Essays on Religion, Faith and Sprituality by Michele Madigan Somerville
Monday, September 23, 2013
Grant Me Pope Francis Kool-Aid But Not Yet: Is The New Pope For Real?
Like many Catholics I am encouraged by Pope Francis's language on the matter of sin, war, greed, and the poor, especially encouraged by the the pontiff's willingness to admit that conservative Catholics fetishize (my word, not his) the issues of abortion and same-sex marriage to the possible exclusion of other Christian concerns. I am grateful to see the pope promote the idea that a person who does not believe in God can have a conscience. I am grateful for Pope Francis's choice to extend a modicum of warmth to my LGBT members of our Church.
Grant me the Francis Alleluia Kool-Aid, but not yet.
Vatican doctrine still holds that same-sex and marriage and love are sinful. The pontiff has yet to fling "open the door" (to employ the terminology Ratzinger et al used) to the discussion of Women's Ordination. The pontiff's 'atheists should follow their consciences' message still had a subtle, persisting undertones of a "hate the sin, love the sinner" condescension--the idea that atheists have consciences is not exactly a metaphysical news flash. (Atheists, we should not forget, do good for good's sake, not for the divine report card kept by our triune God. If that is not conscience, I don't know what is.)
There's still the pope's money-hiding, pedophile-abetting cardinal in New York (Timothy Dolan) offering this interpretation of his fellow prelate's message in an interview with The Wall Street Journal:
"Like Jesus, he's saying, hate the sin, love the sinner," Cardinal Dolan said, referring to Pope Francis's recent comments.
Being gay is not a sin. Loving one's same-sex partner is not a sin.
Yesterday, the LGBT ministry in the Catholic parish in which I am active, inspired by the pope's recent admission that being gay is okay had a plan to 'represent'--after masses, via that time-tested church tradition of serving coffee and cake. I am active in the LGBT ministry in my parish--I helped to start it--but I decided not to take part in this, because this week, something about the reaction to the pope's ( I fear too) well-received message leaves me the slightest bit uncomfortable.
Yes, there is a new breath of fresh air emanating from Peter's seat yet still, when I attend mass in my parish church, there's a man celebrating mass and and a half dozen-women Rome deems undeserving of priesthood scurrying about the church, on the altar and otherwise, making the the sacrifice of the mass come off without a hitch. This I find sinful. There's still the matter of a Nobel Prize-nominated Maryknoll Viet Nam veteran peace activist, Roy Bourgeois, whom the new pope ought to think about re-frocking. He lost his frock as a punishment for taking part in the ordinations of women.
Not one of the many Roman Catholic priests with whom I speak regularly really believes, as the hierarchal gynophobes argue, that "the Church lacks the authority to ordain women." Not one believes this dogma should be immutable. Not one finds this cherry-picked law, which gets used as a cudgel to keep women in their proper place, sound from a theological standpoint. The law prohibiting the ordination of women is rooted in fear of the power of women and in economics--not Christ's teaching.
The Vatican will ordain women. The Canon Code may change to allow it. The Women's Ordination may grow so fast that women priests become a kind of unofficial norm or (most likely) a crisis in the Church will make it economically necessary to rethink the idea that a priest must have male sex parts.
The world's Catholic heart went aflutter recently--and I was with us, in this, to a limited extent--when the possibility that Rome might consider ordaining married (male) priests found its way into the news. Many people do not know that there currently are married Roman Catholic priests. Ratzinger cut a deal with ultra conservative Anglicans who wanted to bolt from their church to a more orthodox church that would promise to be less hospitable to feminists, LGBT people and progressives. A small number of Anglican converts were ordained into the Roman Catholic Apostolic Succession without having to give up their wives.
We can expect the discussion of married priests to get louder now. Now that Francis has established himself as the love pope, there will be more talk about the sanctity of love between spouses, and with an eye on addressing the shortage of priests, the hierarchs, under Francis, will begin to adopt a more open view of non-celibate priests.
I want my priests to have love lives, however, I am reluctant to join the campaign for married priests because I think there's something disingenuous in it. In many parts of the world heterosexual priests have wives and children on the down low, and Rome knows that. In the United States--and elsewhere, it is safe to assume--a significant percentage of priests are gay and probably most are, at some point in the course of their priesthood, sexually active.
There's a priest shortage. It should therefore come as no surprise that the Vatican Public Relations team responsible for this new, kinder, gentler, more Holy See would now send out the married priests test balloon.
I have been discussing the ordination of women with Roman Catholic priests for years. Not one I have ever spoken with believes that the ordination of women is notinevitable. It's not a matter of whether, they tell me, but when. The idea of women priests is the great fear of any prelate worrying about the Vatican coffers, however, because epically spawning women build the church. I believe the scrambling to offer quasi-acceptance to LGBT Catholics, the fresh re-emergence of discussion of the possibility of ordaining (non-Anglican baptized) married men the new shine this pontificate currently aims to put on the the well-worn argument that women have a special place in the church just as Mary, the mother of God, born without sin, had a special place in the life of Jesus.
The all-male priesthood is a vestige of the Judaism of antiquity which (God bless them for it.) even Orthodox Jews have managed to challenge and shake. Economic necessity caused men to write exclusion of women into Canon Law and economic necessity will reverse this exclusion. Eventuially.
When it becomes economically necessary, the Magisterium will arrive at a new interpretation of the Canon Code that makes way for the ordination of women. Until then the Vatican will try anything else--Anglican clerics, married or not; thanks to an unofficial "Don't Ask Don't Tell," policy--gay priests; and offering women to do the bulk of work at parish levels save that which priests alone are authorized to do.
I think Ratzinger's early departure was a well thought-out strategy for preventing an all-out schism and arresting the mass exodus of disaffected Catholics. What better man to stop the bleed than a anti-Ratzinger, a lovable, humble, warm-blooded guy who's all about peace and love?
It's not a push to imagine that Pope Francis, who has already given the Vatican a brighter smile, might (even unknowingly) be a pawn in a less than divinely inspired campaign to keep Catholics from the leaving the Church and recall lapsed Catholics back into the tithing fold. It's not a reach to imagine that a College of Cardinals made jittery by Ratzinger's arrogance and relative indifference to the suffering of victims of the Vatican Sex Crisis might have carefully s/elected the prelate most likely to serve as living breathing damage control, a real Habemus Papam pope.
I hope the man Timothy Dolan described, yesterday, as "hardly a shrinking violet" will yet exhibit and reflect the audacity of the Jesus who broke with the orthodoxy and took women as discliples. Let Pope Francis open the door to discussion of the ordination of women, so that we women can come to know whether he is the real thing.