I love Pope Francis.
In the yearly held Synod, and on the night of Saturday October 18, Pope Francis has lost his first battle to the conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church, and this by putting controversial issues on the table. He needed two thirds of the votes. 118 voted with, 62 against. A loss by two votes.
Regarding gays and same sex marriage, Pope Francis proposed that “men and women of homosexual tendencies must be welcomed [to the Church] with respect and sensitivity” following the Popes saying “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?”
Concerning divorced people, he was reconsidering whether “Catholics who have divorced and remarried should be allowed to take Holy Communion”
In addition, Pope Francis removed hell from the equation and acknowledged that all men are sons of God and thus equal in the eyes of the Lord. The Catholic Christians exclusivity of God has finally fallen.
Who are we to judge?
As it seems, most clerics just cannot get over their mental limitation or their comfort zones by being open to new ideas. “God is not afraid of new things” said Pope Francis. By remaining conservatives, they believe they are protecting the Church! But protecting the Church from what? From whom?
To start with, clerics seem to have a strong hold against gays and divorced people. Shouldn’t they be working harder against pedophiles from their own gender? Haven’t they learned through the thousands of years that new ideas will always find a way and win over old and outdated philosophies same as Science always won over religion and freedom always won over oppression?
Hegel wrote saying that Giordano Bruno’s life represented “a bold rejection of all Catholic beliefs resting on mere authority.” We will talk about Bruno later.
To summarize, “Catholic beliefs rests on mere authority.”
Just to give a brief picture of what we are talking about, let us see the following quote:
“Anyone who attempts to construe a personal view of God which conflicts with Church dogma must be burned without pity.”
– Pope Innocent III (I personally believe he is guilty)
And we shall continue: in 1244, the ’Council of Narbonne’ declared that when sentencing heretics, “no husband should be spared because of his wife, nor wife because of her husband, or parent in consideration of helpless children…” It goes more, but we will stop here.
We follow with the arrests, torture and “barbeques” that many scientists and philosophers faced. We can provide a brief list of those we all know most:
- Copernicus, who was afraid to publish his view of the heliocentric word, where he displays that it is the earth and planets that orbit around the sun and not the other way around. Copernicus asked for his book “De revolutionibus” to be published after his death, by the fear of being prosecuted and branded heretic. In 1616, the Church considered the book as dangerous and was listed within the ‘index of prohibited books’ until 1835.
- Giordano Bruno! Martyr for Science. The guy bypassed by far the ‘Copernican’ model. He anticipated that the ‘stars’ were just ‘suns’ like ours, and that as such they can also be ‘surrounded by their own planets’. He went further by proposing the possibility that these planets could have life of their own. He pushed the envelope even further by saying that the universe is in fact infinite and as such no celestial body can be considered as being at its “center”. Bruno was arrested, and as he refused to confess, he was tortured and then finally barbequed over a slow fire (burned at the stake). Bruno‘s case is considered today as a landmark in the history of “free thought”.
- Galileo, known as ‘the father of science’, was put under house arrest because he promoted Copernicus’ heliocentric theory. Many of his other contributions to science were due to his invention of the telescope and seeing the wordl from a new angle never seen before. These contributions contradicted scientific and philosophical ideas based on those of Aristotle that formed the basis of the Catholic beliefs. This contradiction meant that Catholic grounds no longer stand. Bruno forsaw that hence his comment “Catholic beliefs rests on mere authority.” In 1616, the Inquisition declared that heliocentrism is formally heretical. Galileo was ordered to refrain from holding, teaching or defending heliocentric ideas. For his publication of ”Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems” in 1632, Galileo was questioned in the same rooms where Giordano Bruno was questioned and kept under house arrest until he was dead in 1642
Galileo and Bruno’s crime was the promotion of concepts that conflicted with the church beliefs which have since been proved wrong for the Church and right for the heretics.
And that was not all. Those were mere subjects. The Church went even further. The Church is responsible for many crimes against humanity.
The Black Years
Starting the 12th century, and in order to combat heresy, the Roman Catholic Church created what is called “the Inquisition”, which remained active until the early 19th century.
We all know what the inquisition is, and what it did, but we don’t know ‘how much’ it did!
With the Inquisition:
- Jews were known as pogroms and were subjected to violent attacks. Many were killed and others isolated in ghettos. Many Jews converted to Catholicism. These converts were sometimes called marranos (“pigs”) and accused of secretly continuing to practice Judaism and were prosecuted. Of course, all Jewish fortune was confiscated bu the Church.
- When Spain conquered Granada (a region populated mostly by Muslim Moors) in the late 15th century, Muslims suffered opposition and persecution similar to that of the Jews, until they were banished in 1502. Those who converted to Catholicism were called Moriscos (Spanish for “Moorish”) and were targeted for the same reasons as Jewish converts.
- In the late 16th century, Protestants, mainly Lutherans, also became the target of the Inquisition.
- All who went against the Church’s teaching was tried either as heretic or witchcraft.
Back on track
In 1998, Pope John Paul II addressed the International Symposium on the Inquisition. He stated that “The Inquisition belongs to a tormented phase in the history of the Church, which Christians [should] examine in a spirit of sincerity and open-mindedness.”
At last, an open-minded Pope!
In the course of his papacy, JPII made many apologies. He apologized to Jews, to Galileo, to women, to people convicted by the Inquisition, to Muslims killed by the Crusaders and to almost everyone who had suffered by the Catholic Church over the years.
- He apologized for the conquest of Mesoamerica by Spain in the name of the Church
- In October 1992, he apologized for the legal process on the Italian scientist and philosopher Galileo Galilei around 1633.
- On August 1993, he apologized for the Catholics’ involvement with the African slave trade.
- In May 1995, he apologized for the role of the Church in burnings at the stake and the religious wars that followed the Protestant Reformation
- Also in May 1995, in a “letter to women”, he apologized for the injustices committed against women, the violation of women’s rights and for the historical denigration of women.
- In March 1998, he apologized for the inactivity and silence of many Catholics during the Holocaust
- In December 1999, he apologized for the execution of Jan Hus (1415) by acknowledging that “independently of the theological convictions he defended, Hus cannot be denied integrity in his personal life and commitment to the nation’s moral education.“
- In March 2000, and “during a mass of Pardons”, he apologized for the sins of Catholics throughout the ages for violating “the rights of ethnic groups and peoples”, and contempt for their cultures and religious traditions
- He also apologized for the actions of the Crusader attack on Constantinople in 1204.
- Finally, and on November 20, 2001, using a laptop in the Vatican, he sent his first e-mail apologizing for the Catholic sex abuse cases, the Church-backed “Stolen Generations” of Aboriginal children in Australia, and to China for the behavior of Catholic missionaries in colonial times
By just reading JPII’s apologies we can see the atrocity of the Catholic Church. When discussing such issues, people used to tell me that these actions are exceptions and those doing it were a minority. I cannot but reply that this is not true, the minority cannot rule for 700 years and more. Those were the majority. People like Pope JPII and Pope Francis are the minority. These are the people who are truly putting the Church back on track, because the Church is not the stone, nor the faith, nor the dogma. The Church is the persons who make it.
Maybe the conservatives should remember Jesus words: “I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners.” (Luke 5:32)
So if the church cannot accept gays and/or divorced men, among others, what is the purpose of its existence?
God is mercy. God is love. God is great, so great that he does not want to be involved in our childish personal issues. Yes! Because no matter how we act, no matter how geniuses we can be, we remain childish and even less, compared to His wisdom.
We are all part of God. He created us all, and still He remains infinitely greater than the sum of all of us. He created us all on His image. Man or woman, black or white, sick or healthy, rich or poor, straight or gay… We are all part of His creation, and He created each one of us the way He needs each one of us to be.
So who are we to question His authority?
Well, I personally am not questioning his authority, so I rephrase my question: Who are you to question His authority?
What pope Francis is trying to do is to level the Church with the third millenium. Pope Francis understood that the current trend does not feed people’s needs and is trying to improve the Church/parishioners relation.
For all of the above and more, this is why I love Pope Francis.
By Albert Zakhia