YAKIMA, Wash., March 24, 2013 – Now is a time when American Catholics are hopeful for a major shift in Catholic doctrine.
By now the entire world knows the Catholic Cardinals have elected a new Pope, Pope Francis I. For the 1.2 billion Catholics this is the season of renewal, the time to bring in the new, sweep out the old, and celebrate a new season, namely spring and welcome a new Pope.
He personifies a breath of fresh spring air. Pope Francis I’s peaceful presence and demeanor gives everyone the feeling that the Church is about to start anew, on a fresh exodus from recent scandals and the rigidity of the centuries’ old Scriptures.
American Catholics are included in this optimistic about this possible change.
The Catholic Church has been rocked by countless worldwide accusations of sex abuse by a host of priests. Most of the abuses took place long years ago, but some persist, right up to the present. The Church was not forthcoming and was slow to acknowledge these sins of its priesthood. Why?
Are the multitudes confused about protecting of the Church with one of the main ecclesiastical doctrines the cardinals and bishops (those responsible for their dioceses), where those heinous crimes were committed? You must remember these leaders are steeped in Divine laws, laws that are based on the Holy Scriptures, which preach forgiveness.
Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), considered by the Catholic Church as the greatest of theologians and philosophers, authored Summa Theologiae and Summa Contra Gentiles. These treatises are studied by all who enter the priesthood and become their foundation for conducting their ministries. In these works are defined the differences between human law and divine law. Human laws are laws applied by governments on societies. Divine laws are ones based on The Holy Scriptures of the Church, dating back thousands of years.
The scriptures of the Church preach forgiveness of sins. Trained to be compassionate, the Church leaders mistakenly discounted the need to deal with the human laws and chose to forgive the offenders. How the new Pope will deal with this issue remains to be seen, but everyone both inside and outside the Church hopes he will find an auspicious solution.
While all American Catholics want the Pope to mitigate the sex abuse scandals, they also have many other issues they feel need acknowledgement. These include: abortion, contraception, same-sex marriage, allowing priests to marry, and women’s role in the Church. All viewed by American Catholics as needing attention by the Vatican.
American Catholics want a less rigid adherence to The Scriptures.
They also want a Church that is more tolerant, a Church more understanding of American society and culture, a Church that is more progressive. Yes, well, good luck with that all you American Catholics.
The Roman Catholic Church is immutable.
Any changes in Church doctrine will come unhurried and be deliberately gradual. The Church isn’t intended to be progressive—it’s intended to be the benchmark of conduct for the world. It’s intended to be “The Rock” on which people of any age can turn to for moral and spiritual guidance. I think most American Catholics miss this point.
Pope Francis I in his first days as Pope has already indicated what the future of the Church will be when he said the Church needs to return to the Holy Scriptures. The Scriptures are very clear about abortion and contraception—Scripture condemns these activities.
These are core values of the Church, and it would be surprising if Pope Francis I modified them in anyway.
Pope Francis I took Saint Francis of Assisi as his namesake for a reason. Saint Francis preached that people need to improve themselves before going out into the world. The new Pope will not preside over the relaxing of the ban on abortion, nor see contraception as improving oneself.
Allowing priests to marry is contrary to thousands of years of history. Plus scripture calls for a priest to be married to the Church. There doesn’t seem to be much wiggle room at this point in time for easing the ban on the priesthood being celebrate or being able to marry.
Woman’s role in the Church might be where some small changes may be made. This Pope has the insight and ability to define how a woman’s position could be elevated within the Church. At best, it would probably be a small concession, one with enormous ramifications.
Our new Pope is a man of simplicity, a “people-person” who worries about the poor and the infirmed. He has a charismatic personality that attracts a multitude of people. This will enable him to deal with the multifaceted issues that confront our Church today.
With time, the hopeful future of the Church will be shown through this spiritual and simple man of God, Pope Francis I. American Catholics need to demonstrate a devout and pious patience.
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