Pope Francis has once again proven he is not going to be a proponent of change in the Catholic Church. Consider the following quote from the New York Times: “The Vatican on Monday flatly rejected what it cast as the notion that individuals can choose their gender . . .”
The Church has officially dashed the L.G.B.T. community by declaring, “acceptance of flexible ideas of gender pose[s] a threat to traditional families and ignore[s] the natural differences between men and women.”
Francis is digging in his heels every time he makes a new announcement about non-traditional life styles and age-old unproductive dogma. His promise to be more “tolerant” has not been kept. His supposed crusade to lead the Church out of the dark ages has not commenced. His commitment to clean up the horrible and disgraceful actions of his priesthood has fallen flat. The only thing the leader of the Catholic Church has proven is that he is cut out of the same cloth as his predecessors, and his only concern is the reputation of the Catholic Church.
Perhaps the pontiff is getting bad advice from his advisers and colleagues about what his flock expects of him, or maybe he really is a conservative who has no intention of cleaning up the missteps and sins of his fellow priests. In order to get the pope back into the good graces of his followers he needs to aggressively change many perspectives of the Church. The following are a few obvious examples.
The genie is out of the bottle relating to sexual abuse. Thousands of young boys have been raped and abused over the past century. Many lives have been destroyed. Who knows how widespread this behavior has been since the Church was founded over 2,000 years ago? Additionally, it has become public that even female worshippers and nuns have been the subjects of attacks along with young priests by older priests.
Every one of these accusations needs to be investigated and guilty priests must be defrocked immediately. When possible these criminals should be turned over to civil authorities for appropriate punishment.
The Vatican should form investigative groups around the world that can work on this project full time. Emphasis must be placed on exposing the abusers who are still living, rather than chasing ghosts. This process would surely be a great embarrassment to the Church and take many years to conclude. It is only then that the individuals that were abused will be able to find some closure in their lives.
Related to these crimes are those affiliated to Church leaders who protected sexual criminals. They are equally culpable with the abusers themselves and should be sanctioned similarly. This group will likely include pastors of small parishes as well as bishops, cardinals and even popes. Enablers are guilty of sexual abuse by allowing known offenders to run rampant among innocent churchgoers.
The Church needs to change its holier than thou arrogance and update its tenets. The list of changes that needs to be made is extensive.
Birth control is a perfect issue that demonstrates how antiquated the Church is, and how it does not address the needs of a changing world. To begin birth control is not a sin. Practitioners of it will not be sentenced to eternal damnation. It is a necessary, healthy and effective way to stop bringing unwanted children into the world. Moreover, it’s a critical method in lesser-developed countries to combat excessive population growth, starvation, poverty and disease. Many Catholics in impoverished areas do not practice birth control because their priests have taught them that it is a sin.
Abortion is an essential element of a woman’s basic right to care for her body. Policies (legally and spiritually) that allow aborting fetuses, before they are viable, are a perfect way to end the unproductive abortion controversy. The Church should lead this effort, especially since half its members are women. It’s barbaric to say it is a mortal sin to control the size of one’s family.
The number of gays and lesbians coming out seems to be increasing at frenzied pace. The right to choose one’s sexual preference is not in the domain of Church. There is no conceivable damage to society when two loving people of the same sex want to share a life together. The Church’s dogma on this issue is not empathetic and creates turmoil. The pope’s dismissive attitude towards this group of people is shameful.
It is becoming more obvious every day that many individuals are struggling with their sexuality. They feel they don’t fit into society because neither of the current sexual categories (man or woman) accurately represents their perspectives. The pope’s callous response to people sorting out their sexuality is truly unfortunate and ignorant.
And finally the Church has taken advantage of its status over the centuries to accumulate hundreds of billions of dollars. It has the gall to continue to solicit poor parishioners for more contributions. Just like well-endowed universities and colleges, the Church should begin a program to liquefy holdings and return the proceeds to its needy members around the world.
The Catholic Church is at a crossroads. It will either become a relic of the past or regain its influence. This will be dependent upon how priests interface with parishioners. It will also depend upon resetting antiquated ideas and reconsidering the definition of sin.