If you rely on News Feed in Facebook to find my posts, you're missing most of them. On average, only 16% of updates in Facebook make it into News Feeds. Let me suggest that you subscribe to me in Facebook, follow me on Twitter (@ccengct), or use an RSS reader.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Limitations on Pope Francis

Pope Francis seems like a great guy, an inspiration to people who don't embrace Roman Catholicism, Christianity, or any religion at all. He is a strong voice for peace, social justice, charity, tolerance, reconciliation, environmentalism, and simplicity. Humanity needs all those virtues! But don't inflate his personal style and beliefs into unrealistic expectations for progressivism within the Roman Catholic Church.

If you, like I, look for

  • ordination of women,
  • full acceptance of gay, lesbian and transgender people,
  • endorsement of a woman's right to choose,
  • full recognition of other Christian churches,
  • elimination of annulments as a requirement for divorced persons to remarry, or
  • significant participation of lay persons in church leadership at the diocesan or global level,
you have a lot longer to wait, Francis' pontificate notwithstanding.

The Roman Catholic Church, like every other religious and secular institution, has a significant number of people that are not ready to abandon their traditional positions — which they sincerely believe to be consistent with the faith. I disagree with them on that, but they don't think they're wrong, they might not even admit the possibility of being wrong, and they're unlikely to be persuaded by anyone inside the Roman Curia, much less outside.

As an example, the Archbishop of Newark (N.J.) took a hard line last month on some of the hot issues. Most Roman clergy active today were selected, ordained, or elevated during the pontificates of Francis' more traditional predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. These clergy will be active for decades longer, and they aren't necessarily following Francis' lead. The New York Times recently carried an op-ed piece entitled "The Plot to Change Catholicism" that probed reactions to the Francis' purported stance on remarriage; the Washington Post ran a similar story.

But before one criticizes the Roman Catholic Church too harshly, consider this quote from my friend George Clifford who blogged on this topic:

I'm not optimistic about the odds of the Roman Catholic Church undergoing significant internal reformation in my lifetime. I see their current struggles as a reminder that I too live in a glass house: instead of throwing stones, may God always help me to embody mercy rather than judgment.