I’m Just Mild About Francis

Francis, top center, among the bishops of the Church.  Too worried about gays and  the divorced to condemn the threat of mass murder by nuclear weapons

Francis, top center, among the bishops of the Church. Too worried about gays and the divorced to condemn the threat of mass murder by nuclear weapons

Michael Gallagher

I’m just mild about Francis: Pope Francis, that is. I’m afraid I can’t get that excited about either the Synod of Bishops, whose first session just ended, or the Pope himself. I don’t deny that gay marriage, admitting divorced Catholics to Communion, and the like are serious issues that warrant discussion and should be resolved. And I commend Francis’s statement about the “hostile inflexibility” of conservatives within the church. But in the meantime gay Catholics will continue to get married, and divorced and remarried Catholics will continue to go to Communion, let men clad in soft garments in Rome expostulate as they will. (My aged Irish mother once told her Jesuit son over her martini: “You know, I never believed half that stuff you’re supposed to.”)

But what about the moral issues presented by modern war and nuclear weapons, something that nobody’s talking about? What would be the greater transgression, giving the green light to gay marriage or failing to condemn the world’s lockstep march towards a nuclear Armageddon—for example, President Obama’s recent announcement of $355 billion for nuclear weapons modernization over the next decade—without provoking the least murmur of dismay from the American Church hierarchy despite the condemnation of such a policy in “The Challenge of Peace,” issued a generation ago by their predecessors, Catholic bishops who were made of sterner stuff.

By daring once more to confront the grave moral issues posed by modern war, the Catholic Church could regain a measure of the moral credibility that it squandered in rushing to consult its lawyers rather than the Holy Spirit when the clerical sexual abuse crisis arose. And then and not till then will I start to get wild about the first Jesuit pope.

Michael Gallagher, a coeval of Sr. Megan and a former Jesuit seminarian, served as a paratrooper during the Korean War.  His book on Catholic activists, The Laws of Heaven, won the National Jesuit Book Award in theology in 1992, and his translation of Yukio Mishima’s Spring Snow was a finalist for the National Book Award in translation in 1972.

9 thoughts on “I’m Just Mild About Francis

  1. The Catholic Church is too beholden to power and not beholden enough to Christ. And the Church places far too much emphasis on sin when it’s connected to sex (gay sex, extramarital sex, and so on), and not enough emphasis on sin connected to war. Thou shalt not kill is a far more important commandment to keep than thou shalt not have sex in a relationship unblessed by the Church, but it’s the latter “transgression” that draws the Church’s attention, not the threat of mass murder by genocidal weapons.

    For shame.

    • Religion is the bane of civilization. Why do the Catholic and Episcopalian clergy parade around is fancy raiments along the line of primitive New Guinea tribesmen? Why does each religion think its god is the true one? Why is it so hard for even educated people to leave the religion of their parents? How can rational man believe in something they can’t see,feel, smell, or find ever existed, except in the mind of man?.
      Look over the entire world objectively and see the damage that religions do to civilization. In India the Hindus kill the Muslims. In the Middle East the Jews kill the Muslims and vice versa. In other parts of the Middle East the Sunni Muslims kill and suppress the Shia Muslims and vice versa. And lording over all of them sits the Christian West.
      Why, in time of war, do all secular governments suddenly call on GOD to be ‘on their’ side? We have given centuries for religions to improve human societies across our small planet , and it hasn’t worked! Let’s try something else.

      • It depends on how you define “religion,” traven. Organized religion, with its hierarchies and exclusivity and power–well, I completely agree with you. But to me the kernel of Christianity are the teachings of Christ, which are clear and compelling. They don’t require any interpretation by some holier-than-thou hierarchy.

        That said, I have met many men of the cloth whom I admire. (And nuns/sisters within the Church as well.) Many of the best end up leaving the Church precisely because it is too corrupted by money and power and other worldly pursuits.

        Look for the kernel of truth in each religion, I’d say. And look for a religion that teaches humility and compassion and love. Any religion that teaches pride and selfishness and hatred is not religion to me — it’s madness.

      • By coincidence, just after I wrote this comment, I was reading Anne Lamott’s “Traveling Mercies” and came across this passage from Micah: “And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” That makes sense to me, even if your God is no god.

  2. “Some of my best friends have been Catholics, Jews, or just plain old Protestants”. No offense to Hindu’s, Muslims,
    Taoists, or Confucianists, or Buddhists since I haven’t met many of them. I admire people for what they DO with their lives with compassion for others. A nun who is ready to go to prison for trying to get into a nuclear site to highlight the danger of that facility has my admiration and that objectively has little to do with her religion. There are many atheists who do the same.

    My beef is with how ‘organized religion’ is used to flummox people all over the world. Why not just practice compassion for the downtrodden because it is the right thing to do. In the midst of the Great Depression in about 1936 when my father had lost his store and our house was foreclosed on my mother still gave whatever food she could when a beggar came our door. Throughout her life she gave money to Father Flanagan’s “BoysTown” because she had to send her sons to an orphan home.
    Bill, I think we are not too far apart because we are both contrarians in our own way. Questioning power takes a measure of courage driven by compassion and empathy. My mother was not religious and made a lot of mistakes,and she was no “goddess’. I could see her, feel her warmth, and understand her message and I have carried that message for 90 years.

  3. I spent four years working as the coordinator of computer services for a small Buddhist college in Rosemead, California. As part of my employment, the school offered me the chance to take graduate courses leading to a master’s degree in Religious Studies at no cost to me. So I thought: What the heck, if someone will pay me to attend some classes and pick up yet another college degree, then why not? For my concentration, I mostly took courses in Buddhism and Sanskrit, but I did get some exposure to the specific history of ritualistic practices that characterized a few other chosen religions. But nowhere in all the courses I took did any of my instructors define religion in any concise and easily communicable way. Nonetheless, somewhere along the way, I discovered two books in the library that dealt with the subject from a more general, psychological and anthropological perspective. The first: The Golden Bough: a Study of Magic and Religion, by Sir James George Frazer. The second: Primitive Mythology: The Masks of God, by Joseph Campbell. From the second of these sources, in particular, I read this:

    “The child begins by assuming that adults were the makers of all things; for they are thought to be omniscient and omnipotent until events make it all too evident that they are neither. Whereupon the cherished image of an all-knowing, all-potent, manually or otherwise creating parent is simply transferred to the vague figure of an anthropomorphic though invisible God, which has already been furnished by parental or other instruction.

    “The figure of a creative being is practically, if not absolutely, universal in the mythologies of the world, and just as the parental image is associated in childhood not only with the power to make all things but also with the authority to command, so also in religious thought the creator of the universe is commonly the giver and controller of its laws. The two orders – the infantile and the religious – are at least analogous, and it may well be that the latter is simply a translation of the former to a sphere out of range of critical observation.”

    So, “religion” means the unconscious psychological transference of infantile parental dependency to an imaginary realm out of range of critical observation. In other words, when we children discover that our parents do not actually possess omnipotent powers dedicated to satisfying our every whim, we find that our society has provided for us some “all powerful,” ready-made invisible parents (and their self-anointed spokespersons) who, should we yell and scream and bawl – i.e., “pray” – loud and long enough in certain prescribed ways, then the universe will bend to our demands and needs, just it seemed to do when our earthly parents made the food and clean diapers appear before we had even learned to speak the words “hungry” and “dirty.” Religion merely extends credulous infancy and postpones rational adulthood. Good people don’t need it and it only makes bad people worse.

  4. Pingback: Of Fiddling Bishops and Intelligent Missiles | The Contrary Perspective

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