Anne's Diary

Hope for the (New) Pope

I was raised by atheists, and when it comes to religion, I often joke that I'm a "lapsed Wiccan." However, I AM (officially, anyway) a Catholic, and I have high hopes for the new pope.

I never thought that Ratizinger was going to work out--he was too hidebound and rule-oriented. When he told the nuns to stop paying so much attention to the poor, that was the last straw for lots of us.

You ask yourself, why would the Catholic Church shield pedophile priests and completely ignore the suffering of the children they have attacked? The Archbishop of Durban, South Africa--Wilfrid Fox Napier--describes pedophilia as a psychological illness and not "a criminal condition," because these people were abused as children themselves, thus they are not criminally responsible for their actions in the same way as somebody "who chooses to do something like that."

While he's essentially correct about the CAUSE of this affliction, he seems to assume that psychopaths have no ability to change or to curb their illicit "appetites." This doesn't show much faith in God OR mankind.

I much prefer the observation of Peggy Noonan, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, who says that the new pope "has to confront the Scandals in a way that allows the world to believe they are over, that a corner has been turned and there will be no going back.

"When you open and clean a beautiful old mansion that hasn't been cleaned in a long time, it will raise a lot of dust. But the dust isn't new dirt; it is just proof that a cleaning is going on. The new pope shouldn't fear making it all look worse. It hardly can."

In other words, "a new broom sweeps clean" (or it can, anyway). We'll have to wait and see how much change is possible for such an old and moribund institution.


It seems from some statements put out by Catholic clerics that they are in need of some training in psychology, sociology and ethics: not from the perspective of Catholic dogma, but from a more scientific-psychological perspective that would help them understand why priests might do terrible things, how such weakness are best prevented or handled, and how to best cultivate personal responsibility, compassion and genuine ethics in their priests. Obviously, their religion is not doing a good enough job at it. The training and preparation of clerics to responsibly and ethically discharge their responsibilities, and ongoing reinforcement of that training throughout their lives, is one area that I think the new Pope will need to address.

Yet unlike many, I do see great value in religion - if it stays true to its initial principles - which in Christianity, are love and forgiveness. Nowhere in the religion does it teach that forgiving another's 'errors' means pretending they didn't happen, or keeping them secret. On the contrary, forgiveness is part of a process that requires that the wrong-doer acknowledge their wrongdoing and be genuinely penitent....which means committed to not repeating that wrongdoing. Forgiveness for a crime (which pedophilia, abuse and economic corruption are) can and should include allowing the culprits to reflect on their crimes in prison. This is another area where reform is drastically needed, in the processes and practices of clerical accountability.

The third area that I hope the new pope will address is transparency. The church, and religion should never be used to create more veils or keep people more in the dark than ever. Rather, they should be used to en-lighten - that is, to shed light on. Shed light on what? On their own doings, for one. On what is wrong as well as what is right. The Vatican must make its financial dealings completely transparent. It must institute a policy of acknowledging serious lapses in its clergy and demonstrating that it will not excuse away or hide wrongdoing by its clerics or authorities, and also, of acknowledging its own errors.

Fourth, if the Vatican really wants to restore faith in the Catholic church and its representatives, it must be willing to reconsider those aspects of its dogma that are not clearly proscribed by the basic teachings of the Christ, and frankly, intelligently and responsibly assess which of those later accretions to Jesus' teachings may be causing more harm than good to the wellbeing, spiritual growth and continued existence of humanity. A good starting point would be the church's stand on contraception, which is causing untold suffering in overpopulated, poor countries and seriously undermining the health, wellbeing and social standing of women. Contraception is not a sin. It is a reasonable, rational, responsible strategy.

I doubt that Pope Francis 1 could, even if he wanted to, make all these reforms over the next few years, but he can make significant moves towards them. I am not a Catholic, but as a human being who cares about my own species, I sincerely hope that, as shepherd to millions of faithful, he does.

I know ever one has their favorite flavors of religon, but for me I find the Catholic Church WAY to oppressive in all matters for my taste.

Google "Belief .net" and take the world religons test. They ask you 25 questions and if you answer honestly it will populate your results into a ranking of the 22 major religons of the world.

The faith I was rasied in: Baptist and Catholism were both dead last at # 21 & 22 respectively-lol!

I'm afraid I have no high hopes for this Pope beyond one: that he would refrain from adding to the misery of the world. But there is scant chance that he will improve anything much less initiate changes. He holds strongly to the tenets of the Church on matters like contraception, divorce, and the male priesthood. Don't be fooled by his choice of name. He is no Assisi. He's far more like the co-founder of his order: Francis Xavier, blinded by obedience to what is assumed to be the law of "God". St. FX - as he is popularly known - was a missionary and a supporter of the Inquisition as is retired Pope Benedict. So don't be fooled: the Curia has not suddenly softened its heart of stone and given the world an Assisi. This Francis may favour "social justice" within limits but he is no champion of the right to question church dogma. He is a "rules" man and we can expect only what his electors want: another "caretaker" Pope whilst the needless suffering of billions continues.

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