Pope Francis, and the Catholic Church

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Pope Francis, and the Catholic Church

Unread postby Bush Leagues » Mon Mar 23, 2015 7:01 am

I don't really see a thread appropriate for this, so here we are. I'd like to use this to discuss the current Pope of the Catholic Church - Pope Francis - the church itself, and its relation to Catholicism in general; I also want to bring up the actions and directions he's taken the church since his inauguration - March 13th, 2013 (which, incidentally, is Beth (my girlfriend) and I's anniversary).

Before starting a discussion like this, I think it's reasonable to state where I'm coming from in terms of faith, the church, and other things along these lines. This isn't meant to be a thorough explanation, or a historical analysis, or anything of the sort. This is a man talking about his faith. Many are ideas and thoughts I've had for a while, but how and when I write it is spontaneous. It may not be completely organized, but it's not unreadable. I've spoiled bits for easier reading.

My faith, the church, and today
Let me say right out: I believe in God and the teachings of Jesus Christ. That said, I'm not a member of any church, catholic or otherwise; my beliefs are probably closest to Catholicism than any other branch of Christianity, but I don't personally identify as a Catholic. I don't know and honestly don't think it's important whether Jesus was divine or not - what he had to teach us is more important than his divinity. If Jesus was the kind of man I think he was, I believe he'd agree. It's worth noting that my faith is based less on historical record and witness accounts of that time and more on personal inflection and bringing myself to what I think is the most probable explanation for various things. My faith is ultimately a choice; I chose to believe what I believe.

I have no love for the Catholic Church. In the long history since Christianity became the predominant religion of the west they have committed many abuses of their power, and shown corruption time and again. The ages before the modern age was ripe with that at all levels - from the lowest priest to the monarchs of the day. Very few people who had real power were interested in bettering the lives of those beneath them in status. I accept that this isn't universally true, but prior to, say, 1700, I assume this was generally the case. The church in particular called for crusades against Muslims and burned witches (pagans) at the stake. There is solid reason to despise their actions in these times. But it was a different time, with different morals, and science, reason, and culture were just beginning to flourish again in the western world at large.

In the most modern times (say 1950 on), the Church certainly isn't a group that largely affects things one way or the other, although some tendencies within the church - some just hypocritical, some outright vile - still lingered and received great attention in the last decade or so. Many officials - some priests or bishops or cardinals themselves - while preaching about generosity and giving to the poor and not living in excess, would live in lavish mansions in spectacular wealth compared to those who listened to the sermons. The cover-up involving the...excessive (for lack of a better word) cases of pedophilia within the church is particularly jarring, and jaded a great many believers. This and other issues have lead many to trust only in their local churches or chapels (if that), and attempt to find God and their connection with God on their own terms.


The Pope in Office
With all that out of the way, we come to our current Pope, Pope Francis. Coming from Argentina (the first Pope from the Americas, the southern hemisphere, and the first non-European since 741. With him, a great number of changes began quickly. In just two years, he's done a good bit to encourage change, reform, and bring the church back to the very things it preaches; those things it had gotten away from.

Those who lived in lavish homes with great wealth - particularly bishops and cardinals - were told off, and encouraged to sacrifice of themselves by selling off their grand houses, living in something more modest, and giving the excess funds to the poor and charities. He found that the Vatican itself wasted a great deal of money, and has made an effort to make thing financially efficient. He canceled bonuses given to Vatican employees upon election of a new Pope, and gave the money to charity instead; that sum is not insignificant, amounting to several million euros.

He has reached out to those that have felt slighted or outcast by the church. He re-stated the official church principle that "Homosexual practice is immoral, but each homosexual person should be treated with respect and love"; he has made efforts to reach out to homosexuals personally, and I have hope that many others will follow suit. I think that most people don't particularly care (or may believe that, while wrong, it's not up to them to judge homosexuals); the few that are extreme in their dislike will hopefully re-consider their extreme position. While I disagree with the idea that homosexual behavior is immoral, I understand that the church takes that stance; and that by extension, he must as well.

There are a great many other things that I could talk about, like appointing critics of the Vatican to a panel to review Vatican policy, or appointing an Austrian cardinal that opposed his ascension to an important post (I forget which) because he had the demeanor and determination to do the job right. He's stated that the church should not regulate faith, but facilitate faith.

He's certainly not perfect, of course. What man is? The flaws I see - like denouncing capitalism, opposition to homosexual behavior, refusing to allow women to be ordained or serve as cardinals despite stating their importance in the church (can only men be driven by God to higher callings?), and a few other minor things - I can deal with. He's doing good overall, so I can forgive a few policies I think are not-so-great.


I think the reform in the church he's doing right now is overall quite good, and could potentially lead to more good things in the future. The last major reformation in the church, that I'm aware of, was the Protestant Reformation in the early 1500's, leading to many wars in Europe and the Holy Roman Empire in particular. I'm hopeful that something similar can happen here to bring the church back to it's core principals, and help people find their way to God, should they want it.

But, uh...lets make it a little less bloody this time, eh? :D

That's all. Thanks to all those who took the time to read it all.
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Re: Pope Francis, and the Catholic Church

Unread postby dan99990 » Mon Mar 23, 2015 6:18 pm

I always think it's interesting when people refer to Pope Francis as some type of 'reformer,' when in reality he is really quite orthodox. I suspect that many people simply aren't used to seeing a pope who actually lives by the teachings of Christ, as opposed to merely mouthing them.
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Re: Pope Francis, and the Catholic Church

Unread postby Bush Leagues » Mon Mar 23, 2015 11:15 pm

dan99990 wrote:I always think it's interesting when people refer to Pope Francis as some type of 'reformer,' when in reality he is really quite orthodox. I suspect that many people simply aren't used to seeing a pope who actually lives by the teachings of Christ, as opposed to merely mouthing them.


Yes, that's true. In terms of what he does matching up with Catholic principle, he really can't be described as anything other than orthodox. But there's a difference between the Pope being orthodox and upholding principle and the church doing the same.

It's worth saying that I don't really know much about previous Popes in recent years, other than their names and that apparently Pope John Paul II was really great (no idea, personally).

I suppose the main point of my rant was that I feel like some positive changes could come from the church as a result of Pope Francis, and that those changes may result in an organization that can affect real change, both on a larger scale and and smaller levels.

I'm quite confident that on small scales, organized religion (not just Catholicism or even Christianity) does do good in the world, and that lives of the poor, unfortunate, etc, have been improved by actions of the faithful (of many faiths), in general. I guess I hope that now the Catholic church can begin doing the same on a larger-scale, and I'm also hopeful that other religions (I have no idea what other religions do on a large-scale, honestly) may follow suit.

More ramblings from a silly, silly, man. :roll:
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Re: Pope Francis, and the Catholic Church

Unread postby Bush Leagues » Tue Mar 24, 2015 6:29 am

OH! There it is. I knew it would come to me. :D

While the Pope's stance and actions are orthodox relative to the faith and stance of Catholicism in general, they are quite unorthodox with how they deal with the organization of the church itself. That's the big point.

Finally...a sensible and intelligent thought! :lol:
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Re: Pope Francis, and the Catholic Church

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Tue Mar 24, 2015 9:18 am

Bush Leagues wrote:Before starting a discussion like this, I think it's reasonable to state where I'm coming from in terms of faith, the church, and other things along these lines. This isn't meant to be a thorough explanation, or a historical analysis, or anything of the sort. This is a man talking about his faith. Many are ideas and thoughts I've had for a while, but how and when I write it is spontaneous. It may not be completely organized, but it's not unreadable. I've spoiled bits for easier reading.


Fair enough. :D

Bush Leagues wrote:Let me say right out: I believe in God and the teachings of Jesus Christ. That said, I'm not a member of any church, catholic or otherwise; my beliefs are probably closest to Catholicism than any other branch of Christianity, but I don't personally identify as a Catholic. I don't know and honestly don't think it's important whether Jesus was divine or not - what he had to teach us is more important than his divinity. If Jesus was the kind of man I think he was, I believe he'd agree. It's worth noting that my faith is based less on historical record and witness accounts of that time and more on personal inflection and bringing myself to what I think is the most probable explanation for various things. My faith is ultimately a choice; I chose to believe what I believe.


Also, fair enough. There should be no compulsion in matters of faith.

But, speaking from the orthodox Christian perspective, the nature of Christ as the God-man is precisely the most important thing about Christianity. The entire moral project, all of Christ's teachings, rest entirely upon it; apart from it, they make no sense. C.S. Lewis said it best: Lord, liar or lunatic; there is no third option. And it's been my experience that the individual perspective is never the most sound basis for any kind of judgement - I prefer to get my science from scientists (and not from my own prejudices), and I prefer to get my theology from priests.

Bush Leagues wrote:I have no love for the Catholic Church. In the long history since Christianity became the predominant religion of the west they have committed many abuses of their power, and shown corruption time and again. The ages before the modern age was ripe with that at all levels - from the lowest priest to the monarchs of the day. Very few people who had real power were interested in bettering the lives of those beneath them in status. I accept that this isn't universally true, but prior to, say, 1700, I assume this was generally the case. The church in particular called for crusades against Muslims and burned witches (pagans) at the stake. There is solid reason to despise their actions in these times. But it was a different time, with different morals, and science, reason, and culture were just beginning to flourish again in the western world at large.


I'm not a Roman Catholic, and my view of the Roman Catholic Church from a historical perspective is perhaps a little cynical, so I'll leave the defence of the tradition to the Roman Catholics here. But I think it's highly disputable that the Middle Ages were more 'corrupt' or abusive than any other period of human history, and - at least to start with - the Church in Late Antiquity was the most trusted institution in the Western world. Compared with the way some kings and princes behaved themselves, most people actually preferred to be subject to the laws of the Church, which were comparatively merciful.

As for witch-burnings, wasn't that a more Protestant phenomenon, historically speaking? Calvin's Geneva and Salem, Massachusetts weren't exactly bastions of Catholicism at the time...

Bush Leagues wrote:In the most modern times (say 1950 on), the Church certainly isn't a group that largely affects things one way or the other, although some tendencies within the church - some just hypocritical, some outright vile - still lingered and received great attention in the last decade or so. Many officials - some priests or bishops or cardinals themselves - while preaching about generosity and giving to the poor and not living in excess, would live in lavish mansions in spectacular wealth compared to those who listened to the sermons. The cover-up involving the...excessive (for lack of a better word) cases of pedophilia within the church is particularly jarring, and jaded a great many believers. This and other issues have lead many to trust only in their local churches or chapels (if that), and attempt to find God and their connection with God on their own terms.


Nothing to argue with here. Child abuse in the Roman Catholic Church is as disgraceful as child abuse anywhere else. But I doubt you'll find many Catholics who disagree in principle.

Bush Leagues wrote:Those who lived in lavish homes with great wealth - particularly bishops and cardinals - were told off, and encouraged to sacrifice of themselves by selling off their grand houses, living in something more modest, and giving the excess funds to the poor and charities. He found that the Vatican itself wasted a great deal of money, and has made an effort to make thing financially efficient. He canceled bonuses given to Vatican employees upon election of a new Pope, and gave the money to charity instead; that sum is not insignificant, amounting to several million euros.

... There are a great many other things that I could talk about, like appointing critics of the Vatican to a panel to review Vatican policy, or appointing an Austrian cardinal that opposed his ascension to an important post (I forget which) because he had the demeanor and determination to do the job right. He's stated that the church should not regulate faith, but facilitate faith.

He's certainly not perfect, of course. What man is? The flaws I see - like denouncing capitalism, opposition to homosexual behavior, refusing to allow women to be ordained or serve as cardinals despite stating their importance in the church (can only men be driven by God to higher callings?), and a few other minor things - I can deal with. He's doing good overall, so I can forgive a few policies I think are not-so-great.


Agreed here. I have a large number of Roman Catholic friends and colleagues who admire the pants off Pope Francis, and I can't say I disagree with them there - he's a real breath of fresh air. But, doesn't the whole denouncing capitalism thing actually kind of go hand-in-hand with telling bishops off for their flashy consumeristic lifestyles?

Bush Leagues wrote:I think the reform in the church he's doing right now is overall quite good, and could potentially lead to more good things in the future. The last major reformation in the church, that I'm aware of, was the Protestant Reformation in the early 1500's, leading to many wars in Europe and the Holy Roman Empire in particular. I'm hopeful that something similar can happen here to bring the church back to it's core principals, and help people find their way to God, should they want it.

But, uh...lets make it a little less bloody this time, eh? :D


Well, large-scale reforms in the Roman Catholic Church aren't exactly new, even since the Reformation. They tend to happen any time a large-scale upheaval happens which they feel impelled to answer. So Pope Francis's focus on capitalism and environment mirrors to a significant extent the public policy debates arising from the 2007-8 financial crisis and the global warming issue.

Anyway, just my two cents on the issue. Dong Zhou or Lady Wu, do you want to weigh in?
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Re: Pope Francis, and the Catholic Church

Unread postby Bush Leagues » Tue Mar 24, 2015 1:24 pm

WeiWenDi wrote:But, speaking from the orthodox Christian perspective, the nature of Christ as the God-man is precisely the most important thing about Christianity. The entire moral project, all of Christ's teachings, rest entirely upon it; apart from it, they make no sense. C.S. Lewis said it best: Lord, liar or lunatic; there is no third option. And it's been my experience that the individual perspective is never the most sound basis for any kind of judgement - I prefer to get my science from scientists (and not from my own prejudices), and I prefer to get my theology from priests.


On the whole, this is fine. I don't really have an argument, but also feel I don't really need one; I said I don't identify with Catholics (or any other denomination of Christianity), so my personal beliefs being different than the norm is really no issue for me. I believe what I believe, and I don't really need a particular religion to justify it. I suppose one way to say it is "I'll find God my own way."

I like to get my science and theology from the appropriate people too - but often times these people have agendas as well, and we shouldn't take things at face value. It's important to make our own decisions on the things we choose to believe. That doesn't sound like a direct answer, but it's all I can come up with. :D

WeiWenDi wrote:I'm not a Roman Catholic, and my view of the Roman Catholic Church from a historical perspective is perhaps a little cynical, so I'll leave the defence of the tradition to the Roman Catholics here. But I think it's highly disputable that the Middle Ages were more 'corrupt' or abusive than any other period of human history, and - at least to start with - the Church in Late Antiquity was the most trusted institution in the Western world. Compared with the way some kings and princes behaved themselves, most people actually preferred to be subject to the laws of the Church, which were comparatively merciful.


I really don't have the knowledge to debate this on any kind of level. It's also tangential to the actual premise, so I'm content to just leave it be.

WeiWenDi wrote:As for witch-burnings, wasn't that a more Protestant phenomenon, historically speaking? Calvin's Geneva and Salem, Massachusetts weren't exactly bastions of Catholicism at the time...


It may well have bee "more" of a Calvinist/Protestant thing, and I'm not really certain how much the Catholics were involved in this, although I would be surprised if it was "not at all". Again, not enough personal knowledge, also tangential; I'm noticing a great deal of my post was tangential, as a matter of fact. :oops:

WeiWenDi wrote:Agreed here. I have a large number of Roman Catholic friends and colleagues who admire the pants off Pope Francis, and I can't say I disagree with them there - he's a real breath of fresh air. But, doesn't the whole denouncing capitalism thing actually kind of go hand-in-hand with telling bishops off for their flashy consumeristic lifestyles?


That makes sense. If a private institution wants its members to act a certain way, that's their business, though. I wouldn't be opposed to any private citizen living like that, but from the church, who is supposed to talk about the needlessness of "worldly excesses" and is all about generosity, it comes off as hypocritical. As for capitalism itself, I believe in the free market, and believe in general that it tends to improve the lives of the poorest the more free markets are; I also believe it to be the best economic system so far discovered. So it obviously disappoints me when he opposes, I believe his exact words were "unchecked capitalism".

Whether you think capitalism is better or worse than other systems is irrelevant in the context of my own comments. It certainly has relevance in other discussions, and your preference has relevance to whether you think that particular stance is good or bad. But in the context of my post and the greater thrust of the thread (which I was not good at stating clearly), it's a minor point.

WeiWenDi wrote:Well, large-scale reforms in the Roman Catholic Church aren't exactly new, even since the Reformation. They tend to happen any time a large-scale upheaval happens which they feel impelled to answer. So Pope Francis's focus on capitalism and environment mirrors to a significant extent the public policy debates arising from the 2007-8 financial crisis and the global warming issue.


I even know about the counter-reformation, and completely forgot about it; I know nothing about those other two, though. Thanks for those links! :D

And that whole statement makes sense. Even just connecting those dots is thinking about it harder than I did - as I said in the OP, this was a lot more about feeling than analysis. Analysis certainly has its place, and when you really want to learn what the effects of things are instead of just what they sound like - true, deep analysis is critical. This whole thread was meant more as a place for me to express my feelings than get into serious debate about the validity of them. Although that debate is (and should be) quite important, it's not something I can really tackle in my life right now. All I've been doing is reading the occasional news report, and it got me feeling good about the Pope in general, and so I wrote about it and wondered what other people's feelings were.

Really, that's about as deep as it went. Whether that's good or bad is for you to decide! :lol:

Oh, right, I did want to say one thing. I wasn't sure if my beliefs came off as sounding like they were carved in stone, because they certainly aren't. Ten years ago I was a pronounced atheist who promoted big government. On those two issues, I'm basically completely flipped. My beliefs will probably continue to change as I age.
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Re: Pope Francis, and the Catholic Church

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Tue Mar 24, 2015 3:54 pm

:lol:

Dude, you don't owe me any direct answers or explanations or anything. I do debate hard, but generally only with the people who are fairly comfortable with it (like Shikanosuke and James). I'm only throwing in my two cents myself here, don't mean to put you on the spot or anything. And you're right about looking out for agendas. It's just generally, in my view, scientists' agendas are far more about getting copy (which is fine; that's their job and their lookout) than about influencing the public debate one way or the other.

Bush Leagues wrote:It may well have bee "more" of a Calvinist/Protestant thing, and I'm not really certain how much the Catholics were involved in this, although I would be surprised if it was "not at all". Again, not enough personal knowledge, also tangential; I'm noticing a great deal of my post was tangential, as a matter of fact.


:lol: Fair. But tangents are fun.

The whole burning people at the stake thing started, at least in England, with De haeretico comburendo; and I think it started far earlier on the Continent. (Sadly, according to the Wikipedia it looks like my own religious brethren in Byzantium were burning Manichaeans as far back as the 8th century.) It wasn't applied to witches, and it wasn't even done by the Church, though the Church was certainly complicit in it. Church courts didn't have any authority to sentence people to death, but that didn't stop Church courts from handing people back to a royal court for a certain painful execution.

Bush Leagues wrote:That makes sense. If a private institution wants its members to act a certain way, that's their business, though. I wouldn't be opposed to any private citizen living like that, but from the church, who is supposed to talk about the needlessness of "worldly excesses" and is all about generosity, it comes off as hypocritical. As for capitalism itself, I believe in the free market, and believe in general that it tends to improve the lives of the poorest the more free markets are; I also believe it to be the best economic system so far discovered. So it obviously disappoints me when he opposes, I believe his exact words were "unchecked capitalism".


Well, custodianship of works of art and historical monuments like S. Peter's Basilica and so on, I'm not sure count as 'wealth' in the customary sense, particularly since they're public and serve a certain public piety and good mission. Speaking for myself, I certainly wouldn't want to see the beautiful Orthodox churches of Moscow or Athos or Axum torn down merely on account of that, and there are far more useful things to criticise than artwork, even including gold, on public display in churches!

As for your comments on capitalism - yes, that's another discussion. I'm pretty stridently anti-capitalist, but in a fairly idiosyncratic and non-systematic way. I have more in common with Fyodor Dostoevsky and Nikolai Berdyaev than I do with Vladimir Lenin or Leon Trotsky, or even Pyotr Kropotkin. :P

Bush Leagues wrote:Oh, right, I did want to say one thing. I wasn't sure if my beliefs came off as sounding like they were carved in stone, because they certainly aren't. Ten years ago I was a pronounced atheist who promoted big government. On those two issues, I'm basically completely flipped. My beliefs will probably continue to change as I age.


Well, everyone has their own experiences and has to figure things out for themselves, sure. And my own religious and political views have hardly stayed constant either... looking back at some of my earlier posts even on this site actually makes me cringe now!
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Re: Pope Francis, and the Catholic Church

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Tue Mar 24, 2015 6:16 pm

I come at this from what might be called a liberal Catholic with 100% chip on shoulder over the English Catholic Church. I don't claim to be remotely an expert on this

1) I think the stereotype of churchmen before 1700 is harsh. We had some bad un's, we had some good one's like most other powerful organizations.

2) When Pope Benedict restated the Catholic position on homosexuality, he got slated. His successor does it and that's merely grumbled at. What the Holy Father is better at then the Church has been for some time is communication of that message at least

I don't think we are getting a Vatican 3 anytime soon or for the Holy Father to greatly change the teachings of the Church. As I understand it, he kind of messed up any chance of reform by cack-handed management of his Cardinals. It feels far more likely that his predecessor Pope Benedict will influence Catholic doctrine

What the Holy Father does well and I don't deny the importance of this: 1) PR. The Catholic Church has had a rough time, a lot of which was self inflicted and it was an easy target. Pope Francis has restored hope to a lot of people and given the Church more room, 2) changing culture. I wonder if it may be too late with church running out of young priests in the west and it is something that might get changed back again but still... the church has needed a kick up the backside. It has needed it and if that can get down to the grassroots (and make it so English Catholic Church don't fear woman), that may begin saving the church. 3) Getting, or at least trying, to get the Vatican finances sorted and he seems to have done that part well.
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Re: Pope Francis, and the Catholic Church

Unread postby Shen Ai » Mon Apr 06, 2015 4:09 pm

On CBC Radio today, on The Current I heard an interview on Pope Francis.

The interviewee was John Allen Jr. the associate editor of the Catholic site Crux.

Some of the points he took the time to highlight was how much of a change has overcome the new Pope since taking up the mantle, and the rather popular figure he cuts.

He claims to have met Pope Francis back in 2001 and says he has always been a humble man. As the Pope he doesn't wear the usual finery, he sleeps in very modest accommodations (I believe they termed it as 'Spartan'), and he's a soft spoken, humble man who does much for the poor. Back when he was a Bishop Allen Jr. says, he was often called shy and reserved. He says that since he's become Pope he's become a 'rockstar' (humorous imagery in any case) and that's wildly popular and charismatic. The change is so pronounced his sister can barely recognize him anymore. The core of his principles are the same, but he's risen to the occasion of the publicity his new title demands.

He was asked if the Pope's humble and somewhat frugal lifestyle makes him enemies, and of course it does. But he also mentioned how that many cardinals and bishops are just pleased to have such a popular and well liked figure as the head of the church. He says nowadays these high ranking church officials are received more warmly and are not under so much scrutiny anymore.


I'm not a Catholic and I haven't followed the situation with the Pope very clearly, but it was an interesting listen in any case.
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Re: Pope Francis, and the Catholic Church

Unread postby Jebusrocks » Tue Jun 02, 2015 7:04 am

The Catholic Church organization is actually pretty liberal, though it suffers from corruption, and recent child pornography scandals do not help its reputation.

An example is that despite what public figures say, the Catholic Church supports the Big Bang Theory, and have even entertained the notion that creationism is fictional myth in exchange for evolution
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