Gene Lyons: Pope’s attempt to atone


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I thank “Cynical Saint” for this link.

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Gene Lyons: Pope’s attempt to atone

Somewhere in the midst of an avalanche of sickening revelations about child sex abuse by Catholic clergy, it occurred to me that if the Vatican sought an appropriate penance for its sins, it would go mute on issues of sexual morality for about 100 years.

Needless to say, that’s not about to happen.

Instead, habemus papam. (We have a Pope.) Catholics have witnessed the unprecedented resignation of Pope Benedict, widely seen to have failed utterly to cope with the church’s grave crisis — perhaps even in his own estimation — and the remarkable accession of Pope Francis.

During the months since his selection, the 76-year-old Argentine has stirred an outsize response throughout the world — galvanizing not only the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, but members of other faiths and even the irreligious with a shrewd blend of public theater and spiritual humility.

Writing in the New Yorker, James Carroll reports that “even ‘kick the Pope’ Orangemen in Northern Ireland love Pope Francis. The press is obsessed with him. Time recently named him Person of the Year.”

Who else, indeed?

Renouncing many of the papacy’s monarchial trappings, Francis has made a shift to return even the most formalized ritual to its roots in the gospel. Rather than re-enacting Jesus’ washing of his apostles’ feet on Holy Thursday with carefully groomed young priests — as was long the custom — the new Pope appeared at an Italian prison.

There, Carroll writes, “he washed, dried, and kissed the feet of 12 young inmates, some of them bearing tattoos. Two were Muslim. More pointedly, in violation of Church tradition, two of the apostolic stand-ins were women. When one of the inmates asked the Pope why he had come to them, he said, ‘Things from the heart don’t have an explanation.’”

Elsewhere, the new Pope has stressed a less legalistic, rule-bound encounter with the faith, seeking always to forgive rather than to judge. In a remarkable interview with the Jesuit magazine America, he stressed that “we must always consider the person.”

“This is … the great benefit of confession as a sacrament, evaluating case by case and discerning what is the best thing to do for a person who seeks God and grace,” Francis elaborated. “The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better. I also consider the situation of a woman with a failed marriage in her past and who also had an abortion. Then this woman remarries, and she is now happy and has five children. That abortion in her past weighs heavily on her conscience and she sincerely regrets it. She would like to move forward in her Christian life. What is the confessor to do?”

It’s a rhetorical question with no one-size-fits-all answer. But the torture chamber metaphor has particular resonance coming from an Argentine, who presided as Bishop of Buenos Aires during that country’s “Dirty War,” when dissidents against the military government were kidnapped, tortured and flung out of airplanes into the Atlantic Ocean.

Harping on abstract doctrine, Francis stresses, distorts the essence of belief. “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods … The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear, and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

At the New York Times, this came out as “Pope Says Church Is ‘Obsessed’ With Gays, Abortion and Birth Control.” Actually, writes Mark Shea in the National Catholic Register, he said no such thing. He stressed that not all rules are of equal importance, and that none should supersede compassion and forgiveness.

Anybody expecting immediate transformation of Catholic teaching about what Shea calls “the Pelvic Issues” is apt to be disappointed. On the other hand, an American cardinal who made a point in a recent TV interview of stressing that , contrary to the new Pope, “we can never talk enough” about abortion and “the integrity of marriage as between one man and one woman,” was quickly reassigned.

The Catholic Church has never been a democracy.

It’s also true, Carroll reports, that a Papal synod will convene in 2014 year to ponder “The Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization.” The Vatican has asked Catholic dioceses to distribute “a questionnaire that asks about divorce, birth control, unmarried people living together, and gay marriage.”

So why ask if no changes are possible? Particularly when many Catholics feel the church has basically been selling annulments to the likes of Newt Gingrich and Teddy Kennedy, while treating divorce as a terrible sin. Hardly anybody thinks birth control wicked.

The church, of course, never claimed to be God. As a human institution, it’s prone to all the sin, folly and corruption we’re all capable of. In his own way, Pope Francis appears to be seeking forgiveness.


    9 Responses to “Gene Lyons: Pope’s attempt to atone”

  1. Frank Lostaunau Says:

    You got it…is there forgiveness or trust for a man that turned in protesting priests during the Dirty War? NOT!

    I can understand covering his own ass but he could have sent the rebellious priests out of the country and not allowed them to be tortured. He identified them to the junta knowing that they would be tortured. That’s the behavior of a coward.

    If he would spend the next several years working with groups that are clearly concerned with protecting children from predatory priests/nuns, then he may redeem himself.

    Otherwise, he’s not much more that a cream puff with a white cap. A creep.

    I have a hunch that me will be taken out by the curia soon.

  2. Frank Lostaunau Says:

    Correction: I have a hunch that il papa will be taken out by the curia before the end of 2014.

  3. Frank Lostaunau Says:

    Pope during the Dirty War:


  4. Thomas Says:

    I have a hunch that the homeless will take him out for kettle cooked chili. Sometimes I am right, and sometimes I am wrong…its what you find between the lines that sometimes matters most. Rome wasn’t built in a day…and, in the past, the Church protected itself by mostly silence. Often seen as apathetic and protective for the common good of hierarchy, membership, and institution. There is no common good that is entirely good, unless it is a good that protects all…an uncommon good….one that gives equal rights to women, children, the disadvantaged, the poor, and those far beyond the margins of inclusion. If marriage is offered, and right for one…it is right for the other. If the practice of a religion is right for one, it is right for another. If a certain few can disagree with anything—all should be able to disagree. It is time for the Church to restore itself…not just image…restore itself to what it ought to be. Not a fortress which shields, but the eyes, the arms, the legs of the Christ of the gospel. Opened arms unchained to the past and tradition. A dash of tradition…maybe…but like anything else…the Church must move forward and be ready when the end times occur here on earth.

    In the past, the Jesuits were punished by the Church…the same Church that now a Jesuit leads. There is always room for a kind heart which knows how to forgive. Archbishop/Cardinal Burke did not know how to do this…he merely punished a Catholic community and cut them off…they were never disgraced, they remained true to their core identity. Change is always for survival…all the Churches, all the temples, all the houses of worship…like all of the citizens of this city, will be a part of communal celebration in one form or another….St. Louis is turning 250 yrs. old. Happy Birthday St. Louis!!!!!

  5. Frank Lostaunau Says:

    St. Louis is 250 years old! GORA – https://www.facebook.com/StL250/photos_stream


  6. Thomas Says:

    We’re French….didn’t you know that? Even Cardinal Dolan! The motto that we live by is the eleventh commandment—love everyone—even those who would do you great bodily harm—just don’t turn your back on them! :-)

  7. Frank Lostaunau Says:

    you’re nuts…

  8. Thomas Says:

    Yeah…but just a small one!

  9. Augusta Wynn Says:

    It is the corruption we are all not capable of, that’s what is at issue here. It is a shock to people of goodwill that grown men with the collar of Father do not have the simple decency to defend children from pedophiles priests. We are all sinners, they say, and the church is a human institution with all our failings, but they fail to mention how men called Father who hear confessions and bring the sacred to the dying are allowed to start foundations and rape children with impunity?

    Monsignor Lynn walks out of prison with an ankle bracelet. He is still called Father. But he claims he didn’t directly supervise kids so he is not legally culpable for allowing sexual violence against kids, and three court judges unanimously agree. Pope Francis Bergoglio as Cardinal did everything he could to keep convicted pedophile Grassi out of prison. These acts are not of common sinners. These men and their activities on behalf of child predators carry the power of religious ritual. They should be ashamed. Publicly and often. And their belief systems which facilitated their evil examined for the common good as Jesus taught.

    We should be visiting them in prison.


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