The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Is the Pope Catholic? (Answer: Yes.)

Above, a melange of conservative pundits denouncing Pope Francis.

Meanwhile, this is harshing some liberals' mellow feelings toward Pope Francis:
Pope Francis met privately in Washington last week with Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who defied a court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, adding a new element to an American tour that saw Francis attract huge crowds and articulate left-leaning positions on poverty, immigration, the environment and inequality.

Vatican officials initially would not confirm that the meeting occurred, finally doing so on Wednesday afternoon, while refusing to discuss any details.

Ms. Davis, the clerk in Rowan County, Ky., has been at the center of a nationwide controversy over whether government employees and private businesses have a legal right to refuse to serve same-sex couples. She spent five days in jail for disobeying a federal court order to issue the licenses.

Kim Davis, the clerk for Rowan County in Kentucky, on her first day back to work after being released from jail earlier this month.Kentucky Clerk in Gay Marriage Dispute, Kim Davis, Joining G.O.P.SEPT. 25, 2015
Kim Davis, center, with her son, Nathan Davis, by her side, spoke on Monday outside the courthouse in Morehead,

On Tuesday night, her lawyer, Mathew D. Staver, said that Ms. Davis and her husband, Joe, were sneaked into the Vatican Embassy by car on Thursday afternoon. Francis gave her rosaries and told her to “stay strong,” the lawyer said. The couple met for about 15 minutes with the pope, who was accompanied by security guards, aides and photographers.

“I put my hand out and he reached and he grabbed it, and I hugged him and he hugged me,” Ms. Davis said Wednesday in an interview with ABC News. ‘Thank you for your courage.’”
To each side of this debate, I can only ask: What did you expect? Francis is not an American politician; he is the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, an ecclesial body that has strong, long-held views on subjects that do not fit the orthodoxy of either American political party, or of American polity in general.

As I acknowledged in a 2011 article about Anglo-Catholic theologian Charles Gore, Roman Catholic social teaching has been strongly pro-worker, critical of unfettered capitalism, and advocating for the poor since the late 19th Century when Pope Leo XIII issued Rerum Novarum 1 Encyclical on Capital and Labor (1891). Pope Benedict and John Paul II don't get credit for it, but they hewed to this line, too, and I've written elsewhere of the late Edward Cardinal Egan's impatience with dismissal of Catholic Social teaching by conservatives, as well as his pronounced distaste for America's Mideast exploits. It's true that Robert P. George shamefully sought to limit the bishops to "“making utter nuisances of themselves” about poverty and injustice, like the Old Testament prophets, as long as they did not advocate specific remedies," but what success he had there reflects poorly on him and the individual bishops who followed his lead. Neither John Paul II, Benedict, nor Francis backed away from the Church's social teaching.

Likewise, liberals need to take onboard that Francis is not one of us. I don't say that with dislike--I think Francis has been a success in changing the tone so that ecumenical dialogue is possible again, and so that disagreement need not poison relationships. But he has upheld the Church's traditional teaching on marriage, and I strongly suspect he will continue to do so. If he can--and this has not happened yet--convince the clergy and laity of the Roman Catholic Church to abate the hostility some--far from all--display toward their gay and lesbian brother and sisters, he will have again achieved something worth doing. because the status quo, with traditionalists and liberals locked into unproductive hostility gets in the way of the work of the Spirit. And that's where Francis is working. He's trying to turn down the temperature while remaining faithful to the truth as he sees it. That is, in itself, worth doing.

Look, if you believe in a Christianity that recognizes the love and ministry of those in same sex relationships, as an Episcopal Deacon, let me just say "The Episcopal Church welcomes you." As do several other churches. Pope Francis's traditionalism here isn't a surprise, or a betrayal. He was never our guy. And he's not the political conservative's guy, either. He's a good man, walking the Way by the light he has, one within the strictures and structures of the Roman Catholic Church. He's trying to do it in an irenic and community building way, one that damps down conflicts, and allows conversations to happen. And when that happens, the Holy Spirit has room to do wonderful things we can't predict.


Anonymous said...

For what little it may be worth, I was disheartened to learn of the Pope's secret meeting with Davis. Perhaps it is too concrete to believe this, but the truly "courageous" thing for her to was to quit her government job. That said, if her goal is solely to end abortion (and I wonder about this - dig the 10 book deal offers), then just staying at her post makes some sense, since she can then continue to refuse to DO her job and Varner publicity for the cause. One question: why do the local authorities not fire her? She is becoming a "hero" by disobeying the law of the land while the state pays her to do so. What if everyone in government facilities decided to Taylor their job performances to suit their own consciences. The Supreme Court's authority would be meaningless and chaos would prevail. If we're going to render powerless one part of one branch of gov't., let it be our useless Congress. The Pope stepped into one helluva complicated mess needlessly after a flawless visit to this country. My opinion is that it was a mistake.

Anglocat said...

I agree with your views on Davis herself. I use don't understand why people are surprised at the Pope supporting her. Yes, he tried to keep it on the down low, but it's consistent with his views on SSM, and his statements regarding civil disobedience by public servants on this very trip.

Was it a good move in garnering goodwill with those who disagree with him? No. Does it show any interest in American separation of church and state? Again, no.But it's entirely consistent with Pope Francis's known beliefs, so the surprise is what I find unwarranted.

Many thanks for your comment.

Anglocat said...

Oh, and Davis isn't a clerk, she's the clerk, so she can't be fired, only impeached. The legislature isn't in session, and the risk of political blowback also means that impeachment comes with costs.