So what’s up with all the gloating? Yet another reminder of how limited papal infallibility and supremacy is:
Neither are Catholics uniformly on board with Francis’ many calls for social and economic justice. Most (57 percent), chiefly Democrats and women, say the Catholic church should focus more on social justice and the obligation to help the poor than on abortion and the right to life. But 33 percent of Catholics, chiefly Republicans and men, say the opposite.
Overall, Catholics are statistically in line with most Americans on current hot-button social issues:
72 percent (like 71 percent of all Americans) say government should do more to reduce the gap between rich and poor.
73 percent of Catholics (66 percent of Americans) say the U.S. government should do more to address climate change.
61 percent (63 percent of Americans) want to see a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
51 percent, chiefly Democrats, (53 percent of Americans) say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
The Catholic church preaches against homosexual behavior. But PRRI finds most U.S. Catholics either don’t know or don’t heed that teaching:
53 percent of Catholics say they don’t think same-sex marriage goes against their religious beliefs.
60 percent favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.
76 percent favor laws that would protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people against discrimination.
65 percent oppose a policy that would allow small-business owners to refuse, based on their religious beliefs, to provide products or services to gay and lesbian people.
Reactions to the pope also reflect the complexity of the church in the United States today. Catholics are not only divided by ethnicity, generation and geography; they also differ in the ways they see the church, its role in their lives, in politics and in society.
Now if you are aware of statistics like that, aside from claims of papal audacity, why would you write this in defense of the papacy?
Catholics believe that the same infallible Spirit of Christ who filled the apostles and fired the Church into birth at Pentecost, and went on to inspire the Scriptures, still dwells in the apostolic church today. Catholics believe the church, led by the successors of the apostles, and the successor of Peter continues to proclaim and teach the gospel without fail.
Whether or not Peter was first among the disciples or the Bishop of Rome supreme among the metropolitan bishops, apparently Roman Catholics don’t listen to Christ’s vicar on earth or believe that he carries all the spiritual weight that Fr. Dwight claims. Yes, the Yankees have a lot of championship bling, but if they are not going to make the playoffs this year (not saying they won’t), don’t you cease beating your breast at least for this season?
And if you are a defender of the papacy, don’t you think about sending a memo up the chain of command to warn that so many words about so many non-essential matters may dilute the episcopal brand? You might even wonder if all those claims about superiority have gone to the Vatican’s head and clouded the bishop’s ability to discern what is truly important.
The more exalted the claims for papal audacity, the louder the numbers.