Someone asked me to weigh in on this, so what the hell? It’s the religious news item of the day, so I suppose it’s social and culture worthy. Pope Francis: Gays, Abortion Too Much Of Catholic Church’s Obsession.
Pope Francis faulted the Roman Catholic church for focusing too much on gays, abortion and contraception, saying the church has become “obsessed” with those issues to the detriment of its larger mission to be “home for all,” according to an extensive new interview published Thursday.
As often happens, stuff like this gets couched and framed in terms of conservatives vs. liberals or “progressives.” In reality, the real debate is only over how quick of a pace things move in order for the church to remain relevant to the most people. Move too fast, or too slow, and people drop off at either end of the spectrum.
The Catholic church is nothing if not very, very smart about this stuff. It operates, in a sense, like a well run mob or protection racket. You want to milk the time, attention and money of the flock for the long term. You want the mommies & daddies, their children, and their children, and so on.
I also give credit to the church for being so much more ritualistic in form than in the protestant realms and later, fundamentalism I grew up with. Rituals, traditions, etc., can fill an important “grounding” or “normalcy” role for folks, instilling a sense of family and community. You don’t have to breathe hellfire, instilling guilt and shame at every turn. Feel guilty about something? Pop into the confessional, tell the man, and perform some ritual as penance. All tidy, relatively painless. No harm done.
In my experience over the last 15 years or so with my wife’s family—attending various weddings, baptisms, first communions, etc., in Catholic churches—I’ve always felt a sense of welcome and plain old RELAX! that I’ve never seen in a fundamentalist, Baptist church. It’s gotta be the simple ritual, reciting, etc. Homilies are short and to the point, too—not hour long boring “sermons.” So there’s that. I could go on. You get the point.
Or, perhaps to put it another way, its depth is in its shallowness.
On the issue of child rape, bad all the way around. Of course, molestation happens in all denominations. And, of course, the sin is exacerbated by the way the Catholic Church has dealt with it institutionally. On the other hand, there’s nary a young teen in fundamentalist “born again” circles who isn’t forever questioning his or her “salvation,” and whether they’re going to burn forever in hell—often for having normal, “sinful” thoughts. Nobody ever talks about this mental anguish and torture of impressionable young people.
OK, anyway, there’s my general, rambling take. Two thumbs up for Pope Francis, I guess.