Thursday, March 14, 2013

Francis and the Church Ingognito

Habemus papem
This happened yesterday. White smoke from the chapel and roar from the assembled thousands in St. Peter's Square. The conclave of Cardinals in Rome, in the Sistine Chapel, elected one of their own to head the Roman Catholic church as pope. His name is Jorge Mario Bergoglio and he is from Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is the first pope ever elected from the Americas. You can find a whole passel of stories about him here. He's also the first pope to choose the name Francis. And the first Jesuit ever elected to the papacy. That's a lot of firsts. But in some things he will not be the first, but rather a link in a long chain. He will not be the first to staunchly uphold Catholic doctrine and positions on social issues. So we cannot expect any glimmer of change in the Church's underpinning theology, things that have been roiling in Christian thought elsewhere for decades. As with most things Catholic, doctrine seems immutable. And if that is immutable, then nothing is going to change on the social issues such as gay marriage, married priests, female clergy.

What Francis proposes to do is refocus the Church--read about it here--to put an end to its "self-referential" character and turn its focus outward away from Europe and towards the poor of the world. I can only applaud this from the standpoint of what the church should be doing to best reflect Jesus in the world, but I also can't help but notice that a move towards being less "self-referential" is going to perforce turn off the heat on the church's ongoing scandals: the never-ending pedophilia outrage, the Vatican bank, and various other shifty goings on in the Vatican. And I don't believe for a minute that all those guilty cardinals (like American Roger Mahony--and plenty of others--who spent millions of dollars trying to avoid disclosure and payments to victims of pedophile priests in Los Angeles) didn't welcome a change of direction away from the spotlight on their sordid and despicable behavior.
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