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Pope Francis Pushes For A Bigger Catholic Tent

A new kind of Pope. Pope Francis says let’s not obsess on gays and abortion. We look at where he may be taking the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis looks on during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013. (AP)

Pope Francis looks on during his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013. (AP)

What a pope Catholics have right now. Out with the fancy car, and in with the little Fiat. A pope who takes the bus, and talks everywhere, all the time about reaching out to all.

Sits down for a big interview and says the Catholic Church has been too obsessed with abortion, gay marriage and contraception.  Is asked about gays and says “Who am I to judge?”  This is a new tone, new talk from the top of the Catholic Church.

This hour, On Point:  a new kind of pope, and what Pope Francis means for the Catholic church.

- Tom Ashbrook


Scott Appleby, professor of history and director of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

Damon Linker, contributing editor at The New Republic. His piece on Pope Francis’ comments is “Pope Francis’s Comments on Gays and Abortion Are Not a ‘Revelation.’” (@damonlinker)

R.R. Reno, editor of First Things magazine, a monthly journal of religion, culture and public life. He is a Catholic and a theological and political conservative. (@rr_reno)

From Tom’s Reading List

National Catholic Review: A Big Heart Open To God — “This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity. And the church is Mother; the church is fruitful. It must be.”

Washington Post: In Interview, Pope Sets A New Direction For the Church — “While Francis spoke with remarkable openness about religious doubt and uncertainty (‘If one has the answers to all the questions—that is the proof that God is not with him.’), he said nothing that altered church teaching. Nonetheless, it was clear that he was setting a new direction for the church.  “He has not changed anything doctrinal,’ said Father James Martin, editor-at-large of America, the Jesuit magazine that published the interview in English. ‘But he is encouraging us to shift our priorities from hot button issues to God’s mercy.’”

The Dish: The Rebirth of Catholicism – “Faith is not in the head; it is in the soul and heart and body. It is our acting in the world, not our debating the finer parts of infallible doctrine in an ‘inverted funnel’. And look how Francis uses the term ‘infallible.’ He uses it not to refer to the papacy, but to the people of God, you and me, and not in terms of possession of the truth, but rather the open search for it.”


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  • Mike_Card

    So…is Ed around, to be the turd in the punch bowl?

  • Yar

    Later the Pope celebrated Mass for around 300,000 people outside the city’s cathedral, telling them: “We don’t want this globalised economic system which does us so much harm. Men and women have to be at the centre (of an economic system) as God wants, not money.
    “The world has become an idolator of this god called money,” he said.
    Words like this are what hung Jesus on a cross. The institutional church does not take a challenge to its power lightly. While I admire Pope Francis boldness, he is a prisoner of organization he represents. They can limit his access if they want. We appear to be at a turning point in history. Where it goes will be interesting. How would a Mass in the US where the Pope said we need living wages and healthcare go over?http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/the-pope/10327227/Pope-tells-big-business-not-to-worship-the-god-of-money.html

    • SteveTheTeacher

      How about a Mass, such as the one he gave in Cagliari, in which the Pope, in addition to critiquing globalization and the idolatry of money, calls into question basic tenets of the capitalism itself?

    • TFRX

      Hewing to the old adage, I guess this makes the Pope one step closer to being called a Communist!

  • p espinosa

    Pope Francis is speaking about what we believe and have tried to practice at the parish level. He has confirmed what my Catholic community and I are living. At the end of the day we want to be like Jesus and we we want Jesus to be known through our example. I admire him for speaking for the local parish priest that is working hard at bringing God into the world. Many of our U.S. Bishop’s and especially Cardinals are out of touch with the daily struggles of the people. We can all take the example of our present Pope as to how to live our faith. Viva el Papa! Dios te bendiga.

  • Ed75

    This is really not that complicated. Pope Benedict spoke of a small, remnant Church – small in numbers, not out of desire, but small because the message it offers is being largely rejected.

    Pope Francis reminds us that the Church at the same time a big tent, in that it’s concern is for each person and its message is for every person. It preaches the ‘sweet fragrance of the Gospel’ to everyone. His image of the field hospital is also very apt.

    As Cardinal Dolan said in explanation, our concern for the person is constant and is independent of what they are doing or not doing.
    It’s the same message, different emphasis, a different balance. No change in doctrine or dogma, the truth doesn’t change.

    (As Jesus said, ‘I played a jig, and you would not dance, I played a dirge and you would not cry’, the Church reaches out with different styles.)


    • Shag_Wevera

      Dolan’s response was genius.

    • John Cedar

      The message that the church offers is definitely being rejected but not because of abortion, gay marriage, or birth control per se. it is being rejected because the church does not teach that the center of the universe is “me”. Abortion is just one example where “the self” is to take priority over others.

      • J__o__h__n

        “Center of the universe” isn’t the best argument when claiming the Church is correct.

  • Ed75

    I still think he looks like Herman. God has a sense of humor.

  • Unterthurn

    They need married men and women priests, bischofs, cardinals, & popes.

  • stephenreal

    I think this is the first Pontiff that I can recall who actually spoke about enjoying the works of Federico Fellini. Fellini may not be the Beatles but to the Roman Curia he might as well be the Rolling Stones.
    The Holy See is shaking up the church in more ways than one.

  • Shag_Wevera

    I’ve never been this excited about the Papacy.

  • John Cedar

    The pope did not say “lets not obsess on gays and abortion.”
    He said, “[lets not]…focus on gay marriage, abortion and birth control”.

    As a recovering catholic, I recall being dragged to church once a week and an hour of indoctrination once a week during grade school too. My recollection is that those things the church is supposedly focused on were actually rarely spoken of. But I haven’t been in 20 years so maybe things have changed. I doubt it though. More likely that the abortion loving, gay marriage loving, iconoclastic heathen MSN reporters love this non story enough to make it into a story, while everyone else is obsessed with themselves and the mall too much to ponder the existence of a higher power or a deeper life purpose.

    • Leonard Bast

      A basic truism of all commentary on current affairs: whenever a public figure makes statements with which you disagree, claim (1) that it is a non story and (2) that the media is covering it to distract from the “real” stories.

  • Leonard Bast

    According to Roman Catholic dogma, the pope is the supreme apostolic authority of the church and cannot be in error where faith or morals are concerned. My experience is that conservative Catholics are especially supportive of this dogma. So now what do they do? They have to abide by the pope’s authority and by his words. Yet that authority and those words are starting to point in a different direction from the conservative political and religious stances they’ve long taken.

    I’ve been observing a long-time commenter in another forum. He’s a staunch right-wing Republican conservative Catholic, anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-help-the-needy, etc. Yesterday he made a post about how right Francis’s recent comments are! Today, he’s back to posting about how food stamps should be taken away from the poor! It’s like watching someone with a split personality. I expect the poor guy will end up going mad.

    • HonestDebate1

      I can easily consider handing out food stamps as anti-help-the-needy.

  • Jo Bleaux

    Yes, he did say, “let’s not obsess on gays and abortion.” But, the very next day he urged Catholic doctors to refuse to perform abortions. Is this a sign of hypocrisy? Or, pressure from entrenched conservatives?

    I’ve very inclined to like this pope. As a pope, and as a person. It’s refreshing to see a pontiff addressing issues of social justice in such a personal way. But it remains to be seen how whether this breath of fresh air will be stifled by a backlash from conservatives, who have had the upper hand for decades now.

    • Leonard Bast

      Indeed, we who are inclined to like what we hear from this pope need to remember that he has not assumed pro-gay, pro-abortion, pro-contraception stances. He’s simply stated that the Church’s obsession with these issues has distracted it from its true Christian mission, which is to reach out to all people, help the needy, care for those whom society has scorned or neglected, and generally act in a way that is inclusive and compassionate. Still, it seems like good news. Baby steps are better than no steps at all.

    • TFRX

      Sorta reminds me of Teddy Roosevelt and the GOP machine. Mark Hanna said, when TR was made the VPnom, “That damned cowboy will be one heartbeat away from the White House”. The GOP establishment didn’t quite know what they were getting in TR and it had lots of side effects, right on thru the 1912 election.

      I’m inclined to like this pope also. We’ll see what happens, and whether this will make the CofC much more conservative the next time.

  • Fiscally_Responsible

    Despite any change in position on social issues on the part of any human being or institution, the Bible does not change as it is infallible. And the unchanging truth is that abortion is the intentional termination of a human life and therefore is murder. And homosexual expression is contrary to God’s creation and is an abomination and a perversion of God’s design for sexual relations. And that is the unchanging bottom line regardless of whether people accept it or not.

    • disqus_fw2Bu1dEsd

      I’d like an ‘unchanging bottom’ right about now, but he’s at work.

    • J__o__h__n

      The Catholic Church doesn’t believe that the bible is infallible.

      • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

        With the possible exception of some Fundamentalists, most theologians consider that our reading, understanding, interpretation, and exegesis of the text is incomplete.

        I reckon that would also be true of a lot of literature.

    • jefe68

      There are matters in the Bible, said to be done by the express commandment of God, that are shocking to humanity and to every idea we have of moral justice….. [Thomas Paine]

    • Inis_Magrath

      So, Fiscally_Responsible, you accept the unchanging bottom line that the Bible sanctions slavery?

    • JerseyJosie

      Which version of the Bible doesn’t change?

    • AJNorth

      No; THE bottom line is that, whether Catholic, Protestant or unaligned Christian, the fact remains that the literal definition of the word “Christian” is “Christ-like.”

      What did Jesus say about abortion or homosexuality? Nothing — not one word.

      Those who continue to harp on these two issues (in particular) as being “contrary to Christian teachings” are conflating the following of their scripture — religious dogma written by human beings in an age before science, who were fearful, ignorant and superstitious — with the teachings and life examples of the person whom we call Jesus. They are manifestly not the same thing.

      Those who follow the teachings and life examples of he whom we call Jesus are Christians; those who do not are scripturalists.

    • jimino

      The fact that you picked just those 2 positions among the scores of prohibitions and obligations set forth by Jesus or other Biblical passages tells anyone all they need to know about your actual claim that the Bible is to be literally followed.

  • William

    This Pope is more concerned about poverty than political talking points. He was critical of the gay lobby inside the Vatican secret administration, Curia, and promised to reform it. How successful he will be in enticing non-practicing Catholics to return to the church will be interesting to watch.

  • gemli

    The pope seems like a nice guy, and Catholics are swooning over his candor and reasonable-sounding remarks. But it’s hard to imagine that this sudden change is anything more than an attempt to prevent people from leaving the Church. The virtually unprecedented resignation of a pope, followed by the election of a new pope who says all the right things, seems “miraculous,” but I doubt if the hierarchy really put this decision into the hands of the Lord.

    Regardless of the reasons for the sudden about face, a few comments by a new pope can’t undo centuries of control, divisiveness, abuse, inquisitions, exorcisms, witch burnings, castigation of gay people and the misery caused by requiring Catholic women to have more children than they wanted. It doesn’t make up for the hypocrisy of preaching poverty from gold-encrusted altars, or for celibate priests proscribing sexual conduct. And nothing can make up for the reliance on superstition in place of science and rational thought.

    The Church is a relic of an earlier time. We don’t have to be part of the flock to do good works and behave morally. We’re not sheep.

    • Leonard Bast

      I agree in spirit with much of what you say. I break with you, however, when you say we are not sheep. My experience is that most people are definitely sheep (or as Nietzsche would have it, the “herd”). I wish it were not so, but it is.

      • TFRX

        There are a lot of questions about how American Catholics fit in their faith and their lives.

        Maybe, with the words of this Pope as a catalyst, this serious conversation can be held for real.

        Usually it only seems to be brought up in the press (“who is a REAL CATHOLIC”) when any Catholic Democrat announces for President.

        (Edited for clarity.)

        • J__o__h__n

          I thought being a sheep was desired. The metaphors of a flock and his shepherd and separating sheep from goats, etc. I was in a church where there is a painting of a sheep with a halo (I remarked that it must be Harold, the clever sheep).

          • TFRX

            As a not very religious sort, I’ll take that point. I guess I was caught over “sheep” having different meanings, being a flock member for a shepherd (that’s considered good) as one, being “sheeple” (that’s considered bad) as another.

            My original post is edited to clarify.

        • Leonard Bast

          Well, personally, I’m not ready to be called any kind of Catholic, since I’m not now nor have I ever been a Roman Catholic.

          • TFRX

            (See edit. I confused different uses of “sheep” in the American vernacular.)

  • keltcrusader

    Just another example of those who tack hard to the right trying to make it seem like they can be inclusive when they really have no intention of doing so. The Pope is talking out both sides of his mouth trying to get defectors back into the fold.
    Not going to happen for those who remember what the church really stands for: patriarchal, misogynistic, intolerant, and abusive old men trying to tell others (mainly women) how to live their lives from their segregated, insulated, clueless enclaves. Not going to happen.

  • northeaster17

    From my lofty vantage point, American bishops were the pit bulls of the last two Popes. The new Pope seems to be pulling them back but I think any local changes will be tactical rather than enthusiastically embraced. The hammer will always be waiting to fall.

  • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

    I admire the new pope’s talmudic approach to these issues.

    His wisdom and scholarship are greatly to be admired, encouraged, and promoted.

  • J__o__h__n

    This pope is an improvement so far in terms of tone and focus over his two predecessors. However, the position of the Church is unlikely to change. I’ll reserve judgement on him until I see the Church stay out of politics on gay rights and reproductive rights.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I would like more information about his approach to the Orthodox church, the “Ravenna Document.” I will quote from the part that caught me up. He is talking about the synods with bishops that are “not dynamic,” where he wants more real dialogue within the church. Then he says “This will also have ecumenical value, especially with our Orthodox brethren. From them we can learn more about the meaning of episcopal collegiality and the tradition of synodality. The joint effort of reflection, looking at how the church was governed in the early centuries before the breakup of East and West, will bear fruit in due time.” “I want to continue the discussion that was begun in 2007 by the joint (Catholic-Orthodox) commission on how to exercise the Petrine primacy, which led to the signing of the Ravenna Document.”
    The Orthodox branch of Christianity, how political are they? Aren’t they closer to the part of the world disrupted by militancy?

  • Ellen Dibble

    In the last couple of days, the pope has used the gospel as a taking off point for saying that money is the root of all evil. And you cannot serve God and Mammon. I forget how the Catholic church currently frames that, but that was the message, a one-two punch. Money is The Problem. And you can’t compromise on (apparently) That.
    I haven’t finished absorbing the long interview, but I am curious what comes next about greed and its destabilizing effect, or something like that.

    • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

      This week, in many denominations, the reading (and typically the accompanying sermon) focuses on Luke 16:1-13, which addresses the issue of the love of money (over the love of more important values, such as peaceable human relationships).

      • Ellen Dibble

        Did you see where he was talking about the dignity of work, and expressing an understanding of the way the corporate manifestations of capitalism wreak havoc for small businesses, gobbling them up, squeezing them breathless? I wonder if he got that kind of understanding from Argentina. I don’t know what that economy is like.

        • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

          I reckon his perspective arises from many observations and reflections.

          One way to interpret these remarks is to view them as a long-overdue attack on the sociopathic philosophy of Ayn Rand.

          • Ellen Dibble

            It gives me shivers to think he might be a voice for that!
            If so, if he has an economic perspective that is meaningful and comprehensive, then that would be much, much more important than sticking to the church’s points about abortion and homosexuality, which sometimes seem to me ridiculous. Something like a third or fertilized eggs are spontaneously lost. Yes, it’s sad, but there are other kinds of death every day too. And homosexuals feel “different” enough without having it rubbed in. I call that bullying. Really, change the subject!

          • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

            Naw, I reckon it will help drive home the observation that Ayn Rand was a sociopath with nice clothes and a lousy hairdo.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I hear him talking about the universality of the presence of God in the life of every human. To tell the truth, I’ve never doubted that, without specifying what I exactly mean by it. The pope is completely specific. He also reiterates fairly often the centrality of the sacraments, the eucharist, the rosary, different things that do differentiate between Catholics per se and the rest of us. But I think more people would want to be Catholics because of the spirit of renewal this pope generates than because of the holy rituals that are conducted in those churches.

  • JerseyJosie

    Once again, Mr. Applebee… The scandal in the Church was not about the pedophile priests. The scandal is that those priests were hidden and shuffled around by Bishops that were too concerned with the avoidance of scandal to properly protect their “flock”. That’s the scandal!

    • J__o__h__n

      And that the Bishops were not punished. Example: His Eminence Cardinal Law.

      • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

        Therein lies the theological conundrum.

        The teachings of Jesus envision healing, enlightenment, and redemption as an alternative to judgment and punishment.

        Reducing theology to practice is harder in practice than it is in theory.

  • stephenreal

    baby steps with this system that evolved out of the old Empire.

  • Bluejay2fly

    This change is encouraging as I would love to see religion focus more on improving people’s quality of life by giving them the tools to find fulfillment in life. The Old church was too obsessed with outmoded ideas and was ruthless in it’s application of it’s doctrine. Telling a mother of a mentally disturbed young man “Your son is in hell because he committed suicide and cannot be buried on church ground or your sister married a Jew and will also go to hell” are examples of how the church of yore did not enhance people’s lives. I think if the church changes it may still play a very large and important role in society but if it does not it will continue it’s historical decline.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Why not just be a modern liberal? The guest asks that. The pope started his interview by comparing himself to the publican Jesus reached out to, the man with the money bags, sort of like asking Donald Trump to be an apostle. Well, sort of. He does astonish me. I read somewhere that he was interested in finding out how others access the spiritual realm, how do you conduct your prayers, your adoration, and then he tells what works for him, and of course what Catholics can dependably do.

  • stephenreal

    I think he speaks for a lot of people in the greater community. It’s a breath of fresh air.

    After forty years of these counter revolutionaries to John XXIII’s Vatican II. They hated John XXIII.Their day has come to an end. Hallelujah!

    • Don_B1

      While I understand and sympathize with your sentiments, it is probably a bit early to celebrate too strongly.

      There are statements from various levels of the clergy in opposition to the Pope’s “breath of fresh air.” It might be worth waiting to see how they fare.

  • Liberty and Justice

    I have never understood why the issue of sexuality is even addressed. The station of Priesthood is a position above sexuality. Priests should be Asexual. To be a Priest is to be above any sexuality. If a person’s sexuality, or desire for material goods, or wealth, or love of self cannot be placed second or extinguished for their role in the church, how are they not unfit for service as a Priest?

    • disqus_fw2Bu1dEsd

      Oh….my…..God! It’s the not-so-uncommon, duckbill platitude.

    • Bluejay2fly

      Your talking about going against human nature and biology, good luck with that. Why not castrate them.

  • rich4321

    Finally, there is a wise pope. I always wonder, according to the church, we are all God’s children, gay or not. Why does the church always attack God’s gay children? Why did God make his children gay in the first place? Was God on LSD at the time?

    • disqus_fw2Bu1dEsd

      Silly! God created queer folk, [at a fabulous white party] to make up for his invention of Republicans.

  • GarretWoodward

    I grew up in a French/Irish Catholic family, the suffering Catholics. Went to Catholic school, went to church, did what I was told. Nowadays, at 28 years old, I only enter a church for a wedding or a funeral. I just don’t think I have to go to church to “be a good person.” Real compassion is in one’s own actions, not sitting in a pew and feeling good about yourself. Practice charity without being aware of the word charity…

  • skelly74

    Where is the hat? I think he could get more people “under the tent” if he wore the hat more…it would help “raise the roof” a little.

    Also, bring back the Latin Mass…it’s not only the pomp and circumstance…it was poetic also…now it’s the Tower of Babel.


  • stephenreal

    We are forty years behind what Vatican II was supposed to be all about

  • drwacker

    Tom, you’re missing the point… Pope Francis is referring to the PERSON, not the deed. Jesus died for everybody, regardless of what their sin is/was. However, he didn’t say to go out and do it again. Remember the Gospel lesson about the prostitute; Jesus said he wasn’t condemning HER, then told her to “Go, and sin no more.”
    The pope isn’t endorsing homosexuality, he’s just offering full and complete forgiveness to EVERYONE who acknowledges his/her sins.
    On another point, the climate change community could take a page from the pope’s comment about overly focusing on one issue. I think many of us have gotten the idea about climate change and we are tired of hearing every weather event and any other anomaly of human experience being attributed to climate change.

    • notLindaBurke

      I think the point is about re-balancing the priorities of Holy Mother Church. Hallelujah! If Pope Francis’ priorities had been in place years ago, I would probably still be RC. I left when I became sick of hearing too many pronouncements from the pulpit that had to do with sins of the bedroom and too few that involved sins of the wallet.

      • drwacker

        I hope you can find it in hour heart to return to the church. I’m a Lutheran church worker who also almost left the church because of preachers who are too legalistic, but I searched until I found a congregation that understood that Jesus doesn’t look down on us because we’re sinners, but sees us as brothers and sisters who are worth the price he paid. Keep looking — you’ll find that peace too.

        • notLindaBurke

          Thank you for caring. I think God and I are all right. I value that relationship above any I might have with a church community. But we never know where we’ll be led, and my heart is open.

    • Don_B1

      I agree except with your take on the Climate Change issue. It is not that every weather anomaly is caused by the greenhouse effect of increased CO2 in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels.

      But many weather events are intensified by those effects.

      Note that because of the world-wide temperature increase the air now holds more water vapor; as an example, the air in the subtropics, like in the Atlantic Ocean east of Florida or the Caribbean Ocean, averages around 4% more water vapor now than as recently as 1970.

      This additional water vapor stores energy, just the like the steam exiting your tea kettle as you heat water, and provides a store of energy to be released in storms of various types.

      With the warming oceans, hurricanes are now averaging higher strengths and new research has shown that there are likely to be more of them. That does not mean that every year will have more disastrous storms, but on average there will be more and more intense storms each year.

      It is important that this connection be pointed out when particularly extreme storms occur so that the rapidity of the onset of climate change effects can be absorbed by the public. Otherwise the intense campaign by the fossil fuel industry, which is following the path pioneered by the cigarette industry, will be successful in numbing the public’s understanding of how soon mitigation effects must be implemented so as to avoid the worst affects of climate change.

      • drwacker

        I couldn’t agree with you more. But my point was that I think America is getting tired of the constant reporting on climate change and connecting every extreme weather event to climate change. I was just trying to say that just as Pope Francis is trying to tone down the continuous talk from the church hierarchy on birth control, abortion, and homosexuality in order to reach out to more people, perhaps climate change proponents should stop — or at least ease up on — constantly reminding us of the effects of climate change. We need to take a new approach.

        • Don_B1

          I missed saying an important thing:

          I don’t think that most Americans are getting tired of the linking of climate change to the growing number of extreme weather events, etc. But the fossil fuel industry and its supporters are. They keep thinking that their campaign is succeeding, and to too great an extent it is, and the continuing linking, which has dropped off remarkably as the number of occurrences has risen, should not be considered offensive or counterproductive.

  • ClimateDesperate

    The acid test for me, as a progressive R.Catholic who hopes for structural change away from an authoritarian patriarchy, is this: will Pope Francis intervene in the appalling hierarchical persecution of LCWR, the largest association of Roman Catholic Nuns??

  • J2P29910

    It isn’t that he is changing Church doctrine he isn’t and shouldn’t.

    What he IS doing is behaving like a good neighbor. We all prefer to live next to people who are friendly, openhearted and kind even when they share different values from ourselves. For too long many Christians have subscribed to a kind of “justifiable hatred” which has justified treating others as “less than human.”

    He has rejected that. He has called his children to act as if other humans are the subjects of their love and not the targets of any ideological agenda.

  • creaker

    I like that there is currently a Pope that sounds (at least to me) more Catholic and less born again evangelical than his immediate predecessor. Maybe we’ll get to the point where good works trumps lip service to God? Probably not, but it is more possible than it has been in a while.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I’ve been scanning through the comments and I don’t see anything about the child abuse by priests. Not a word. The “house of cards” pretty much came down with that, it seems to me, and there is rebuilding going on, or at least distraction.

  • Ellen Dibble

    If the pope’s stated and restated focus is on poverty, then his understanding of capitalism, globally, in its various manifestations, is probably crucial. I sort of ignore what the Catholics say about abortion and homosexuality, but they could have HUGE impact if the church really sharpened their economic theory and “values.”

  • stephenreal

    We need vatican III.

  • hennorama

    Pope Francis is already an enormous success, as he has people around the globe talking about both his words and his religion in a POSITIVE way, which is a far cry from recent history.

  • Adrian_from_RI

    A millennium after the Dark Ages we are still discussing the church doctrines that made these Ages so Dark. Is this funny or is it tragic? As to the churches doctrines on family planning it seems to me that the only ones listening to the Pope are the Muslims :-).

    Curious minds might be interested in understanding what the churches’ doctrines mean in reality. For instance, what was the purpose of the Encyclical Letter “Humanae Vitae”? That Encyclical was issued in July 1968 by his Holiness Paul VI. A few month later in Boston there was a Ford Hall Forum lecture titled: “Of Living Death.” In that lecture the Pope’s Humanae Vitae was analyzed line by line and the Encyclical’s anti life meaning was exposed for all to understand. Google “Of Living Death” and then listen to that Ford Hall Forum lecture. Do not miss the Q&A.

  • tbphkm33

    I have always taken a skeptical and negative view of organized religion. Religions of all flavors and creeds have, throughout history, been responsible for more misery and death than any other social institution. Just look at how the Christian religion for over a thousand years held absolute social rule over the western world.

    Having said that, I have upmost respect for Pope Francis. He stems from the commoner and has not forgotten his roots – or more to the point, he has not subsumed to the greed that power most often bring. Could you imagine what a U.S. Congress full of individuals with the moral convictions of Pope Francis could accomplish?

    The bottom line is that Pope Francis has a lot to teach us all. There are others like him, and some wolves in sheep’s clothing who claim to be like him. For society, and the future of the masses, we need to embrace Pope Francis and reformers like him – irrespective of our own personal religious or non-relgious believes.

    • Bluejay2fly

      Well said. We need a revolution of thought that places empathy and compassion for others above greed. Imagine a world where Christians actually acted like Christ?

    • warryer

      Do not lump all religions together. How a Christian responds to dissent and how a Muslim responds to dissent are very different indeed.

      Secondly where is your proof that religions are responsible for more than any other? Do you have hard numbers or is this just a talking point?

      Have you considered Soviet Russia which was a strictly secular state? Stalin’s regime claims 20 millions lives. Not to mention an impoverished standard of living for the commoner. As opposed to the U.S. which was initially founded by people who held Christian beliefs. Which country would you rather live in?

      • tbphkm33

        Ah, the we are better than them fringe – the arrogation that Christians have to be better than Muslims, and of course, the U.S. is better than any other nation (especially the old rightwing Soviet demigod). Perhaps a bit xenophobic…

        In regards to religion and organized violence. If you studied the core basis of wars, you discover that resource scarcity (economics) is the biggest factor to ignite bloodshed. Tied right along with that, is warfare in the name of religion… often where religion has been hijacked for the acquisition of resources. Be that religious factions or the leadership actively instigating violence.

        • WBUR Lover

          Right, so wars are caused by all kinds of things — and they take on the shape or form or disguise of all kinds of reasons. Why talk about religion as though it is an isolable factor?

          • brettearle

            Sometimes it IS a factor that can be identified as prominent.

            Other times, it is a contributing factor.

            You likely already know this.

          • WBUR Lover

            Of course, wars are caused by religious difference, at times. But my point is about the initial post — the counterfactual is almost meaningless. Yes, wars take on religious motivations. But it is silly to then say that, if we didn’t have religion, we’d have fewer wars. That is a counterfactual that is impossible to evaluate. Religion is occasionally an isolable factor, but it doesn’t make sense to isolate it as _general factor_ as a _general cause_ of _wars in general_.

          • brettearle

            I am not going to spend the time doing the research.

            If you feel that because I am not going to spend the time citing chapter and verse (no pun intended), pointing to the history of cultural and societal conflict, with warring factions and warring countries, then you can poke holes, in my argument, at your own peril.

            Of course, Religion has periodically been a general factor–and most people know and understand this.

            To say that there would be wars, without religion, is likely true.

            But that, in no way, absolves how people use religion to champion their cause in a violent way.

          • WBUR Lover

            Dude, have you read what I wrote? I don’t think you’re understanding what I am replying to. If you did, then you wouldn’t think I disagree with your last sentence.

      • brettearle

        What in `tarnation are you talking about?

        The United States was founded on partial Genocide.

        That’s the Death part of it.

        The Misery part of it is almost as bad and certainly broader:

        That’s called Slavery.

        That’s what I call a REAL Christian nation, wouldn’t you call it that?

      • jefe68

        Actually you might want to read up on some of the founders. Thomas Pain was an atheist.

        John Adams also had some serious reservations about organized religions as did Thomas Jefferson.

        Then there’s this:
        The 1796 Treaty with Tripoli states that the United States was “not in any sense founded on the Christian religion” (see the image on the right). This was not an idle statement meant to satisfy muslims– they believed it and meant it. This treaty was written under the presidency of George Washington and signed under the presidency of John Adams.

        • hdesignr

          Says the public school parrot.

    • WBUR Lover

      I don’t quite understand what you mean by the point that organized religion has caused all kinds of misery. I hazard that the modern nation-state has caused a lot more death and misery. And it’s not quite clear what it even means to talk about religious institutions here. It’s like saying, “Well, wars are almost always caused by things with brains — let’s get rid of brains.”

      • geraldfnord

        The State has done its worst when it becomes the occasion of religion—and religion its own worst when empowered as or by a State.

        • WBUR Lover

          Maybe, but I guess I don’t quite have a clear understanding of what it means for a state to be an “occasion of religion,” or for a religion to be empowered by the state. I mean, what exactly are the contrasting cases? After all, it’s hard to say whether any normal religion animated Nazism, since that was a quasi-pagan pre-Christian or non-Christian ideology. And it’s not as though Bolsehvism or Stalinism was imbued with traditional religion, either. And of course it’s doubtful that the US, in dropping atomic bombs on Japan during WWII or in fighting in Vietnam, was acting on religious fervor. My point is that all kinds of wars and violence occur, for many different reasons. The broadest term might be this: wars happen often for reasons of ideology. But of course then the question becomes: What is an ideology? And what isn’t? And what would a state look like if it weren’t motivated by moral and political commitments? And aren’t a lot of wars caused by, well, the quest for economic gain and imperialist domination?

  • tbphkm33

    Funny, you could replace “Pope Francis” and “the Vatican,” with “the Republican Party” and “Congress” – then still be right in your observation. — sorry, should not turn this discussion political.

    • donald

      Everything is political, and especially what he commented on.

  • MsAbila

    Pope Francis seems to be a decent guy who understands the problems of the world and the conundrum we are facing but unfortunately he is a representative of 1 of the oppressive powers of our world. He can say whatever he wants, his words may even sway people so they become less critical of the Church (perhaps that is the underlying goal of the Church).

    Regardless, his words has not changed and/or are not about to change the Church’s practices not to mention doctrines. We are all familiar with the history of the Church’s politics on poverty, women, man (the working poor ones), contraception, gays, etc.

    We know the Catholic Church has been out of touch with reality for a long time and still is. Of course, there are many clergy members who perform good deeds to help some people but we need to look at the ‘overhead costs’ of these do-gooders.

    Also, I find it objectionable for the Catholic Church telling everyone how to live their lives in detail but they don’t adhere to the same social rules, they don’t have families, don’t face the problems of unemployment, lack of healthcare, being evicted, etc….

    Lastly, I’d like to see if there have been studies on ‘Gays in the Catholic Church’ and ‘Children of Priests out-of-wedlock’.

  • Michele

    And yet the persecution of the Conference of Women Religious continues….status quo.

  • Michele

    Don’t you mean feminine machismo?;)

    • donald

      Not even close. What you have just said is your own freak-out about women. Whether you are a woman and prefer that men tell you what to do, or a man and prefer to tell women what to do, you are in the loser’s circle. Your comment is an indication that you think women are your adversary or your enemy.

      • Michele

        Whoa, Slow your roll…I made the comment with tongue firmly in cheek. Hence, the “;)” because the Pope was quoted as saying it. A complete contrast in terms, and totally absurd concept.

  • pt8685

    As a traditional catholic, I am excited by this new pope and his challenge to my fellow catholics and the whole world to love one another as God loves us.

    Francis began his interview with the words “I am a sinner”. We catholics begin every mass with those same words: “I confess to almighty God and to you my brothers and sisters that I have gravely sinned.” That humility is the beginning of Christianity.

    Francis is reminding all of us that the Church must be a ‘hospital for sinners’, and God’s Devine Mercy is the spiritual cure available to those who come through our doors.

    Of course, it’s critical that the sick come to the hospital willing to be healed. This is the part our culture has the biggest problem with. Too often, we refuse to recognize our selfish behavior as sinful; or we know it’s a sin but refuse to change our ways. We want acceptance and love – the benefits of the cure – but we refuse to take the medicine: humility before God.

    All are welcome in our church, if they are willing to adopt the humility that Francis is showing us now, and that Benedict showed when he gave up the papacy.

    Those who expect the church to accept their sinful behavior will be disappointed, but they will find love and forgiveness if they humbled themselves before God, repent, and agree sin no more.

    Francis wants to open the church to the sinner so the sinner can be saved by God, not so the church can be saved by the sinner.

    • brettearle

      How, then, would you respond to the men and women who stave off the chance to find and discover Christ–because of the belief (and in some cases, first hand experiences) that there are radical proselytizers and self-righteous demagogues who shove Christianity down people’s throats, before they might even make serious inquiries?

      If you respond to my question, you might be tempted to say that my observation is an exaggerated myth.

      Well, such a perception must have come from somewhere, No?

      I’m not the only one who observes this phenomenon..

      • pt8685

        I’d say ignore them. It’s unfair to judge an entire religion of a billion people by the actions of those who call themselves Christians but fail to live as Christians.

        Christianity isn’t easy, and people looking or an easy moral philosophy to follow are looking for the wrong thing. Christ asks us to give up a lot of what we moderns value: conveniences, luxuries, comforts, and entertainments. He also asks sis to be better than we sometimes want to be: more generous, more forgiving, more hard working, more understanding, more humble, more selfless.

        I hope those you describe as hesitant will come back to the church. That’s what Francis is trying to accomplish by stressing the love of God over the judgement of His followers

  • geraldfnord

    A bigger tent, but the same circus. (…if a less bloody one than as used to obtain in Rome).

  • Michele

    Actually, I do know about the controversy. I also know that the men who sit on their butts in Rome know little of life on the front lines where most of the sisters practice their faith and try to help those in need. Rome sent them many requests to change indeed. Perhaps Rome is in need of change. Old men living in another era burying their heads in the sand. What faith are they protecting? The moral high ground gave way a long time ago. Moreover, all religions must evolve or they become irrelevant. Why are they SO afraid of the power of women? The Sisters have stated repeatedly that they want their voices to be heard not to mutely do the bidding of Rome. That’s seems reasonable and fair – all things on Earth are a compromise. The Church knows all about compromise.

  • anon

    I’m listening to the caller saying that she doesn’t care about doctrine because she already ignores it… and I wonder what it means for her to call herself a Catholic. A religion is a set of beliefs and practices; if you reject the beliefs, why consider yourself a follower of that religion?

    As another caller (I think it was a different caller) said, most Catholics are Catholic because their parents were. I left the Church myself, but there are a lot of people who don’t accept the beliefs and don’t practice but still call themselves Catholic as sort of a cultural label, I guess.

  • Peter Vas

    What is Vatican II? We keep hearing about it a lot, but a lot of us do not know much about it. What is the current Pope Francis doing to make it relevant to it’s original intent? I trace this trajectory of 50 years, in this trilogy:


  • ExcellentNews

    Pope Francis is just reminding us about the New Testament. Remember the bits where Jesus talks about loving your neighbor, the rich man vs the camel, or the “beam in your eye”? So, in that sense, he is just following his job description (vicar of Christ).

    IMHO, this Pope rocks! And hopefully, his message will be heard in the USA, where many Christians have been co-opted to serve the interests of the billionaire oligarchy by their crony politicians.

Sep 18, 2014
Flickr/Steve Rhodes

After a summer of deadly clashes between Gaza and Israel, we talk to Jews on the left and right about the future of liberal Zionism. Some say it’s over.

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Bob Dylan and Victor Maymudes at "The Castle" in LA before the 1965 world tour. Lisa Law/The Archive Agency)

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