Saturday, October 24, 2015

Will Pope Francis Overrule The Haters in the Hierarchy?

The so-called synod on the Family at the Vatican continues to display open conflict between those who would moderate the Church's position on gays, divorced and remarried Catholics, and those who engage in cohabitation without marriage and those who want to maintain the rules of exclusion and denigration that are driving away Catholics in growing numbers in educated parts of the world.   The irony, of course is that by some estimates, 50% of the bitter old men in dresses at the Vatican are self-loathing closet cases who either (i) cannot let go on 12th century dogma, (ii) who want to keep others as miserable as they are themselves, or (iii) cannot overcome their own psycho-sexual dysfunctions.   The ultimate question, of course, is whether or not Pope Francis will use his imperial like authority to force change.  I would love to see change in the Church not because I would ever return to it, but instead so that fewer LGBT lives would be damaged or ruined by it.  The Washington Post looks at the ongoing infighting.  Here are highlights:

During a major summit of the Roman Catholic hierarchy that will end this weekend, a senior conservative bishop took the floor inside the Vatican’s assembly hall and promptly charged his liberal peers with doing the devil’s work.

The three-week gathering, known as a synod, has erupted into a theological slugfest over Pope Francis’s vision of a more-inclusive church, and it has displayed the most bitter and public infighting since the heady days of Catholic reform in the 1960s.

The pushback by traditionalists has been so strong that the chances of fast changes on contentious family issues — whether to offer Communion to divorced and remarried Catholics or to craft more-welcoming language for gays and lesbians — have substantially dimmed, if not died.

“Francis has the same problem that Obama had,” said the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a senior analyst for the National Catholic Reporter. “He promised the world, but Congress wouldn’t let him deliver. If nothing much comes of this synod, I think people will give the pope a pass and blame the bishops for stopping change.”

The 270 senior church officials, from 122 countries, are scheduled to finish voting on a final document by Saturday. But Francis has the last say, with the power to accept the synod’s recommendations, go beyond them or withhold judgment to encourage further debate.

Using his powers to go beyond the synod’s recommendations could rouse the wrath of conservatives, some of whom already are openly questioning the trajectory of his papacy. But if the final recommendation of the synod falls short of liberals’ hopes, ­rubber-stamping it or encouraging more debate could generate disappointment among Francis’s fans worldwide. They may begin to view him as a revolutionary only in gestures and words, not on substance.

If he agrees fully with the synod’s recommendations, “there might be a collapse of his popularity in world public opinion, but there might also be an increase of his popularity among Catholics,” said Massimo Franco, author of “The Crisis of the Vatican Empire” and a columnist at the Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

Even by Vatican standards, the level of drama at the synod has been extraordinary.

Francis still has not openly stated if, when and how he would like to see church policies altered. But his calls for a more merciful and open church, his pastoral outreach toward divorced and gay Catholics, and his decision to allow wide-ranging discussion at the synod have inspired leading church liberals to press for change.

Of the many measures under debate here, two have emerged as the most polemic.

One is whether to grant divorced and remarried Catholics, who are committing adultery in the church’s view, access to Communion. The other is the question of whether to offer a warmer welcome to gays and lesbians, including cutting references to being gay as “intrinsically disordered” from church teachings.

The divide is not just a liberal-conservative split; it is also geographic, with prelates in Africa, for instance, denouncing the “Eurocentric” and “Western” fixation with issues such as gay rights.

The vehemence of the backlash has shocked even some moderate conservatives, and it has suggested the rise of a tea-party-like faction of bishops within the hierarchy.

“Some of them are talking now like this is Armageddon,” Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, Australia, said in an interview with The Washington Post.

Some also have denounced the general sense of chauvinism hanging over the debates, in which only male clerics have voting rights.

Maureen Kelleher, an American nun serving in one of the non-voting roles at the synod, told the National Catholic Reporter that there were “times that I have felt the condescension so heavy, you could cut it with a knife.”

Speaking of women in general, she added: “I see a high level of non-acceptance of us as holding up half the sky.”

Ultimately, Francis' decision comes down to either killing reform and losing the West - which still bankrolls most of the Vatican's funds - and becoming an Africa centric church, or  embracing modernity and letting the Tea Party like faction to whine and shriek and at worse break away.   Either way, if I was Francis, I would be using a taster before I ate or drank anything.  There are few things more dangerous than angry, self-loathing closeted gays be they in the Church hierarchy or the Republican Party. 

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