As Francis makes new waves, conservative feathers are ruffled

“I believe that the Church not only should apologise to the person who is gay whom it has offended, but has to apologise to the poor, to exploited women, to children exploited for labour; it has to ask forgiveness for having blessed many weapons.”

Jun 30, 2016

On board a flight home from his trip to Armenia, the Bishop of Rome was asked if he agreed with Cardinal Reinhard Marx’s remarks that gays deserve an apology from the Church for consistently marginalising the community?

This reminds me of those in the Gospel who were often trying to trip up Jesus with their trick questions.

Francis’ reply was unexpected: “I believe that the Church not only should apologise to the person who is gay whom it has offended, but has to apologise to the poor, to exploited women, to children exploited for labour; it has to ask forgiveness for having blessed many weapons.”

Francis is clearly adopting a more inclusive and, at the same time, contrite approach to make up for all the Church’s past sins in condoning exclusion, exploitation, and marginalisation.

“The Church must say it is sorry for not having behaved as it should many times, many times — when I say ‘the Church,’ I mean we Christians because the Church is holy; we are the sinners… We Christians must say we are sorry.”

Many outside the Church see Christians as judgemental and even hypocritical for the way they sometimes shun those they regard as failing to conform to the moral standards expected of the Church.

What Francis is reminding us is to first look at the log in our eyes, instead of the speck in the eyes of others.

We should recognise that we in the Church are sinners in so many different ways: the way we marginalise the poor, exploit workers, and bless weapons of destruction.

An attitude of humility allows us to recognise where we have gone wrong in the past. For instance, the Bishop of Rome was also asked about Martin Luther, the German monk of the Augustinian order who rebelled against the pope and
started the Protestant Reformation.

To this, Francis said, “His intentions were not wrong. He was a reformer protesting against a Church rife with corruption, worldliness and lust for power.”

Those scourges within the Church have not disappeared, as Francis’ predecessor, Benedict implicitly recognised when resigning and paving the way for more reforms.

This new attitude of humility will stand the Church in good stead in the long-run as we move towards the unity that Jesus desired.

Francis himself has engaged in dialogue with members of the LGBT community. In January 2015, he met a transgender man and his ‘wife’ and child from Spain. Then during his visit to the United States in October, he found time to meet and old Argentinian friend and the latter’s lover.

More recently, after his general audience on June 22, Francis met with affection a Dutch priest who had obtained permission to present the Bishop of Rome with a book of funeral homilies on the theme of homosexuality.

Instead of projecting an image of the Church as a haven for the hypocritical and the self-righteous, Francis wants it to be a field-kitchen to minister to the wounds and pain of rejection, hurt, exclusion, exploitation and bitterness felt by many on the periphery. Much like the father rushing out to embrace his long-missing returning son.

He wants the Church to reach out to those suffering from the greed and exploitation in our economic system.

This concern for the excluded may also be seen from Francis’ concern with the outcome of the Brexit vote when a majority of the British people voted to leave the European Union. Francis’ concern presumably stems from the fact that it would put up a wall between Britain from the rest of Europe while closing the doors completely to humanitarian immigration by refugees and asylum-seekers.

Not everyone is happy with Francis’ inclusivity and pastoral concern.

There are those who would rather see the Church remain uncompromising in its lofty personal standards of morality — while ignoring the massive sins prevalent in the economic system.

Within the church — and this includes segments in the Vatican — there are the conservatives who are unhappy with the direction Francis is steering the Church towards. They long for the certainty and ‘traditionalism’ of an earlier era characterised by judgemental attitudes that nudged ‘sinners’ out from the ranks of ‘practising Catholics’.

In the secular world, right-wing politicians and media columnists, who once teamed up with more traditionalist popes on a range of personal morality issues, are now shifting uncomfortably in their seats.

They are especially riled up over Francis’ critique of full blown capitalism characterised by income inequality, crass greed and materalism, and climate change.

Not only are they uncomfortable, several of these right wing critics are openly and selfrighteously calling for Francis to resign, using his recent comments on marriage annulments as a pretext.

Fox News, often seen as a conservative rightwing propaganda channel, carried an opinion piece recently, the title screaming, ‘Enough is enough, Pope Francis should resign’.

In the commentary, the columnist took issue with Francis’ recent off-the-cuff remarks on marriage, which it claimed had sown confusion about Church teachings.

Francis had said: “It’s provisional, and because of this the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null. Because they say ‘yes, for the rest of my life!’ but they don’t know what they are saying. Because they have a different culture. They say it, they have good will, but they don’t know.”

The columnist concluded his piece, saying: “At this point it is clear, Bergoglio has repeatedly proven himself unable to lead, and is doing incalculable damage to the Church that will take decades to heal.

“Pope Francis should resign, and Catholics should demand it, so the Church can begin recovering from the havoc his ill-advised and arrogant papacy has wrought.”

One thing we draw comfort from is when Fox News says something like that, you know the Church is making the right (as opposed to rightwing) moves!

Total Comments:0