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Thanks Popey

It’s been awhile since I’ve checked in with Pope Frank. I feel that I always must begin each Pope Post with an introduction like this: the reason I’m so hard on this guy and not the previous Popes, is because I’m told I’m supposed to like this guy. I’m an Atheist and he doesn’t think that automatically sends me to hell. I’m on the side of empirical evidence, and he thinks that Climate Change is supported by science, as well as Evolution and the Big Bang. However, that’s a pretty low bar considering that the evidence is there. Is acknowledging the proven supposed to endear me to someone? Especially when we consider that this is a guy for whom authority is not a matter of debate, that authority rests in his will, and still he refuses to make the substantive changes that he claims are so necessary.

Let’s start with Zika. Popey claimed that contraception, but never abortion, may be permissible in situations where the fetus will develop a harmful condition. Since, as of this writing, microcephaly has been linked with Zika infections in pregnant women, they are permitted to use the lesser evil in order to stem the greater evil. Now, I teach bio-ethics, and this is a real issue when we consider topics such as abortion. A child can contract (or be given) certain conditions such as hydrocephaly, spina bifida, and microcephaly in which the mere birth of this child will result in a life that is nasty, brutal, and in some cases short. If a child receives the Huntington’s, they have a death sentence wherein the end of their life is plagued by a loss of motor control and mental faculties. In the case of Huntington’s the person can live a fulfilling life for awhile so termination is usually not something that is considered. In the cases of the others it becomes a grey area since a life of misery and suffering isn’t a life that most would be willing to undertake.

Now the Pope has said that preventing this is not the most absolute evil. He cited the recommendation of the Vatican in the early 60s that contraception would be permissible during such atrocities as the mass rapes in the Congo, because, as we all know, rape victims have that choice (it should be noted that this was reversed with the Humanae Vitae in 1968 [It should also be noted that while this may have actually never happened the idea that it did was cited by Pope Francis]). So, sex without the possibility of procreation is still a sin, but it’s not an absolute evil. The strange thing is that I teach the Catholic Doctrine of Double Effect, and I’m pretty sure the lesser of two evils argument doesn’t work as a justification for anything. It also opens the door for a lot of wiggle room on the lesser evil part: what’s to stop a good Catholic from claiming that some minor genetic disorder means that they can strap on a condom in order to prevent color blindness or left-handedness? I’m all for contraception, it’s not any kind of evil, but these blanket statements always get walked back. In either case, thanks for not condemning me to hell because I didn’t want to have a baby that one time.

His recommendation also is that doctors use all available techniques to create a vaccine for Zika. Uh, thanks guy, I think the medical establishment was already working on that one. The problem is what we do in the meantime.

Then the Pope took criticism for his omission regarding the Bishops who have been transferring priests accused of sex abuse to Latin America rather than to the local authorities. His response, “They should resign, clear?”

Yeah Popey, it’s clear. You want them, of their own volition, to resign their posts. It’s a nice sentiment, but you could fire them, have them stripped of their office, and defrocked. I mean, we’re only asking you to stop one of the largest criminal conspiracies in the world, something that you could easily do. See the problem isn’t just the sexual abuse, it’s the fact that perpetrators get to keep everything but their location. In fact, in some ways, it’s worse to send them to Latin America where a priest is more respected than in the Northern Hemisphere. If you think that a Bishop, a high ranking member of your organization, is just going to resign is absurd. Why would they as there is no seeming punishment for doing the thing that they did. It almost seems like it’s condoned because of the lack of punishment.

The Vatican’s position has been clear from historical precedent. Moving these alleged perpetrators (and sometimes not even “alleged”) has been the historical policy. Again, the problem isn’t just the abuse, it happens with a rate that has been estimated as on par with the general population, it’s the response by the officials of the church to shield and protect its reputation rather than let their officials have to deal with the local authorities. For instance Cardinal Pell who is hiding from Australian authorities in the Vatican and is refusing to attend hearings in person opting rather for remote testimony. This could all end if the Pope would just declare the perpetrators and those that hide them as being subject to the legal system of the countries where the allegations took place. However that’s not what his policy seems to be nor does it seem to be in the future as well.

Usually I remark that this guy is always one step forward and two back. This time we didn’t even get that step forward. Sure, he said that Trump (#drumpf) was probably not a Christian–through a thinly veiled criticism on people that want to build walls rather than bridges, but I dislike his meddling in US politics no matter who is target is. Still waiting for some solid reason to like this guy and I just don’t get the fascination.

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  1. March 1, 2016 at 4:36 am

    The thing a lot of people keep forgetting is that sure, Pope Francis is more liberal than his predecessors, but he’s only liberal for a Pope. That’s like saying merciful for a mob boss. It doesn’t make any comparison to the general population, compared to which he’s pretty far to the right in a lot of countries. I wouldn’t even call him better, just slightly less bad, than his predecessors. His treatment of the sex abuse issue and continued refusal to do anything substantial about it is absolutely deplorable. I can’t believe so many people are just standing by and remaining faithful to the Catholic church while this keeps happening. I didn’t know they were all being moved to Latin America, but if that’s true, over the next few decades we’re going to see a lot of horrible patterns of abuse emerging in that region as victims come forward.

    • rdxdave
      March 7, 2016 at 7:05 pm

      Yes, “less bad” is definitely the best way to describe him…or is it? At least with the previous popes we kind of knew where they stood. I mean to say that at least they didn’t talk one way and then behave another. We could trust them to be them, I don’t think we can say the same about Francis.

      • March 8, 2016 at 1:58 am

        That’s an interesting point. He does go back and forth a lot. I could be wrong about this, but having seen him flip-flop so much, I feel like Francis is dealing with a tiny inklings of progressive thoughts because of his concern for the poor, but all while being surrounded by deeply conservative people who are just as religious (and in his mind, moral, because religious people often conflate morality with religiosity) as he is. The result is he goes back and forth between saying what he wants to say and mimicking other high ranking church leaders. I think his human sense of morality is in conflict with church teachings, but he may or may not fully realize it.

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