RevChris is a sucker for flowing robes and regal displays of grandeur, but as the world’s eyes were glued to the Vatican, RevChris’ thoughts turned elsewhere…
Habemus Papam, with those words the world was introduced to the new Pope and bishop of Rome, formally Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio now Pope Francis.
There’s not much I can tell you here that you either aren’t already familiar with or couldn’t read elsewhere but one thing I can say is that I was rather caught up in recent goings on at the Vatican.
They say that if the Roman Catholic Church was a corporation, it would not only be the world’s largest, but also the oldest. It should come as no surprise then that the Catholics know how to turn it on and party like it’s the year 325 (the year of the Council of Nicaea for those of you playing at home).
I would be lying if I said that this Anglican didn’t feel a touch jealous of our Catholic brothers and sisters, hanging out in their own City/Country, living it up in the lime-light of the media and dressed splendidly in their robes, but one thing did bring me quickly back down to earth. What happens once the smoke has cleared and the Cardinals return home? What happens when the Pilgrims have left the Vatican and world’s media return to their normal broadcast? What happens when the regal nature of the event wears off and its time for the day to day grind, what then?
Well, to be blunt (and perhaps even to generalise), the Roman Catholic Church will continue to deny equal rights to Women, continue to marginalise, ostracize and even victimise LGBTQ people, continue to assert that a woman must continue pregnancy with no thought or concern for her wellbeing be it emotional, spiritual or indeed physical. The Roman Catholic Church will continue to be a major holder of the world’s wealth while at the same time lamenting the poverty that is all too common in this world, they will continue to move slowly in areas of sexual abuse but manage to be lightning fast to point out everyone else’s perceived sexual abominations. Simply put, the Church remains the same and an opportunity for growth, grace and bridge building will likely go by un-noticed and unappreciated.
Now, I know that there will be Catholics out there who do care about Women’s rights and the welfare of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters etc, and just as I don’t like to be lumped into a pile with conservative Anglicans, I am sure that you don’t want to lumped into a pile with conservative Roman Catholics and I am truly sorry for doing that. I cannot give a reason for the generalisations except to say that while the above may not be the views of individual Roman Catholics, it is a matter of fact that these are the views of the institutional Roman Catholic Church and it is my opinion that they are wrong.
This isn’t just a piece by an Anglican slinging dirt at the competition, but it is an attempt to bring the focus of the events of the past month or so back to where they should have been all along, the people. I am a part of a Church with considerable wealth, indeed I am an alumni of a Theological College that has behind it a trust fund worth the better part of $350 million so I appreciate that the the finger also points directly back at me and my faith tradition in some respects too. But I am also a part of a Church where I can write and say what I feel called to say without fear of being censured by someone who doesn’t even live in the same country as me. I am a part of a Church that believes that men AND woman are called to serve God in ordained ministry. I am a part of a Church that says the most important thing is that all God’s children have life and indeed, have it abundantly. That means that we accept that no one knows a woman’s body better than herself, that where there is risk of disease and death it is God’s preference that you look after life and health rather than being concerned that you are wasting ‘seed’. It means that we believe that what we do unto the least of these we do unto Christ.
I’m not anti-Catholic, but I am anti anything that puts dogma and perceived religious taboos above that of the wellbeing of people, especially those people that already suffer.
Funnily enough, recently, I was watching a broadcast by Fulton Sheen who was a bit of a Televangelist in his day and coincidentally a Roman Catholic Archbishop. In his broadcast he quoted an Anglican priest by the name of Geoffrey Kennedy who wrote the following poem:
When Jesus came to Golgotha, they hanged Him on a tree,
They drove great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary;
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns, red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days, and human flesh was cheap.
When Jesus came to Birmingham, they simply passed Him by.
They would not hurt a hair of Him, they only let Him die;
For men had grown more tender, and they would not give Him pain,
They only just passed down the street, and left Him in the rain.
Still Jesus cried, ‘Forgive them, for they know not what they do, ‘
And still it rained the winter rain that drenched Him through and through;
The crowds went home and left the streets without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against a wall, and cried for Calvary.
What this poem is talking about is apathy. It is saying that the problem faced by the Church, Roman Catholic, Anglican or whoever, is a serious case of apathy, so serious in fact that we not only fail to see injustice but actively ignore it. This is the challenge for Pope Francis, to encourage his Church and all churches to not only be with Christ transfigured and glorified, but to also dwell with him when he is lost, lonely and downcast.