WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

Pope Francis's comments on Papal plane are catalyst to new discussion about gays, divorced & remarried, and women's roles in Church

During Pope Francis' pastoral visit to Brazil, it was stunning how virtually silent this Pope was about contentious moral issues typically brought up about the church (at least in the Western church): Birth control & abortion, divorce & remarriage, gays in the church, women's roles in the church, etc.

But on the flight back, this Bishop of Rome conducted an 80-minute, impromptu news conference.

Pope Francis' remarks about gay Catholics and gay priests obviously dominated the initial media accounts. The Papal quote which made headlines: "Who am I to judge?" It seemed like a pointed departure from previous Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II. But consider the entire quotation, which puts things into context:

"If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person? The catechism of the Catholic Church explains this point beautifully... (saying) these persons must never be marginalized and they must be integrated into society..."

Pope Francis appears to have rejected a document from Benedict XVI's pontificate that said the Church "cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called 'gay culture'." (Of course, chastity is assumed of any candidate for the priesthood, regardless of sexual orientation; that doesn't change.)

From my perspective, what Pope Francis said was not that revolutionary; the child abuse scandal precipitated many statements from bishops and from the Vatican which failed to diffentiate between adult sexual orientation and a fundamental attraction to children. Indeed, Pope Francis himself declared, "Child abuse is a crime."

Getting far less attention in the initial media accounts: Asked about Holy Communion for divorced Catholics who remarry without an annulment, Pope Francis suggested a pastoral response (something already being done in some parishes). And he actually mentioned the Eastern Orthodox churches. Orthodox tradition allows up to three church-sanctioned marriages. One saying about that: The Eastern Orthodox church "blesses the first marriage; performs the second; tolerates the third; and forbids the fourth..."

(Pope Francis' reference to Orthodox practice is rather interesting, considering the bitter feud that has gripped Mount Athos in northern Greece, epicenter for Orthodoxy's monastic community. Just in the news: Angry monks at the Esphigmenou Monastery in the monastic community of Mount Athos refused to obey an eviction order, tossing Molotov Cocktails and rocks at bailiffs attempting to serve them. The spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox church - Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos - declared the monks of that monastery an "illegal brotherhood" because of the monks' ferocious opposition to improving Orthodox ties with the Roman Catholic Church.)

But, while Pope Francis called for the integration of women into many positions in the Church, he reaffirmed Pope John Paul II's rejection of women priests. (But perhaps women deacons - deaconess?)

After all, Pope Francis said the following aboard that plane:

"The Madonna and Mary were more important than the apostles, bishops, deacons, and priests. Women in the church are more important than bishops and priests. I think we are missing a theological explanation on this..."

A few years ago, I posted a blog, "A Modest Proposal for the Church", on how the Roman Catholic Church could visibly put women into pivotal decision-making without grappling with the issue of women priests. (This post has gotten among the most hits of any of my blog-posts over the years.)

If you're interested, please follow my thread into that earlier post... "My Modest Proposal" follows a few opening paragraphs about the scandals...


Posted at 8:09am on July 30, 2013 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Wed, Jul 31, 2013 4:12pm
When Copernicus went up against the pope he was burned at the stake.

Today, Conservatives say the Pope is wrong, and that he should be burned at the stake. Doesn't it make far more sense that conservatives are wrong?

Of course it does. When a Pope emphatically points out that conservatives are wrong. THEY ARE WRONG!.

Good thing I'm not a conservative. If I were... I'd recommend bringing back the old punishments and suggest that perhaps we should begin public burnings of Conservatives at the stake, so they can be eternally grateful that, finally their philosophy: "that if it was done in Medieval times it must be very good", is finally being enforced... lol.. :)

Allan Loudell
Wed, Jul 31, 2013 7:21pm

Just for the record, Nicolaus Copernicus was NOT burned at the stake.

He apparently died from apoplexy and paralysis at the age of 70.

Copernicus' book - On the Revolution of the Celestial Spheres - did not come out until after his death, perhaps to avoid persecution. (Although elites in Europe were already becoming aware of his construction of the solar system.) The book was published in Latin, so only scholars could read it. It took awhile for the Roman Catholic Church (73 years) to place that book on its INDEX of PROHIBITED BOOKS. (The Council of Trent dealt not at all with Copernican heliocentric - sun-at-the-center - theory.)

Actually, Protestant reformers at the time seemed quicker to condemn. Martin Luther's collaborator, Philipp Melanchthon, called for Copernican's heliocentric theory to be repressed by force: "Certain people believe it is a marvelous achievement to extol so crazy a thing, like that Polish astronomer who makes the earth move and the sun stand still. Really, wise governments ought to repress impudence of mind."

In 1600 - more than a half century after the death of Copernicus - the Roman Inquisition found Giordano Bruno, an intellectual supporter of Copernican theory - guilty of heresy. But his views went far beyond heliocentric theory: Denial of the trinity, the divinity of Christ, the virginity of Mary, Transubstantiation, shading into pantheism. The civil authorities burned him at the stake.

Perhaps you were thinking of Galileo Galilei, who championed heliocentrism. The Inquisition tried Galileo, found him a "vehement subject of heresy", and he spent the remainder of his life under house arrest.

As far as the Roman Catholic Church today, I would argue you really can't contain it within one pole of U.S. political spectrum -- On some issues, the Church veers right, and on others, left -- but it really distorts Church positions to place them on such a spectrum.

For example, pro-life (anti-abortion, anti-capital punishment, to some extent, anti-war)...

Allan Loudell

Mike from Delaware
Thu, Aug 1, 2013 10:50am
An interesting article that goes into the Galileo issue, offering an even-handed account [not bashing the church, just telling what happened quite interesting] worth the read offered this final thought:

"A final lesson and warning applies to the Church, Science, and the modern Creationist movement today. Beware of holding steadfastly to a particular interpretation of Scripture and/or a scientific model, which may be in error. For instance, there are various scientific challenges to the Young-Earth Creationist position. We should hold many of our scientific views and their corresponding Biblical interpretations loosely. For we will never have all the right answers this side of heaven."


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 1:05pm
Thanks Allan and Mike... You have started me on an unfortunate quest. I vividly remember a lithograph showing Copernicus tied and on fire with 4-5 onlookers watching him burn. I was very young and rather impressionable. I now will have to try to dig that up to see whether I was misinformed, or made an error of judgment. It was one of those things I so readily accepted as being true, since the words backed it up, that since the internet was established, I didn't even bother to verify it.

I'm sure quite a few people were skeptical of Copernicus back then, regardless of where they fell on the Catholic/Protestant line, since the concept went against what one saw outside their window. "Why of course the sun moves across the sky."

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 1:34pm
Appears it was John Huss I mistakenly attributed as Copernicus.


(the global internet is an amazing thing)

Mike from Delaware
Thu, Aug 1, 2013 5:58pm
What I found interesting is that the Catholic Church didn't officially forgive Galileo until 1981.

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