Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Frank at Letters to the Catholic Right: Pope Francis Speaks, Catholic Right Responds, "Nothing New," Rinse, Repeat

Yesterday, I took a look at William J. Dohar's recent essay at Religion Dispatches which examines the implication of Pope Francis's question, "Who am I to judge?," for gay priests. I noted that Dohar finds that no U.S. Catholic bishop has been willing to stand with Francis and say unambiguously, "You know, the pope’s right.  Who are we to judge?"

Instead, as Dohar points out, the current president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, quickly beat a path to the media after Francis asked his question, to inform the media that there wasn't a thing in the world new about what the pope had said. He was followed by the former president of the USCCB, Cardinal Francis George, who made the astonishing claim that Pope Francis's question, "Who am I to judge?," "reaffirmed the teaching of the Catholic faith and other religions that homosexual genital relations are morally wrong."

And now here's Frank at his Letters to the Catholic Right blog site, asking, "Who Is Listening to Pope Francis?"

What’s the point of having a pope if every time he says something your response is "Yeah, yeah, we already knew that"? 
Anybody watching the months-old tenure of Pope Francis has figured out the pattern by now: 1) Pope says something provocative; 2) secular media thinks it means a change in Church teaching; 3) Catholic Right says "It’s nothing new!"; 4) Rinse, repeat.

Frank zeroes in on the behavior of Cardinal Francis George. As he notes, two months after Pope Francis delivered his homily in which he said that atheists, too, are redeemed by Christ's blood and in which he stressed the stressed the importance of encountering the "other," of meeting each other doing good, Cardinal Francis George decides to pull the plug on Chicago archdiocesan support for the Illinois Coalition for and Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

Why? The Coalition supports marriage equality. 

The pope states in his homily about encountering the other and doing good, "But do good: we will meet one another there." But Cardinal George, as Frank points out:

That seems to me to be the opposite of what Cardinal George is doing in Illinois; rather than meeting the Coalition board in its good work, rather than recognizing the best in them, he’s emphasizing their difference and what he sees as their error. And he’s refusing to do good with them.   

Frank (who's not Roman Catholic, but Episcopalian, by the way) concludes that Pope Francis is doing some wonderful and different things, but certain segments of the Catholic church seem "too wrapped up in finding continuity to pay attention to them." And he's absolutely correct.

The photo of Frank and his wife and daughter is from his Scholarly Texan blog.

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