tag line for a seminary’s marketing department.

      • EricG


        As an outsider to the Catholic church, I have to question your suggestion that dogma of that church can’t change. Hasn’t its dogma, in fact, changed in the past? Isn’t that established in John Noonan’s book, The Church that Can and Cannot Change? If official dogma could be changed in the past, why not now?

        (This is all beside the point that it seems any institution can change whatever it decides to change, no? “Cannot” seems too strong a word for that reason alone).

        Last night my 9 years old daughter asked me to explain why on earth the Catholic church does not allow women to be priests. She is used to women ministers, for which I am very thankful.

        May God continue to pull the universal church in all its forms toward reform of its practices and dogma that are in serious need of change.

        • EricG

          I should also add that if I were wrong, and your statement that the Catholic church “cannot” change its dogma were true, that wouldn’t really be a defense of the church anyway. Most, in fact, would see it as a serious problem if the church cannot correct itself, even if wrong (unless you believe it is impossible for the church to err in its dogma, which is also seriously problematic).

          • Elvenfoot

            There are people who say that it has, but they are probably referring to doctrine that wasn’t proclaimed “ex cathedra” (and no, I can’t recall what that means). There is some doctrine, I believe, that took much time to become fixed, and perhaps there still is some that is in its incubation time; I don’t know. During the incubation period for various doctrines, there was a lot of upheaval and change and disagreement. When a pope proclaims something ex cathedra, though, he is setting down the doctrine in stone–which cannot be changed. I do not know where you can find a document about ex cathedra proclamations, but I believe I read there haven’t been a whole lot of them made. .

            I disagree with you that it is not a defense. You assume that the world’s standards can and should set the Church “straight” on things the world believes are wrong. The fact is that both the Catholic and Orthodox churches derive their doctrine from the apostles’ teaching, who in turn derived it from Christ Himself. Both branches of the Church must go with that standard in formulating its official doctrine, not with society’s or the laity’s pull. If the world decides to hate or persecute the Church because of its teachings, then the Church has to accept that. Of course, there are matters where the Church has been wrong and has changed its teachings, such as on geocentrism (is that the right word?) and other scientific matters, but those issues were never part of ex cathedra doctrine in the first place.

            • EricG

              Thanks Elvenfoot. But the dogma about no women priests, for example, is not consistent with the apostles’ teaching. Junia herself was an apostle, as Paul states – why couldn’t she or other women be a priest?

              You suggest that I’m merely arguing for standards “the world believes.” Not at all. Not only does scripture support it, but so does my God-given conscience. It is grievous to me, as a moral matter, that women are not allowed to do these things.

              So women-as-priests is just one example, but I think it illustrates the problem. If certain dogma is in stone, unchangeable and considered infallible, yet wrong, then there is a serious issue.

              In all events, I believe, as noted in Noonan’s book, that the Catholic church has changed on substantial dogma in the past, so I’m not sure your reading is correct; nor do I give up all hope. Even the dogma that certain dogmas can’t ever be changed (how recent is that dogma, BTW?) could itself be changed. Or, more likely, they could nuance or interpret a change as one that was not initially intended to be in stone (however wrong that may be).

              • Elvenfoot

                I actually believe it is consistent with the apostles teaching. Women were deacons, not spiritual heads, as priests are. Wasn’t it Paul who charged that they should be silent in gatherings and not teach? They have a different role. There are other reasons, too, but honestly this is a theological issue that I am too rusty to defend and too short on time to look up. I respectfully suggest that you read the catechism or some Catholic apologetics on the issue (by orthodox scholars). It may not change your mind, but it would help you understand it better from a good scholar, not a rusty mom like me. I personally think it would be very wrong to allow women priests, and here I am a woman. I don’t think that just because I was brought up that way. After much study, I truly think that my fundamental role as a woman in the Church is different based on what I understand of the Bible and Catholic theology (and which is so buried in my brain, now, that again I suggest you seek out better commentary than what I can offer right now).

                Also, you say that “If certain dogma is in stone, unchangeable and considered infallible, yet wrong, then there is a serious issue.” Well, yes…except that you’re assuming that your opinion that something is wrong means that it really is wrong. Also, Jesus promised to guide His Church into all truth. If the Orthodox and Catholics both claim apostolic succession and both teach that women cannot be priests, then I cannot put my view above that. I must submit to their authority, and I do not take it as an insult to my womanhood. Indeed, I have a glory of my own as a woman that men cannot share in–motherhood, feminine beauty, and nurturing in a way unique to women.

                In your last statements I see your point, and this is where I get tripped on infallibility. To me, if the Orthodox are just as ancient and apostolic, how can they be wrong that the pope is NOT infallible? I actually have lots of thoughts on this Orthodox/Catholic dilemma, but this is not the place and time for it. Regardless, I do love the Church–hating the sins, of course, but choosing to focus on its beauty and goodness, with which it is rich.

                • EricG

                  Elvenfoot, I have studied scholars on all sides of this, and where I see the evidence coming out is that the historic involvement of women at high levels – including Junia as a highly respected apostle (the highest of all positions in the church at the time) – suggests that the Catholic Church got this wrong later on in history, including today. This is also in line with my moral conscience and the denominational understanding of my community of faith.

                  But even if Catholics don’t see themselves as having wrong doctrine, don’t they at least realize it is possible? I believe you’ve acknowledged errors in other comments. So having something set in stone and infallible is problematic where Popes are human and can make mistakes.

  • We don’t have to spend much energy explaining the irrelevance of the Catholic church. They do a good enough job explaining it to the world themselves.

    When a church moves through history, from being spawned and led by the most progressive cultures on the planet, to drawing its future leadership and membership from the most socially retrograde parts of the planet, there really isn’t much future for the church to look forward to.

    • Elvenfoot

      That was an incredibly nasty and unfounded comment. Wow.

    • Bill

      Curtis… What does that even mean? What are the most progressive cultures on the planet? I would love to hear your brilliant insight on that topic. And somehow somebody that is from a “socially retrograde” part of the planet would have illegitimate views and/or personal character?

      • The Christian church originated and grew out of progressive movements in Western cultural history, in the early centuries in what is now southern Europe and the middle east. The Christian church, in its early history, was on the vanguard of social development and change.

        Today, the Christian church is growing fastest in some of the most socially conservative parts of the world. Hopefully it will be a force for positive change in those regions. Time will tell.

        If a person wants to check out the level of social development in areas of Asia, Africa and South America where Christianity is growing the fastest, imaging living for a few months as a lesbian in those areas, and imagine how that would be working out for you.

  • Tony, good post. Thanks. I share you’re criticisms of Catholocism and your befuddlement with protestants cheering for “their” pope. Weird.

    Also, just learned this, he’s not named after Francis of Assisi, Bergoglio is a Jesuit and named after Francis Xavier.

    • I’ve heard both. Has he clarified which Francis’s name he took?

      • Pax

        The vatican spokesman, Fr. Lombardi, said it was Assisi.

          • I stand corrected.

            A Jesuit taking a Franciscan name. Maybe he will be a bridge builder afterall…(we can hope)

          • I’m a bit slow. Where exactly in the article shared by Tony does it say which Francis he named himself after? Thanks.

  • Chris Eidson

    So glad to hear you put into words what many are thinking to themselves! I was like wtf while watching CNN yesterday!

    • No shit. The cable news coverage was redonkulous.

  • Bill

    Tony, even as a Roman Catholic, I have respect for your opening remarks. Thanks for being honest about your biases, and thanks for making the ecclesial differences clear. Protestants should be aware that they are separate from us, as we are from them.

    But maybe you could clarify this for me (us?), “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.”

    What kind of “progression” began at Vatican II? The First Vatican Council was convened to address its relationship to the world, which was seeped in rationalism, especially in Germany and France, and materialism in Britain and America. The influence of these philosophies on the Church had challenged its very identity. Unfortunately, it abruptly ended because of the Franco-Prussian war. Vatican II was convened to clean up the initial project. While Vatican I clarified the doctrine of Papal Infallibility, Vatican II clarified the Church’s ministry to the world. I would love to hear your take on this…

    JPII and Benedict XVI rolled these back??? We have never seen so many initiatives to unite the mission of the Roman Church with those outside of it, or a rejection of exclusive formalities, as we did with JPII. JPII made Catholic Pluralism more tangible than anyone sitting in the Seat of Peter before him. Pope Benedict almost always included Lutheran, Orthodox, and Jewish theologians on his writing staff, when it was appropriate. It is a hard thing for those outside the Catholic Church to grasp, and some others within (such as the boldly outspoken Sister Maureen Fiedler), but the Catholic Church moves at a much slower pace than the rest of the world. It moves slower, because it actually defines its movement against a standard. While the world thinks it’s “going somewhere” in a very speedy circle, the Catholic Church has very definitive marking points for where it was, what its mission has been, and what its mission will be. The changes will never be instantaneous, because the Church does not give into fads and trends of thought as quickly as the world around it (and more than often regretting them later). The Roman Church is also simply bigger than America. It’s bigger than Italy. It’s bigger than Germany. All of these countries are moving through different trends of thought and culture. Which priorities is the Church to take up? The American materialist concerns? The German hermeneutic and phenomenological concerns (which JPII did, on some level)? Should we unite all of these trends under some amorphous glob called “progress”? Progress from and to what? Our economies are in the shitters, more blood has been spilled in the 20th century than most others, and we all honestly wonder why. Viva il Papa Francis. I hope he does move in the same vein.

  • Pax

    I don’t expect that you would get excited by the pope. And, I applaud you for at least being consistent: every protestant is his/her own pope. I’m also impressed that you acknowledge your own bigotry, but for the more open-minded out there:

    (1) Mary does not have divine status in the Catholic Church – not in intent, not in purpose, not in reality. This is an anti-Catholic myth.

    (2) The Catholic Church does in fact recognize marriages between non-Catholic Christians as sacramental.

    (3) To Catholics, Holy Communion is also a sign of communion. If you desire communion with the Catholic Church, the door is open. Anyway, if you don’t believe what the Catholic Church believes about the Eucharist, why would you want to participate in it?

    (4) John Paul II and Benedict XVI were involved, even influential, in Vatican II. As popes, they’ve implemented it. They haven’t rolled anything back.

    (5) You’re bashing the Catholic Church for not being able to /end/ poverty? Really? The Catholic Church does more for the poor than any other organization. Let me know when your non-bureaucratic church ends poverty.

    • Elvenfoot

      Thank you. Well said.

    • Steve

      You, sir, are a prince. Thanks for setting it right.

    • Chris

      @ Bill & Pax,

      kudos from a non-Roman Catholic.

  • At least you get a sticker. I pay thousands in federal income tax every year, and I don’t get anything.

  • Pat Pope

    To Pournelle’s Law, I would add that there are those who work to further their own agendas.

  • Elvenfoot,

    I apologize if what you said in the beginning of your post is the attitude that you read is what I said. It is not. I regularly defend the RC Church from people around me launching unfounded and sarcastic criticisms. I also respect the RC Church, and that sits comfortably beside my opinions of things that I’m not a fan of regard it (a tension that doesn’t not bother me).

    I understand what you are saying regarding not talking about something that one dislikes – hopefully I have established that the latter part of that statement is something that is not true of me. I feel that it is in my interest to be involved in discussions regarding the Catholic church, since what that part of my Christian family does effects me and those around me. I understand that some in the Catholic church do not extend the same notion of “family” that I am extending to them, but I’m ok with that.

    To me it seems like there have been “changes” in dogma over church history. I say, “changes,” since usually words like, “redefined,” or, “clarified,” are used. Maybe that’s doublespeak to get around what are you are talking about; maybe it’s not. One of my favorite professors when I was studying theology in school was a female Roman Catholic scholar (at a non-Catholic university). Several times she insinuated a hope that someday in the future a change would be make regarding women becoming priests, regardless of how long that took (she understood quite well the original theological rationale for only men being priests). Did she not know what she was talking about?

    • Pax

      “Clarified” might be a good word. I wouldn’t say “Redefined”. John Henry Newman used the word “development” which is probably the most accurate (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Development_of_doctrine). We can develop doctrines more deeply, but you can’t develop a doctrine to mean something contrary.

      In Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Pope John Paul II definitively declared that the Church cannot ordain women:

      “Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

    • Elvenfoot


      Either she is mistaken that male priests are not an immovable part of Catholic dogma, or I am.mistaken that they are. I don’t know who is right, but I would wager a bet that she is succumbing to wishful thinking. Men as the only gender who can inherit the apostolic succession is an important part of Catholic thinking on the priesthood. It isn’t an issue of bias but of an understanding of role and how we reflect the different aspects of God through our genders. As a woman, I have no problem with this at all; maybe because even as a Protestant I was brought up to think this way. I didn’t like it when my mother’s church brought in female pastors, and I was only a teen then.

      I have studied an enormous amount in the past, because I wanted to be sure I knew exactly what I was doing if I decided to be confirmed. That doesn’t make me a scholar, but it does mean I acquired a great deal of knowledge about the Church’s ways and doctrine. If had money to bet, I would bet that I am right about this issue, but I have certainly been wrong before. Maybe another studied Catholic here can comment further.

  • Tony I appreciate your points here as well as some of the comments that are lifting up different views of your post. As a deeply post-denominational thinker/worshiper who was raised baptist I carry with me a constant craving to expose and challenge the troubling, problematic and even evil born from bureaucratic, authoritarian expressions of church – the Catholic church being quite a good example of all that can and often goes wrong in (any) religion.

    There are also many beautiful aspects of Catholicism – examples of what can go right in religion, but of course some/much of those go either ignored or down-right squashed by the men at the top. I am wary beyond mere words of the power wielded by those at the helm but also recognize the faithful way my Catholic neighbors often disregard much of the blind authoritarianism and create communities that are welcoming in an often closed tradition.

    All that to say, I find at times that I harbor unfortunate (yet warranted) disdain for the institution (that denies me Eucharist, marriage or even a voice) but I hold dear (with some confusion at times) the friends I know who still call that church their home.

    Thanks for the opportunity to talk about and claim both sides of my struggle with that tribe.

  • “We, the people of The United Methodist Church, are ready to continue the journey with the Roman Catholic Church, praying for one another, staying in a respectful dialogue with one another, knowing of the differences but believing that Christ unites us.”

  • Jeff Kursonis

    If you could imagine a bunch of cells and there’s this membrane between them that divides them in some respects, but it is very elastic and so as the cells move on one side it pushes around the cells on the other side…both sides are jostling about in unison with one another as this elastic membrane molds to their movements yet still remains between. Some things can go through the membrane, certain enzymes, and proteins, etc. and some are blocked by it. But to a large degree the life of the two sides remains deeply connected and any movement clearly affects both. That is why the Pope is all of our Pope. I was drawn to the conclave process because I knew my world would be affected by the choice, and so I was emotionally drawn because like all people I care about my future and my communities future, and while the future of my Catholic friends will be affected more by the new Pope, than mine, still as their lives are affected so will mine be, and I hope the degree to which their life affects mine increases everyday.

  • Bill

    I might also add that St. Francis of Assisi wouldn’t have been appointed a Cardinal, because he simply chose a different vocation. Which was not managing the Universal Church. Pope Innocent III and Cardinal Giovanni di san Paola were intimately involved in the oversight and institution of Francis’ brotherhood… which, indeed, was Francis’ vocation. After Innocent, it was Pope Honorius III who overtook the financial support and oversight of the Franciscan order. St. Francis himself explicitly opposed dissenters from Rome (e.g. Peter Waldo… a type of proto-Protestant who taught authority by Scripture Alone) and was very clear that confessing one’s sins to a priest, doing penance, devotion to Mary, and partaking of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ were essential to entering the Kingdom of God. To suggest the idea that St. Francis of Assisi was some type of closet Protestant renegade is unhistorical and wrong.

  • Vicki

    I am not Roman Catholic but feel that the claim of referring to the Church’s status as homophobic to be puzzling. Where does this come from? While the R.C. Church refers to homosexuality as a sin, can people not dig deeper and see that sin is forgiveable in their eyes anyway.I respect the R.C. church and it’s refusal to offer me eucharist. I am Anglican and the founder of my Church was a selfish monarch who broke off from the Church because he couldn’t get his own way. Good for the pope at the time
    for standing his ground. At least, the R.C. Church stands for something.

    • Yeah, really. Let’s bring back geocentrism too, and forget all those selfish astronomers. Those were the good old days, I tell you. Good to see the church finally standing its ground again.

    • Glenn

      Poor Clement VII did not “stand his ground” against Henry VIII out of principle — he did it because he was afraid to weaken the Papacy’s position in the face of the reform movement by (1) declaring a dispensation from a previous pope — the one allowing Henry to marry his late brother’s widow — invalid, and (2) offending the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V by allowing Henry to annul his marriage to his aunt. Henry’s theologian, Thomas Cranmer, provided extensive evidence from church doctrine demonstrating that the original papal dispensation was in error. Had Clement been interested in the integrity of the faith, he would have annulled Henry’s marriage.

    • The Catholic Church does not state that homosexuality is a sin.

      • Elvenfoot

        No, the orientation and temptations are not sins, only the sexual activity. As far as I know, anyway.

    • Sven

      Consider the following:
      The Roman Catholic Church serves the Eucharist to millions of sinners. Thieves, adulterers, embezzlers, the corrupt, the greedy, and the lustful.
      Yet they withhold it from the gays. Seems a little disproportionate, don’t you think? I’d call that “homophobic”.

      • Elvenfoot

        You know, that implies that the Church asks who is guilty of what when people come up for the Eucharist. There are no questions asked. It is up to the sinner to receive in a state of grace. If the Church knows, however, that someone is living a sin without repentance, then the priest has a duty to withhold the Eucharist. The key phrase here, of course, if “without repentance.” Any baptized Catholic is welcome at the Eucharist is they are repentant

        • Kate

          It might also be helpful to know that for Catholics, receiving the Eucharist while in a state of unrepentant mortal sin is in itself another mortal sin. We see it as a danger to the soul of the person receiving as well as being disrepectful to Christ. If your own pastor knew that you were about to do something that would put your immortal soul in danger of hell, wouldn’t you hope that they would prevent you from doing so?

          And elvenfoot, your comments here have been great. Thank you for defending the Church so articulately.

          • Elvenfoot

            That’s kind of you, Kate. Thank you! Growing up with so many misconceptions of the Church made me defensive of it once I realized how wrong I was, though I’m definitely no apologist.

      • Cody

        Not true at all. Good grief.

  • We had a long discussion in my internet startup workplace about “we”. The consensus among normal ( i.e. not filled with believers ) people is that “we” do have a Pope, in the sense that “we” also have an Emperor of Japan and a Dalai Lama.

    • Don’t forget the Queen. Sure helps ad revenue. Can’t argue with the bottom line.

  • Tanya
  • You tripped me up at the ‘bad’ concerning the veneration of Mary. Granted, our Reformed selves have a direct link to God and do not need the intercession of dear Mary…but leaving her behind was another instance of the Reformation throwing the baby out with the bath water.

    • Elvenfoot

      Not to mention that Catholics DON’T give Mary divine status. That is not at all what the Church teaches. If people go overboard, that’s not because of the Church saying it’s okay.

      • Sven

        Do Catholics pray to Mary? If so, why? I thought Jesus made it clear that people should pray to God the Father.

        • Elvenfoot

          They “pray” to Mary and many other saints, but this should not be construed as the worship we do when we pray to God. It is asking for their intercession, just as I might ask you to pray for me. Mary is given the highest honor of all the saints, but it stops short of the worship we give to God.

          • sofia

            Catholics would never worship a woman. Oh, and God is male, of course.

            • Elvenfoot

              Your sarcasm is misplaced, as God has no gender. He has both male and female attributes, though we refer to Him as Father. For the theology on that, you’ll have to research elsewhere, as I can’t recall it.

  • Ed Rawls

    I admit. I am a little bit Pollyannish but kudos to to Tony Jones. It’s not the antiCatholic bias of some conservatives but my progressive values that leave my hope thin and the reaity that I AM NOT WELCOMED AT CHRIST’S TABLE.

    • Elvenfoot

      It might help you to accept this without so much bitterness if you understood that Catholic and Protestant understandings of “Christ’s table” and what actually happens during that communal meal are quite different. Once I understood, I could not be offended (this was before I converted, that is.)

  • On everything else, you’re right on…I’m a watchful Pollyanna and I pray that there could be a gleam of hope for the ‘return’ of Vatican II and another John Paul II. No, he’s not my pope, but I know we don’t live in a vacuum.
    A friend of mine who is a nun in the know told me that much of the ‘restrictions’ that came into effect when Ben first took the hat and scepter had already been put into motion by the much more conservative Vaticans leaders who were ‘care takers’ of dogma and doctrine in the last, very feeble and fragile years of Pope John Paul II…doesn’t let Ratzinger off the hook but I found that an very interesting perspective.

  • mary

    The Catholic Church might not be able to end hunger but the worldwide wealth of the church is staggering. They could put a serious dent in it; if that was the Pope’s will ( yes that last bit has a point).

    • Elvenfoot

      This is not true. The pope owns nothing of the Church’s “riches” and doesn’t have the power to just do what he wants with them. They belong to the Church, not the pope. He himself is not a wealthy person. Also, you have to realize that many of the Church’s riches were given to the Church as gifts, not looted or purchased. Are they supposed to give their gifts and historical treasures away?

      • EricG

        Elvenfoot, if the Pope doesn’t have the power to use the Catholic church’s vast riches to help the poor, there must be some group within the church that does. And yes, I would say those resources should be used for the least of these rather than stored up as vast treasures. Please help me understand why this is not done, from the Catholic perspective?

        • Elvenfoot

          I am taking my answer from the book, “Pope Fiction: Answers to 30 Myths and Misconceptions about the Papacy,” by Patrick Madrid. You’re clearly not the first person to wonder this; indeed, I’m sure I have, myself, in the past. Here are his points:

          * there’s no defense for every occurance of opulence or excess in the papacy’s history; the papacy has pretty rotten at times
          *the pope himself has little to no personal wealth; JPII’s apartment was quite sparse in comparison to the building it was in.
          *it doesn’t have as much as you might imagine; for instance, no air-conditioning in most of the Vatican’s offices (and this is hot Italy).
          *”Artisans throughout history have gifted the Church with the fruits of their God-given skills. These gifts are often ornate and quite valuable. What should the Church do with them? Would it be right to reject these heartfelt expressions of faith and devotion in the name of “humility” or “poverty?”
          *”Should the pope sell the gifts to give the money to charities?…When the cash was spent, what then?” To continue Madrid in a paraphrase…is he supposed to sell off all the parish churches, some of which have their own treasures given as gifts, as well as glorious architecture that must be worth a lot? The local bishop has the legal right to do this, apparently, but where does it stop? And what kind of insult is it to the gift givers? Do you sell all your precious valuables to charity? What if your parents sold off things that meant a lot to you and that you wanted to hand down to your children and grandchildren?
          *”The pope is the recipient and custodian of these treasures, not their “owner.” They really belong to the entire Church, to all Catholics, as a patrimony handed down from earlier generations, something for the whole world to treasure and enjoy. The pope gratefully accepts these gifts in the name of the Church.”

          Hope that helped clarify things a bit.

          • EricG

            Thanks for the reply Elvenfoot. That does give an explanation, although I don’t find it persuasive. I don’t see a real problem or insult with using resources or gifts reveived hundreds of years ago. I understand it isn’t the Pope who is owner, but certainly some part of the Church could decide to use part of its resources.

            • Elvenfoot

              I think you are right to abide by your conscience in this, but I think that we also need to let the Church abide by her conscience on the matter, too. It is not an easy issue to settle, and I know that if I had some family jewels that were passed down from my distant ancestors, I could not bear to part with them. Indeed, I have some beautiful, artisan furniture made by my grandfather. His stuff was absolutely exquisite–some of it belonged in a palace, such as a mahogany desk with delicate, inlaid wood. Could it fetch some good money we could give to the poor? Of course. Would our family part with something so precious to us? No way! We’ll give in other ways.

              As for the Church using part of its resources, maybe it does. Maybe it has given a great deal and just hasn’t trumpeted the fact. Some of the most generous gifts are given quietly. I don’t know, though, but I do think it’s a judgment to withhold without knowing a whole lot about it.

              Sometimes I have questioned the gold chalices and luxurious vestments at church, because I came from a more spare Protestant tradition. Protestants, though, tend to eschew the physical in worship, though, whereas Catholics see the physical as of great use and meaning. Gold and beautiful fabrics for a Catholic are not there for opulence and show but to help us remember the majesty and glory of God and to show respect for Him–same principle, I guess, for many people dressing up for church. I don’t think either view is wrong; they are just different approaches to the same goal–reverent worship.

              • EricG

                I can understand parts of what you and Pax are saying, but here is a concrete example: CNN made a big deal of the fact that, while Cardinal, Pope Francis gave up the usual limo and plush palace, etc., to live more simply. Shouldn’t that be the norm? Christ commanded apostles to give up everything and give to the poor. Why are most Cardinals apparently living like CEOs?

                • Bill

                  Ah, Eric, I love it. What makes you think the Cardinas are living like CEO’s??? Yeah, someone washes their vestments. It looks like they live like kings, right? Do you know the salary of the hierarchy, though??? In the states, diocesan priests make an average of $18,000 – $20,000. Bishops make $30,000 – $36,000. Archbishops make something around $20,000. Eric, the Catholic Church simply does not work in the way western corporations operate. We give more money to peeps at the bottom and les to the top. Our bureaucracy is not Tony Jones’ bureaucracy.

                • Elvenfoot


                  On a personal level I agree with you. I wish all the popes lived and behaved more like St. Francis of Assisi, albeit with some special kind of dignity befitting of a leader that wouldn’t approach opulence. I think, though, that we need to remember that the Catholic Church is rich in traditions that have been in place for centuries, just like most European countries. They are traditions that perhaps make no sense to us today but that are still in place simply because that is how the Church evolved and it is tradition. I do not think Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict were the kind of men who needed opulence and glory to be content and confident in their difficult role as pope; they would have been fine in an ordinary house. But again, the setting they were placed in–and that our new pope has been placed in–is just the way things have “always been done.” How do you dismantle something like that, something that big and deep and complex? The popes have so many more things to worry about that are more pressing than dismantling and reforming their home setting. I just don’t think that focusing on the “wealth” aspect of the Catholic Church is really an valuable use of our energies. There are other things, doctrine aside, that we should work towards improving that are more important.

        • Pax

          EricG, The Catholic Church does more for the poor than any other organization on the planet. But, taking care of the poor isn’t their only purpose. If the Church liquidated its assets (which it couldn’t for a fair price because the hypothetical buyers don’t exist), it would be able to help the poor a little more right now, but it wouldn’t be able to continue functioning as the Church.

          The “riches” of the Church give glory to God. We have beautiful art and beautiful architecture because it points to the divine. Some of the poorest neighborhoods in the US have the most beautiful churches, and they were built by the poor for the poor. The poor don’t just need bread and condoms, they have spiritual needs too. The most beautiful church in my town is a basilica that was built in the early 1900s with money raised from selling baked goods of poor immigrants in the neighborhood. The parish is still one of the poorest, but they still treasure it as the tribute God that it is. To say that this money should only be used to help the poor is like when Judas said that the perfumed oil used to anoint Jesus should be sold and given to the poor.

  • richard

    I am a senior who had lunch with a Catholic friend and his wife the other day. We had lunch on a Friday. When the husband, age 74, ordered a hamburger, his wife rebuked him. When asked where in the Bible one was commanded by God to eat fish on Friday, the couple responded by saying that was irrelevant; the Church says so. I would think anyone who would want to be the spiritual leader of a church filled to overflowing with heresies would be someone to pity.

    • Bill

      Richard, let’s hear your definition of heresy! Something that conflicts with your personal interpretation of Sacred Scripture? A belief that conflicts with the “Church of Richard”? or the “Church of Tony Jones?” Heresy, by definition, is a teaching that conflicts with the Church. You have to figure out what the Church is before you start throwing down the heresy card. Avoiding meat on Fridays is an ecclesiastical teaching by the Catholic Church for the purpose of bringing together the Christian faithful in meditating on Christ’s Passion. When Catholics knowingly dissent from that instruction, they are being disobedient to the Church. For the same reason that someone would be considered anathema for disobeying the Apostles, Catholics are sinful when they are disobedient to their Church. And there is nothing about fasting on Fridays that conflicts with Scripture. As a matter of fact, the Apostles had a few ceremonial regulations (Paul required women to wear head coverings). There was nothing wrong with that requirement. Also, you should check out the Didache. It didn’t make it into the canon, but it was written by a couple of the apostles. By your standards, I’m sure you would consider those regulations heresy, too. Our Church isn’t a cowboy theology free-for-all. We do things in community. We follow one script. And we all work together in continuing to write that script.

    • Pax

      Abstinence of meat on Fridays isn’t a doctrinal issue. It’s a discipline that we do as a small penance to give glory to God. We do it on a corporate basis because it also helps build up our Catholic identity.

      It used to be that eating meat was a rare luxury and so refraining from feasting in honor of the day that the Lord died was a way to unite our suffering with His. Today meat is a regular part of our diet, but if we can’t set aside our gluttony to do a small sacrifice, then we’re never going to learn to make big sacrifices that build up the kingdom of God.

  • Richard Mounts

    Ding! Wrong answer. Marriages of non-Catholics ARE regarded as valid by The Church. Even if the marriage was just by a judge or justice of the peace. I know because before I was a Catholic I was married by a civil court jjudge in St. Louis. Later I divorced. Because, after converting to The Church, I wanted to pursue a life as a friar, I needed to seek a decree of nullity. The instructions for completing the forms included a statement that that The Church starts with the assumption th the marriage which one seeks anulled is assumed to be valid on its face. That’s the stance of The Church regarding all marriages.

    And more demerits: every ordained minister, Catholic or other, sees his/her role as reaching out to everyone, even (especially) the un-churched. The minister is willing to minister to anyone.

  • Cody

    Tony, if your aim is to bring out the worst in people who sympathize with your perspective – well done. It is hard to understand how you can so quickly jump-in to correct (incorrectly) those who disagree with you but say nothing when those sympathetic to your view border on being venomous. This is hardly representative of the Prince of Peace who is adored, one would hope, even by progressives.

    • Thank you, Cody! I’m absolutely appalled at the venom here. Great way to acknowledge the differences in expression of faith. Good God! (God IS good and will overlook such indiscretion.)

      • Elvenfoot


        I agree, but I believe that Bishop Fulton Sheen was right when he said, “Not 100 in the United States hate the Catholic Church, but millions hate what they think the Roman Catholic Church is.”

        • EricG

          As a Protestant, I appreciate the Catholic response on this board, which has helped clarify misunderstandings, and produced a helpful dialogue. Some Protestants do appreciate much of what the Catholic Church is doing – although we also often have serious reservations on some issues, such as cover up of abuse, no women as priests, inclusion of LGBT . . .

          • Bill

            EricG, love it man. You guys should get Tony to go on a discussion panel with Roman Catholics… maybe on EWTN radio. They will gladly let him in. If he wants to do it, I know all the peeps to pull the strings.

  • Craig

    Wait, where’s the appalling venom in this thread? What are you folks talking about?

  • EricG

    But Bill – what of the limos and palaces? You don’t need much additional salary with those items. Why do they have limos and palaces?

  • EricG

    But Bill – what of the limos and palaces? You don’t need much additional salary with those items
    . Why do they have limos and palaces?

    • Bill

      Probably out of respect for an important person… Also, with Catholicism, not to sound condescending by any means….. But, a person elected to a certain position of holiness has a symbolic significance. That means we adorn their ministry, via their person, with beautiful buildings and comfortable vehicles.

  • jay

    AMEN Tony.

  • Give the guy a chance, please. Some people are called to start something new, while others are called to stick it out and fight through the mess. From the stories other protestants have posted about Bergoglio, he seems like the kind of person who would be willing to dialogue with non-Catholics and affirm them. Isn’t that what the emergent movement was about? Should we really throw labels on this guy before we see him in action? Before we throw him under a bus, shouldn’t we see if he is at least trying to make the Catholic church look like something that represents God’s kingdom? Especially if he’s willing to show that protestants are part of that kingdom?

    Perhaps he isn’t “progressive” like many of you here — maybe he’ll never come to terms with issues like LGBT. Most protestant churches aren’t on board, either. It seems like it would be necessary to throw a lot of leaders under the bus, based on one’s opinion on who “inherits the kingdom.” What if protestants could actually learn something from this guy? What if this pope’s humility becomes something that puts us to shame?

    Maybe he’s not your pope. He’s not mine either. But if a person has made some pretty huge commitments to serve God and hasn’t gone and broken those commitments (at least, not willingly), should we get in his way? I’d rather see such a person humbly holding the reins than many other possible alternatives.

  • Pingback: (Some of my) Thoughts on Pope Francis in the Blogosphere | Unsettled Christianity()

  • Bill

    Thanks for the clarity and the politeness, Curtis. My apologies!

  • K C Thomas

    Tony Jones thinks that sexual morality is to be decided on votes. I am sad to note that persons of his ilk refuse to study more about Catholicism and preserve their pre-conception . Everyone has freedom and is free to criticize the Church or even God. I only request that we should be ready to understand others, other views and “the standard of eternal values and morality” Imagine the anarchy that can result if abortion, infidelity, gaysex, freesex are all the permitted norms . It is simple decay of a civilization that spirituality in humans has cultivated and brought up.

  • Beorn


    Pournelle’s isn’t just that there are two kinds of people in any bureaucracy, but that “[i]n any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.”

    This is much more insidious and has far-reaching implications not only for the church, but also the welfare state.

  • I am not a Catholic. But I, for one, like Pope Francis already. I am impressed and inspired by his presentation in the here-and-now, and really don’t care much for criticizing whatever so-called past ills he may or may not have engaged in. He is humble, amiable, kindly, and one of his first public acts as Pope was to ask the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square to pray for him. And as far as I’ve yet seen, he hasn’t criticized anyone, but has only blessed everyone. Literally everyone, Catholic and non-Catholic alike.

    Sure. As Pope, he’s surrounded by the outwardly visible trappings of Vatican opulence. But in reality, that’s just show. He doesn’t own any of it, has even bucked the system already, has taken a vow of poverty as a Jesuit priest, and has a history of caring for the poor, for AIDS sufferers, and so on. He is not a perfect man, any more than I or Tony Jones, but his actions in the past few days alone are what I choose to pay attention to, over and above whatever theological beliefs he adheres to or whatever religious institution he is the leader of.

    As Pilate said of Jesus, “Behold, the man!”

    For certain, Pope Francis isn’t a well-published and well-paid Protestant author who relishes in negative criticism of others not of his own belief or faith tradition, just because it’s fashionable or personally/professionally advantageous to do so.

    • Nick Gotts

      So, you don’t care about LGBT people, or the victims of torture and murder during the Dirty War?

      • Nick, your remarks make zero sense.

        • Nick Gotts

          Bergoglio is on record as considering those camapaining for marriage equality as tools of Satan. Evidently this bigotry against LGBT people doesn’t bother you. He was at least a passive collaborator with the Argentine junta that kidnapped, tortured and murdered tens of thousands of people. you say you “really don’t care much for criticizing whatever so-called past ills he may or may not have engaged in”. My question is therefore a perfectly reasonable one, to which you evidently have no good answer.

          • As a gay man, I am extremely concerned about LGBT people. But I also recognize that the Roman Catholic Church as an institution teaches certain doctrines that I and many others (including many Catholics) already personally disagree with, such as its stance on homosexuality. So this is nothing new.

            As such, I would expect a Pope to abide by and uphold the doctrines of the organization of which he is the head, doctrines which he actually has no power to change or overturn. For me to expect otherwise would be pretty ignorant.

            But I also know that I cannot judge a person based solely on the group he is a member of. No matter what the Catholic Church officially teaches and promotes, its membership is not monolithic; not all Catholics are in agreement on all the same things. And so I must first see everyone’s humanity above all. Including Pope Francis.

            Essentially, what I’m saying is that the Pope, by virtue of his position, religious membership, and/or doctrinal convictions is not automatically a “bad person” or a bigot. Even if he were an “enemy” to gay people such as myself, am I not called to nonetheless love my enemy?

            A few months ago Tony wrote a post titled Benefit of the Doubt: A Christian Virtue. In that post, Tony wrote the following: “In this era in which the communication between those of us who’ve never personally met is increasing exponentially every year, we are more than ever confronted with the ideas and opinions of others. I submit the the Christian posture toward the other should always be the benefit of the doubt that the other has beneficent ends.” (emphasis mine)

            I have never met Pope Francis. I was not present thirty years ago in Argentina during the period of the Dirty War, nor do I have direct knowledge of Bergoglio’s activities during that period. My own life has changed greatly in just the last five years. I will assume Bergoglio’s life has changed greatly in thirty. But, in the spirit of Tony’s “benefit of the doubt” post (which I am disheartened he did not consult before writing this unprovoked criticism of the new Pope), my Christian posture toward Pope Francis is to give him the benefit of the doubt that, though I do not know him and though his beliefs differ from mine, he has beneficent ends.

            And how the new Pope has presented himself in the here-and-now thus far, I continue to be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

            • Elvenfoot

              R. Jay, that was a brilliant and kind response about something you struggle with personally. As a Catholic, I thank and respect you.

              • Thank you, Elvenfoot. As for what I “struggle with personally,” I’m not sure what you mean specifically. I won’t assume you meant my being gay, since that is something I don’t have any struggle with at all. I’ll assume, on the other hand, that you may have meant the struggle with my giving the benefit of the doubt to someone whose beliefs about gays are very different than mine.

                It’s actually not a struggle, to be honest. As a Christian, to be called to love fully as Jesus did is to be called to willfully jump into the pool of human tension. A quick story: I attend a weekly prayer group with a group of friends, all of them staunch Evangelicals, and all of them opposed to homosexuality (based on their literal interpretation of Scripture). They all know I am gay, and I know they are traditionalists. However, we love each other dearly as fellow Christians, and equally as fellow human beings, children of God. We do not judge one another. We do not make assumptions about one another. Nor do we impose on one another. Instead, we get together happily each week for prayer and Bible discussion in order to encourage one another to love better, rather than “believe more rightly.” We do this because each of our faith lives has been enriched by one another. And all of this because, in the leap of faith, we chose to jump into the pool of human tension. And in doing so, we have learned — no, we have experienced — that God happens when love happens.

                When we fear the tension, we fear “the other.” And then we criticize “the other.” And that only builds barriers to love.

                • Elvenfoot

                  Yes, that is what I meant. I have found it difficult to have friendly relationships with the few homosexuals I’ve met because of my religious views–if I don’t agree with them on gay marriage and lifestyle, then I’m a bigot and horrible. I think your approach and your Bible study group’s approach is much healthier and Christ-like.

                  • In my experience with God, I have learned that God is bigger than our institutions. God is bigger than our doctrines. God is bigger than our belief or unbelief. God is bigger than our fears. God is bigger than our divisions. And when we yield foremost to institutions, doctrines, beliefs/non-beliefs, fear, and the divisions where we see others through the lens of “us/them”, then we fail to behold God, in whose image we are all equally made.

                    But when we love fully, over and above all those things — when we willfully enter the tension (which is a true act of faith) and get our heads out of ourselves and our hearts into God — that is when God happens.

                    • Elvenfoot

                      Yes, I think I agree with you here. It is difficult, being human, to find the right balance between obedience and adherence to truth and instruction (doctrine, etc.) and that heartfelt, authentic love that should be paramount. We fail often, but we have to keep trying.

            • Nick Gotts

              I’m not judging him on being a Catholic, I’m judging him on what he has said and done, recently, in trying to prevent Argentina – not the Catholic Church – legislating marriage equality; and on how he has behaved, both at the time and subsequently, with regard to mass murder and torture during the “Dirty War”. The Argentine Catholic Church (in marked contrast, be it noted, to the Chilean Catholic Church in similar circumstances) was up to its neck in collaboration with the junta. As recently as 2006, Bergoglio opposed the trials of those accused of murder and torture, and in 2007, refused to defrock another priest, Christian von Wernich, who was jailed for life for seven killings, 42 abductions and 34 cases of torture.

              • The Apostle Paul, according to the Biblical narrative, was complicit in the arrests and murders of early Christians. The same narrative (book of Acts) indicates that, because of his past, Christians initially distrusted Paul’s conversion and elevation to apostleship. It would appear the same flavor of distrust is now directed at Bergoglio, who now sits at the head of the religious tradition Paul began.

                The article you referenced tells both sides of a story, and both sides share subjective details. Nothing reported is evidence. Some people criticize him, at times severely. Some people praise him, at times calling him a hero. What is common to all the stories, though, is that what happened thirty years ago in Argentina was a very difficult period, a very complex situation.

                People’s humanity fails in such times, and often miserably. I cannot speak with any certainty (and I’m betting you can’t either) that Bergoglio’s humanity failed him back then, whether in small or large part. But I can only judge him on his humanity as I’ve I so far have seen it in the here-and-now.

                If Bergoglio suffered a failure of humanity similar to Paul’s, then perhaps over the past thirty years his heart has changed and he has found new strength in his humanity. Either way, he is not a perfect man, and it would be unreasonable of me to expect him to be so. Again, I will give him the benefit of the doubt and grant that whatever he says and does today, it is for beneficent ends.

                As for marriage equality in Argentina, I would expect a Catholic Cardinal to be in opposition to it. This is a foregone conclusion. If he came out in support of it, I would be quite surprised. Again, there are givens that we can already take for granted. Either way, his opposition to equal marital rights is not enough for me to regard him with anything less than full Christian love.

                • K C Thomas

                  Marriage is between a man and a woman. Any other togetherness is not marriage but something else. If a man lives with a female dog or pig, can we call it a marriage ? If the purpose of man is nothing but eating and mating as some believe, anything imaginary can be done by anyone who wants to do anything.No religion, no pope , no pearson can do a thing.

  • Andrew K.

    CNN became the Catholic News Network. If someone had looked like David Jansen, I would have thought I was watching “The Shoes of the Fisherman.”

  • Jonathan

    I am a Presbyterian pastor and did a marriage for a friend (I followed regular order of worship, so use of Trinity, etc.). His Catholic wife wanted a Catholic marriage when she became pregnant so her child would not be considered illegitimate in the eyes of the church, and a priest did it. Was the priest right or wrong? Is there really a statement on this? Can someone point me to an authoritative statement.

    • Elvenfoot

      I would suggest you bring up this question on Catholic Answers: http://www.catholic.com/ It is a wealth of information about Catholicism, and P’s are welcome there (at least, they were last time I signed on, which was long ago). I am not sure that the priest felt he had to validate the marriage because the Catholic party went outside the Church for it, nor am I sure if the priest was wrong because both parties were baptized Christians. My guess is that the former possibility is the correct answer. I am a convert, and my husband and I were both married outside the Catholic Church because we were Protestants at the time. When we converted, our marriage was considered sacramental and valid, because we were both baptized Christians but could not have been married in the Catholic Church. If someone is Catholic, though, and marries outside of the Church when they “should know better”, then maybe that is a bigger issue for validating the marriage. I don’t understand it all, but I think I’m right. Catholic.com will get you farther, though, with a good answer with the why’s behind it. Try to get a priest or scholar to answer you.

      • Elvenfoot

        Jonathan, I neglected to indicate that Catholic.com has many different sections, but there is a big forum section. Here’s a better link: http://forums.catholic.com/

    • K C THomas

      Jonathan, the marriage is valid. But the Catholic party has an obligation to practice her faith and also to bring up the children in catholic faith. This is the condition of the Church. There are people who satisfy the condition, but some do not care. Each person has a conscience. Is it not so ?

  • newenglandsun

    “It’s all male clergy”

    That’s because in Catholic theology the priest’s role is to be vicar of Christ in the Parish and to serve other people. Men, ontologically, perform this better than women because Christ was a man. Translation – “I hate the Catholic Church because Jesus was a man!”

    “celibate priesthood”

    Eastern Catholics don’t enforce celibacy as strictly like Roman Catholics do. In areas where Eastern Catholicism is popular, it’s not that uncommon to see a married priest. Dismissal of argument as straw-man.

    “its veneration of Mary to divine status”

    So you dismiss texts explicity forbidding women to talk in Church but take issues with Mary’s veneration in the Catholic Church? I’m not sure I’m following any more. Divine status? No one does that. It’s hyperdoulia. She is a human women who gave birth to God, the Theotokos, Mother of God.

    “its homophobia”

    “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2358)

    Yes, sounds homophobic to me!

  • newenglandsun

    “He wouldn’t recognize your non-Catholic marriage as sacramental in the eyes of God”

    Wow, what a ridiculous lie.

    Look, I guess at this point, intelligent Catholics can dismiss everything Tony Jones says.

  • newenglandsun

    “If you or I, non-communicants in the Roman Catholic Church”

    “”All men are called to this catholic unity of the People of God. . . . And to it, in different ways, belong or are ordered: the Catholic faithful, others who believe in Christ, and finally all mankind, called by God’s grace to salvation.”” (CCC, 836)

    “The Church’s bond with non-Christian religions is in the first place the common origin and end of the human race:

    All nations form but one community. This is so because all stem from the one stock which God created to people the entire earth, and also because all share a common destiny, namely God. His providence, evident goodness, and saving designs extend to all against the day when the elect are gathered together in the holy city. . .” (CCC, 842)

    “The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as “a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life.”” (CCC, 843)

    How are we to understand this affirmation, [“Outside the Church there is no salvation”] often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

    Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.” (CCC, 846)

  • newenglandsun

    “if he agrees with his immediate predecessor, he does not think you attend a church. You attend an “ecclesial community.””

    Oh, dear, error after error the more I read this.

    Ecclesial – “pertaining to a church or its functions, teachings, or organization”
    Community – “a group of men or women leading a common life according to a rule”


    An ecclesial community, by definition, IS a Church!