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Pope's revolution - not all are pleased

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The Francis Revolution is underway. Not everyone is pleased.

Four months into his papacy, Francis has called on young Catholics in the trenches to take up spiritual arms to shake up a dusty, doctrinaire church that is losing faithful and relevance. He has said women must have a greater role — not as priests, but a place in the church that recognizes that Mary is more important than any of the apostles. And he has turned the Vatican upside down, quite possibly knocking the wind out of a poisonously homophobic culture by merely uttering the word "gay" and saying: so what?

In between, he has charmed millions of faithful and the mainstream news media, drawing the second-largest crowd ever to a papal Mass. That should provide some insurance as he goes about doing what he was elected to do: reform not just the dysfunctional Vatican bureaucracy but the church itself, using his own persona and personal history as a model.

"He is restoring credibility to Catholicism," said church historian Alberto Melloni.

Such enthusiasm isn't shared across the board.

Francis' predecessor, Benedict XVI, had coddled traditionalist Catholics attached to the old Latin Mass and opposed to the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council. That group greeted Francis' election with concern — and now is watching its worst fears come true. Francis has spoken out both publicly and privately against such "restoratist groups," which he accuses of being navel-gazing retrogrades out of touch with the evangelizing mission of the church in the 21st century.

His recent decision to forbid priests of a religious order from celebrating the old Latin Mass without explicit authorization seemed to be abrogating one of the big initiatives of Benedict's papacy, a 2007 decree allowing broader use of the pre-Vatican II Latin liturgy for all who want it. The Vatican denied he was contradicting Benedict, but these traditional Catholics see in Francis' words and deeds a threat. They are in something of a retreat.

"Be smart. There will be time in the future for people to sort what Vatican II means and what it doesn't mean," the Rev. John Zuhlsdorf warned his traditionalist readers in a recent blog post. "But mark my words: If you gripe about Vatican II right now, in this present environment, you could lose what you have attained."

Even more mainstream conservative Catholics aren't thrilled with Francis.

In a recent interview with the National Catholic Reporter, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said right-wing Catholics "generally have not been really happy" with Francis.

To be sure, Francis has not changed anything about church teaching. Nothing he has said or done is contrary to doctrine; everything he has said and done champions the Christian concepts of loving the sinner but not the sin and having a church that is compassionate, welcoming and merciful.

But tone and priorities can themselves constitute change, especially when considering issues that aren't being emphasized, such as church doctrine on abortion, gay marriage and other issues frequently referenced by Benedict and Pope John Paul II.

The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, used the word "gay" for perhaps the first time in its 150-year history on Wednesday, in an article marveling at the change Francis has brought.

"In just a few words, the novelty has been expressed clearly and without threatening the church's tradition," the newspaper said about Francis' comments on gays and women. "You can change everything without changing the basic rules, those on which Catholic tradition are based."

The biggest headline came in Francis' inflight news conference on the way home from Brazil this week, when he was asked about a trusted monsignor who reportedly once had a gay lover.

"Who am I to judge?" he asked, when it comes to the sexual orientation of priests, as long as they are searching for God and have good will.

Under normal circumstances, given the sexual morality at play in the Catholic Church, outing someone as actively gay is a death knell for career advancement. Vatican officials considering high-profile appointments often weigh whether someone is "ricattabile" — blackmailable.

But Francis said he investigated the allegations himself and found nothing to back them up. And that regardless, if someone is gay and repents, God not only forgives but forgets. Francis said everyone else should too. By calling out the blackmail for what it is, Francis may well have clipped the wings of an ugly but common practice at the Vatican.

Francis also made headlines with his call for the church to develop a new theology of women's role, saying it's not enough to have altar girls or a woman heading a Vatican department given the critical role that women have in helping the church grow.

While those comments topped the news from the 82-minute news conference, he revealed plenty of other insights that reinforce the idea that a very different papacy is underway.

— Annulments: He said the church's judicial system of annulling marriages must be "looked at again" because church tribunals simply aren't up to the task. That could be welcome news to many Catholics who often have to wait years for an annulment, the process by which the church determines that a marriage effectively never took place.

— Divorce and remarriage: He suggested an opening in church teaching which forbids a divorced and remarried Catholic from taking communion unless they get an annulment, saying: "This is a time for mercy."

— Church governance: He said his decision to appoint eight cardinals to advise him was based on explicit requests from cardinals at the conclave that elected him who wanted "outsiders" — not Vatican officials — governing the church. Francis obliged, essentially creating a parallel government for the church alongside the Vatican bureaucracy: a pope and a cabinet of cardinals representing the church in each of the continents.

And then there was Rio.

From the moment he touched down, it was clear change was afoot. No armored popemobile, just a simple Fiat sedan — one that got swarmed by adoring fans when it got lost and stuck in traffic. Rather than recoil in fear, Francis rolled down his window. Given that popes until recently were carried around on a chair to keep them above the fray, that gesture alone was revolutionary.

He told 35,000 pilgrims from his native Argentina to make a "mess" in their dioceses, shake things up and go out into the streets to spread their faith, even at the expense of confrontation with their bishops. He led by example, diving into the crowds in one of Rio's most violent slums.

"Either you do the trip as it needs to be done, or you don't do it at all," he told Brazil's TV Globo. He said he simply couldn't have visited Rio "closed up in a glass box."

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

23 Comments
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if the Pope is infallible (according to the Catholic church), how can a succesor possibly have a different interpretation or view on matters of his "infallible" predecesor.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

From what I understand, popes are allowed to state their opinions, which is what Francis was doing. That being said, his opinion carries a huge amount of weight, of course.

Papal infallibility only extends to infallible declarations, which are extremely rare: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papal_infallibility#Instances_of_infallible_declarations

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Personally I think these are great moves, and well overdue. I'm not a fan of divorce, but the move towards more Christ-like behavior (not judging, being forgiving and kind, etc.) are good moves from a Church that is centuries behind society.

I may well decide to go back to the Catholic Church if they keep this up.

I would, however, like to see the Latin mass come back, perhaps just once a week. Being an international traveler it is so convenient being able to walk into any church anywhere and understand every word that is said.

SimondBAug. 02, 2013 - 07:51AM JST if the Pope is infallible (according to the Catholic church), how can a succesor possibly have a different interpretation or view on matters of his "infallible" predecesor.

The pope is only "infallible" when he issues a papal bull (a formal document) on a matter of faith. Of course this a papal bull in the vatican vaults stating that the sun rotates around the earth, which at the time was an issue of faith, so yeah, but still man, a little less hate and a little more education please.

1 ( +9 / -8 )

"but still man, a little less hate and a little more education please."

I think you, your fellow believers and Frank need to follow that advice! An issue of faith? lol. I believe it was and always will be an issue of science/fact, no?

3 ( +5 / -2 )

This pope seems to be a great human being. Just the leader Catholic church needs to keep it relevant in the 21st century.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Being relevant in the 21st century as in sanction gay marriages and all? Bullsh#t! The church should be the one shaping social trends as the custodian of morality and spirituality, but if it allows social trends to dictate its direction, then it has lost its relevance. In fact the church's relevance today is rooted in its resistance to radical social changes so that people always fall back to it to find some sanity in this increasingly insane world. The church does not need to appear hip to maintain its relevance.

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

Its all a bit old news really, the church changes as it must to stay relevant, it always has done.

Re-interpreting over and over again, just plain ignoring other parts of their "divinely inspired" books.

While I would prefer that people private beliefs were just that private, and that churches were treated like private business, paying tax and fully accountable, and that public decision making was based substantive demonstrable truth and not old books, superstition, magic and fairy tales at least this guy is better than the last one or two so far.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

While we should welcome the more liberal approach to gay marriage, there is a far more urgent issue at stake - the Catholic Church and its stance on contraception. The Catholic Church has refused to meet the scourge of AIDS with a move which could save lives and prevent families falling into misery. When we see progress on this, I will applaud this man.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

While we should welcome the more liberal approach to gay marriage, there is a far more urgent issue at stake - the Catholic Church and its stance on contraception. The Catholic Church has refused to meet the scourge of AIDS with a move which could save lives and prevent families falling into misery. When we see progress on this, I will applaud this man.

Well said, often people say, "what does it matter what I believe", in actually fact it matters very much because it has very real effects in this world

5 ( +5 / -0 )

READ ROMANS CHAPTER 1 ; 1 - 32

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

"The biggest headline came in Francis’ inflight news conference on the way home from Brazil this week, when he was asked about a trusted monsignor who reportedly once had a gay lover.

“Who am I to judge?” he asked"

Dropped the ball here...before the gay issue (and however the Church decides to address it) has be forgotten about the vow of celibacy?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

It's nice and all, but again, no big news compared to how most societies are prgressing in recent years.

The popemobile stuff is nice, but oh so dangerous. His reforms may be in danger.

SimonB- infallible doesn't have to be like that. I do believe in the Bible that in several places Jesus says something like he has different proscriptions for different people at different times- one easy example could be like you might tell a depressive person to buck up, and tell a hyper one to chill out. (But never vice versa! You would have suicide.) If Jesus is the most infallible of all, what does that mean about the word infallible? It just means do not protest against the top general's word, not that he's gonna say the same thing at all times, or all generals will agree.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I am an atheist and a historian and this man is refreshing to say the least. He has shown what a pope was to be like and how one should lead by example.

I just hope that history doesn't repeat itself and he is given a tainted drink.

If you are wondering what I am talking about just look up John Paul I, Gregory V, Benedict VI and John VIII.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Altar girls? I guess this reporter has never heard of Saints and Nuns. The media is profoundly ignorant of the Catholic Church among many other subjects.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Go Francis! Just what the catholic church needs.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Go Francis, we want the catholic church to change. Be bold and strong against the wind.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Religion, popes and the Catholic Church. So archaic. Why do we still need them in the 21st century?? (genuine question)

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Why do we still need them in the 21st century?

Because billions of people across the globe believe in a diety of some sorts, and the prospect of life after death. You don't learn about that from science textbooks or Harry Potter novels.

The Catholic church is the largest, or second largest (depending on what you read) organised religion on earth, with over 1.2 billion believers. Does it have relevance in today's society? Of course it does. It is very narrow-minded thinking to presume that religion has no place in the 21st Century. Throughout world history humans have always clung to some sort of religious belief, and that continues to this day. Athiests are still in the minority, you know, and I doubt that will ever change.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I would, however, like to see the Latin mass come back, perhaps just once a week. Being an international traveler it is so convenient being able to walk into any church anywhere and understand every word that is said.

@Frungy Unfortunately after Vatican II there aren't many churches which offer the Traditional Latin Mass, but you'll still find some here and there. You can definitely follow along with your old black missal.

http://www.catholicapologetics.info/library/directory/

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Do not depend on religion , but on reading the BIBLE .The bible is complete guidance for human being .

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

"Do not depend on religion , but on reading the BIBLE .The bible is complete guidance for human being ."

I agree on not depending on religion, but a definite no to the last bit. Every single person who I've met with the same opinion on following mostly or only the bible, have all been very, very fruity. At the very least, an educated mainstream follower or theologian (Catholic or otherwise), could point out verses in the bible which are open to interpretation and aren't to be followed literally etc. If we are to assume there is a God, I could never believe he plonked us on this planet with our brain capacity to only follow the written word of his bronze-age adherents and hold ourselves back.

Anyhow, as for fundamentalists, I'll let Colonel Kira from Star Trek Deep Space Nine sum it up: *"I've always found that when people try to convince others of their beliefs it's because they're really just trying to convince themselves."

*

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Every single person who I've met with the same opinion on following mostly or only the bible, have all been very, very fruity

lol. Amen

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Readers, please do not mock people with religious beliefs.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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