Some Thoughts on the Pope

So Pope Francis has been running the show for about a month now. I think he’s done a splendid job so far! He managed to annoy the hell out of conservatives by washing the feet of juvenile prisoners who were a: female and b: Muslim. He’s also refused to live in the papal residences, doesn’t ride around in the Popemobile (if he can avoid it), mingles with the masses whenever possible, and generally seems to grok the whole humility thing. He even called the newspaper delivery man who delivered his papers when he lived in Argentina and canceled the service himself. The newspaper guy said that the pope, when cardinal, had always saved the rubber bands from around the newspapers and gave them back at the end of each month.

What are we to make of this man? I so far see him as a decent, humble man. A man who understands that he must set a better example for a church that has really lost its way over the last few years (in the sense that it ever had its way to begin with). He’s also a pragmatist, which I like. When Argentina was about to authorize gay marriage, he spoke out against it. While I disagree with him doing so, I do note that he offered the fallback option of allowing civil unions.

So I guess so far I’m pleased. I don’t expect big reforms from him or anything like that, but he does strike me as someone who could set the stage for reforms to come. I still loathe the Catholic church as a whole, but I do like this guy quite a bit, and that’s something.


Sully on the New Pope

Andrew Sullivan is a gay, HIV positive, conservative (UK-style) Catholic who has lately felt very detached from his church. He looked at the evils done by various people, and covered up by folks like Benny 16 and JP2 and was horrified, as any person of conscience would be. But now he, along with the rest of the world, get to look at Pope Francis, and he, along with myself and many others, are…well…hopeful.

The reports of [the Pope’s] press conference today suggest a radically new symbolism for the church. This kind of understanding of the diverse and multi-faith and multi-cultural modernity is something you would never have heard from Benedict XVI:

“Given that many of you do not belong to the Catholic Church, and others are not believers, I give this blessing from my heart, in silence, to each one of you, respecting the conscience of each one of you, but knowing that each one of you is a child of God. May God bless you.”

Respecting the conscience of each of you. That might seem to be the bleeding obvious – but it isn’t in the context of Benedict’s theological reign, which was far longer than his pontifical one. Benedict wanted to place conscience below revelation as authoritatively adjudicated by … himself. The central place of individual conscience established at the Second Council was left to wither in favor of a public, uniform religion. He seemed to me to want ultimately to restore the seamless cultural-political-religious unity of the Bavaria of his youth; and if the public square were empty, it had to be filled with religious authority. He tried. In the West, the public square moved in the opposite direction. He hunkered down, hoping for a smaller, purer church. What he got was a smaller one, but beset by scandal and internal division and a legacy of the most horrendous of crimes.

You can read the whole article here, though it might be paywalled to you. If it is, it’s worth plunking down the $20 a year for Sully’s writing. The man is good.

I’m still displeased by the Pope’s views on homosexuality, though at least he recognizes that gays are also people, which puts him a step ahead of many, and pretty much parallel to other men of his age. But there is, in this man, much that I can find to admire, even if I disagree with him on certain fundamental points.

Franciscum Pontificem Maximum Salutate!


We shall see. The cardinals have picked Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to be their new pope. He’s taken the papal name Pope Francis, becoming the first pope to use that name. I wish him the best of luck. He’s inheriting quite a mess.

As for what sort of pope I think he’s likely to be, well, we do know a few things about him. He’s not big on the gays, but he made headlines washing the feet of AIDS patients. We also know that he’s apparently a very humble, decent man, who moved out of the cardinal’s residence in Argentina and into a small apartment where he cooked his own meals. He’s also a Jesuit, he’s from Argentina and, beyond that, I don’t know much about him. I hope he’s better than Benny 16.

It’s also worth noting that, despite what CNN has said twice, Francis will not be the first non-European pope. Quite apart from Peter, there were also three African popes (Victor I, Miltiades, who may have been black, and Gelasius I). Francis is the first American pope, the first Latin American pope, the first South American pope, the first Jesuit pope, the first Francis, the first New World pope…but he is not the first non-European pope.

At any rate, I do hope that Francis winds up being everything that a humanist like me would hope for with a pope. Time will tell. It always does. Good luck, Francis!

Why It Matters

The cardinals are gathered in Vatican City to elect a new pope. Most of the people I know who aren’t Catholic say, “So what? Who cares? I’m not a Catholic. That doesn’t matter to me. Also, screw Lent. I need some chocolate!”

The problem is that no matter what your religion, or lack of same, it does matter who the next pope is. The pope wields considerable temporal power. If you doubt me, just as the various former Soviet satellite nations, especially Poland. While the pope may not have an actual, real army, the effect that he has on his people is enough to grant him a great deal of power over the affairs of the world.

This is especially true in places that haven’t yet learned to ignore the stupider things the Catholic church likes. Consider the case of Africa and Latin America. Both are marked by a very large Catholic population, and both are also marked by high birth rates and, in the case of Africa, a rampant AIDS epidemic. This is directly caused by the church’s inability to deal with the real world and understand that people will fuck, and not every time should produce a child. This is a real problem in these countries, as opposed to here in the USA, and other places like Australia and Western Europe where people have learned to pick and choose what they believe in their churches. This isn’t even touching on things like the rape of children and the marginalization of women, both of which I’m sure will continue full-bore (as it were), under whomever the new pope is.

So the pope does matter to non-Catholics. It matters if you don’t want children getting raped with impunity. It matters if you want women to have some control over their reproductive lives. It matters if you have any sort of interest in human development. It matters.

I hope the next pope is someone more modernizing than Benny 16, but this is unlikely, since he and JP2 picked, if I recall correctly, all the cardinals who are voting. But you never know. I guess we shall see in time.

Papam Non Habemus

Worst troll doll ever.

Worst troll doll ever.

The world is popeless, and all the better for it. Well, not technically popeless, as there are a couple other popes out there, but the Catholic one, Pope Gollum Pope Palpatine Pope Benedict XVI, aka Joe Ratzinger, aka Joey the Rat, has stepped down from office. Yes, we’re in what Christopher Hitchens liked to describe as one of those rare times when no one on Earth is infaliable, and as you can see from the tone here, I’m not above firing a few parting shots at the bastard as he flies off to “retirement”.

And make no mistake, this seems to very much be “retirement”, since he’s going to be called Pope Emeritus, will (eventually), live at the Vatican, be called “his Holiness”, wear everything he’s worn before except the Papal Ring and those stylish red shoes, and will be served by the exact same secretary who will also be serving the new pope. That won’t help but cast a shadow of suspicion over whoever ends up seated on the throne next.

Benny 16 must be classed as a failure pope (please note, that article I linked to is written by a Catholic), in almost every way possible. He came into office hoping to restore the power of the church in Europe, and left it in tatters, with the church severely wounded in his native Germany and collapsing like a house of cards in Ireland, the last major Catholic stronghold in Northern Europe. That, of course, is nothing compared with the child rape crimes that he helped cover up as head of what used to be called the Inquisition. There he went out of his way, under the direction of John Paul II, to do everything he could in order to protect the church, and not its young victims. Of course it’s a given that he’s also furthered the church’s stand against homosexuality, female ordination, married priests and condom use, even among married people to prevent HIV transmitting from one spouse to the other.

Whomever the next pope will be (and my guess is he will be a black African, making him the fourth African to hold the office), he’s likely to continue Benedict’s efforts at dragging the church kicking and screaming back to the time of St. Augustine. One part of me says good; further alienating the church from its members in Europe, North America, Australia and, increasingly, in South America is only to the benefit of the world. But the other part thinks it’s a pity that one of the oldest organizations in the world-an organization I famously disagree with and loathe (see also here, here, and here), on every level-is unable to evolve (something that the church believes in, btw), and focus on the benefits, both temporal and spiritual, that it gives its people.

But at least Benny 16 is officially gone, and thank goodness. The man will never face trial like I want him to, but resigning is the next best thing.

How to Be Pope

In several not-so-easy steps!

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So Long, You Obnoxious Fuck


Back on April 1, 2010, I posted up an article claiming that the Pope was going to resign. I also said that Superman was being sold to Marvel, but none of you bought that last part. Turns out I was accurate about the first claim, though I was a few years off.

Yes, Benny 16, aka Pope Palpatine, aka Pope Gollum, that ghoulish figure who used to run the modern day version of the Inquisition (no, really), has announced that he’s stepping down from his little throne. He’s the first pope to do so since 1415.

I have a few things to say about this. First off, good. The church needs someone who has at least a 20th century view of the world and not an 18th century one. They need someone with at least something close to a modern view of the world, and that’s something Benny 16 severely lacks.

Second, now that he’s going to be stepping down, can we stop pretending that he’s a world leader and arrest his ass? He’s directly responsible for helping to cover up the rapes of many, many children by no small number of priests. At the very least he’s got information that he needs to be sharing. At the very worst, he’s an accessory.

Third, while we’re on this note, can we please stop pretending the Vatican is its own country? Mussolini allowed them to be in return for the Catholic church supporting him. Mussolini. There’s the problem right there. Sure, they have a treaty saying they’re independent and all that, but that doesn’t mean we have to play along. We don’t recognize the existence of Taiwan as a country, and they sure as hell have a better claim to nationhood than the freaking Vatican.

All in all, I really hope the next pope is better than this piece of human garbage for whom I have absolutely zero respect. Also, I really hope the next pope picks the name Lando II, because awesome.