Chairman of the Board

Was this what Bryan and the Jasons had in mind?

Francis’s palpable respect for other religious traditions, coupled with his determination that the various faiths must work together to advance shared values such as peace and the care of creation, have made him a global role model for interfaith cooperation. . . .

It’s possible, of course, that people in either India or Turkey unaware of the pope’s record may be briefly swayed by such rhetoric, but the moment such charges are subjected to critical examination they’ll collapse under their own weight.

While the substance of such complaints may not have much merit, there’s nevertheless a sense in which they’re meaningful. In effect, they may be an index that Francis’s ambition to be the “chairman of the board” for religious moderates around the world is working.

Obviously without using that language, that’s a role to which every recent pope has aspired – trying to galvanize a coalition of authoritative moderates within the world’s religious traditions to demonstrate that, as much as religion can be part of the problem, it is also uniquely positioned to be part of the solution.

As someone who doesn’t hail from a traditional Western power, Francis brings a special capacity to pull that off, since he doesn’t carry the same baggage in terms of being associated with either the West’s colonial history or its contemporary military and political choices. His global popularity also means he carries the largest religious megaphone in the world, allowing him to lift the standing of moderate voices in other traditions.

Don’t think too long about where ex-Nazis went after World War II.

Forget also about popes transcending personal experience. Turn STM into ASTM — Argentina, Scripture, Tradition, Magisterium:

From the beginning, it’s been striking how often Pope Francis, when pressed to explain a particular statement or policy choice, will invoke his background in Argentina.

There are really too many examples to count, but just to choose one almost at random, in a session with priests from the diocese of Rome earlier this month, Francis stirred controversy by suggesting there are cases in which it’s better for couples to live together for a while rather than take part in a shotgun wedding.

“Here’s a social fact in Buenos Aires,” he said. “I prohibited religious marriages in Buenos Aires in cases of what we call matrimonios de apuro, meaning ‘in a hurry,’ when a baby is on the way.”

In fact, Francis cited his experience in Buenos Aires no fewer than five times in that address to priests, on multiple topics.

And be sure to love the sinner while hating the sin (except if you are a global capitalist, climate change denier, or a Turk):

Furthermore, the pope did not tell anyone to issue an actual apology. And his focus was not limited to the LGBT community. Rather, he made the broader statement that the Church “must not only ask forgiveness to the gay person who is offended,” but also to all of the people “we could have defended and we didn’t,” including the poor, and women and children who are exploited.

He cited the Catechism, saying that homosexual individuals “must not be discriminated against, (but) must be respected and accompanied pastorally.”

The Catechism teaches that based on Scripture, “tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’”

Homosexual acts, it continues, “are contrary to the natural law … under no circumstances can they be approved.”
When speaking of homosexual persons, however, the Catechism insists that most gay individuals face “a trial” due to their sexual orientation, and “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

What Pope Francis said, then, clearly echoes Church teaching and displays his genuine pastoral concern for a group that has and frequently still does face hostility, including, at times, from within the Church.

Isn’t independence from tyrannical authority wonderful?

7 thoughts on “Chairman of the Board

  1. Despite their best efforts, the guys at CtC and other conservative RC apologists not only promote an argument that most RCs don’t accept, but it’s one that not even they put into practice. Just look at them take Scripture, tradition, and past declarations of the church and pick and choose which ones they follow, which ones are in continuity with what came before, etc.

    So, five hundred years later, when it comes to religious epistemology in the West, Protestantism has actually won. Individual RCs who think about their religion, no less than Protestants, weigh the evidence, decide how best to interpret it, and then choose the communion that most aligns with their interpretation. It’s exactly what Bryan says RCs do not do, which makes the base argument on the superiority of Rome foundationless.


  2. Herding bishops?

    For the hierarchy, however, two things stand out to my mind. In the earlier generation, they stood together no matter what. They might disagree, indeed they did and often. But the bishops liked each other, and they policed each other unofficially. For good or ill, there was a degree of self-editing, of measured discourse, that grew in part out of desire not to ruffle the feathers of other bishops, to keep the great majority of the bishops on the same page, to speak with one voice. For all of the problems with clericalism, the sense of unity it produced was a benefit to the Church and it characterized both the more conservative and the more liberal bishops of that earlier generation.

    It remains to be seen if the post-conciliar generation of bishops can forge that degree of unity among themselves and, frankly, I doubt it. I have never seen the bishops so divided. I have never seen bishops so willing to say things about the pope that they never, ever would have said about previous popes. I have never seen so many bishops willing to take the advice of laymen rather than seek the counsel of a bishop with whom they know they disagree. This is the challenge facing Cardinal Wuerl, who remains on the Congregation for Bishops, Archbishop Cupich and, as well, our new nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre: Can they select bishops who will place the unity of the body ahead of being proven right about every theological point of difference? Will they be able to identify bishops who will expand the conversation, rather than restrict it, delve deeper into an issue rather than digging themselves into a deeper hole?


  3. The RCC bishops have trouble enough agreeing on the official interpretation of the infallible magisterium. Having them like each other enough to stand together is just an extra thing.


  4. Which is it?

    “X [critic of Pope Francis] may have a point but also forgot to mention that Francis probably was reflecting his Latin American experience and not necessarily making a sweeping case about the whole world.”

    Can Pope Francis escape his cultural background?

    What happened to being the representative of Christ?

    “I want to be a spokesman for the deepest longings of indigenous peoples,” the Pope said in the video, released July 6.


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