A church failed by its Pope

Contrary to current popular belief within society, not all progress is a Good Thing. Sometimes, progress can be downright dangerous to the very fabric of society. Which is why we need institutions like the Catholic Church to stand against those changes that pose real dangers.

Unfortunately, it would appear that the current head of the Catholic Church doesn't quite seem to understand the point of the organisation that he leads:
Suite 201 at Casa Santa Marta is only a shuttle bus ride from the Vatican’s Synod Hall, but it seems a world away. And in the spartan suite of rooms which he calls home, Pope Francis must be feeling especially cut off from the 252 leading Catholics who took part in his recent Extraordinary Synod.

Under the umbrella theme of “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelisation”, the Pope, his bishops and a few selected laypeople have spent the past fortnight discussing some of the thorniest topics in Catholic doctrine: divorce, gay sex, and birth control. 

Even in a Church characterised by its supporters as proudly unchanging (and by its critics as stubbornly anachronistic), these are divisive issues. And when the new Pope last year took the unexpected step of sending out a survey to all Catholic parishes, asking the faithful for their views on birth control, abortion and divorce, the findings made uncomfortable reading: the Church was as split between traditionalists and modernisers as the Conservative Party was at its lowest ebb.

The analogy may infuriate those who say that the Church is about eternal truths, not party squabbles. But it conveys the rift that polarises the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. The “universal” Church embraces the Ugandan homophobe and the Manhattan gay rights campaigner; the mother of six who practises the rhythm method and the feminist divorcee on the Pill.

Pope Francis has long regarded these controversies as distractions that keep his followers from their true mission: helping the poor, comforting the miserable, waging war on greed and consumerism. He has as little time for them as he does for the liturgical and theological quirks that were so prominent in the papacy of his predecessor, Benedict XVI. 
For Francis, sexual mores are not at the heart of the Gospel – and they should not be at the heart of his Church’s ministry. The time had come, he believed, to lower the temperature around these issues. If he could persuade the Church to adopt an attitude of compassion towards divorcees, gays and members of other “irregular” unions, he could shift its focus to what really mattered.

Alas, the Pope chose the wrong vehicle to effect his changes. The Extraordinary Synod not only torpedoed his hopes for a more inclusive Church – it may have derailed his entire mission.

From the moment he swapped the regal apartments to which he was entitled for the no-frills hostel of Santa Marta, Francis sparked speculation about his reforming tendencies. There was talk of a phone call to a woman who, though married to a divorced man, wanted to take Communion. “I don’t see why you should be banned from the Sacrament,” the Pope allegedly told her. He also made headlines when asked about the Church’s attitude to homosexuality: “Who am I to judge?” 
I haven't been on this Earth that long, so I have no real idea what Pope John Paul II was like. Based on everything that I have seen, though, that Pope- now a Saint- was everything that a Pope should be. He was a fearless, tireless crusader against the unnatural and unspeakable evil of Communism. He refused to budge so much as an inch on the subject of proper Christian morality. He never wavered in his compassion for those who truly deserved it- and he was relentless in his condemnation of attempts to bend the doctrines of the Mother Church to suit the fashions of the times.

This current Pope is none of those things. And the Church, and its hundreds of millions of followers, are far poorer for it.

What Pope Francis does not seem to understand- what most Christians don't understand- is that the Word is what it is. The words of the Scriptures leave very little wiggle room on uncomfortable subjects like abortion- see e.g. the Sixth Commandment- and homosexuality- see e.g. Leviticus/Deuteronomy. The Word does not change just because our modern culture, in all of its miserable decadence, has decided that it is Right and Just to allow gays to "marry", and thereby render real marriage hollow and meaningless.

Moreover, this argument over whether the Church should be "all-inclusive" or should cater only to "true" believers is frankly silly. Again, there isn't much ambiguity. The Lord Christ Himself stated with perfect clarity that the Christian way is the hard way. To be a Christian requires devotion and sacrifice and willingness to suffer for one's beliefs. Those who are not willing to suffer for being "different" simply aren't going to make very good Christians. That is the entire point of Christianity- to earn an eternal reprieve from suffering and pain and death through the salvation of God.

Why is it that so-called "modernists" think that eternal truths can somehow be changed or modified? The truth is what it is. The Word says what it says. Through Christ, the world was shown a way to salvation that has sustained Mankind through the hellish darkness of war, famine, plague, and death. And the Pope, as (supposedly) God's chosen emissary on Earth, is there to deliver those truths to Mankind, so that through His agents in the Church, He might help set Man free.

In response to clear-cut questions about whether or not homosexuality is wrong, the current Pope has punted by asking, "Who am I to judge?". Uh, dude, you're the Pope. You are God's instrument on Earth. You are (again, supposedly) infallible. You are the representative of the Supreme Judge of the Universe.

If not you, then who?

The Church exists as a rock of faith, an anchor for countless millions and billions of souls who have sought, and found, comfort and salvation in the words of the Lord. It is a bulwark of morality in a world mired in depravity. It is, ultimately, the last bastion of human decency that is left to us. When all else fails, the Church must stand, for it, and by extension its Pope, was set forth by Christ Himself to protect and serve God's Law.

If the Pope cannot understand these things- which I, as a heathen, seem to understand just fine- then the princes of the Church chose very poorly when they named this man as their king. Indeed, it becomes more plain every day that "Pope" Francis is nothing of the sort- he is merely a man, flawed and fallible and weak in his faith in God. He may have compassion and decency- but, absent the iron will needed to uphold and enforce God's Laws, he is nothing more than a puppet on the throne of St. Peter.

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