From The Daily Beast, April 16, 2013, “With his unscheduled strolls, humble abode, and inmate feet kissing, people thought Francis might be a wild new pope, but when it comes to feminist nuns he’s staying the course set by his predecessor. The Vatican said in a statement that Francis reaffirmed the criticism of U.S. nuns made under Benedict XVI, which accused them of promoting “radical feminist themes” and ignoring the Vatican’s opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion. “It seems like the Vatican has put a more appealing salesman in charge of the same old product,” the author of a book on the clash with the nuns says. (Read it at Los Angeles Times)”
Surprised? If so, why? Pope Francis is the leader of a 2000 year old institution built around certain core values contained in, as the author says, “the same old product.” Should we be surprised that a Cardinal who came up under Popes John Paul and Benedict would espouse the same doctrines? And wouldn’t it make sense that his personal faith embodies the values of the religious institution he leads.
By way of review, the Roman Catholic church teaches it was founded by Jesus when he appointed Peter the first Pope by saying, “thou are Peter and upon this rock I shall build my church.” The church also teaches that Jesus was the divine Son of God and that its core values were taught by him. In addition, God is omniscient, so “He” doesn’t make mistakes. Given all this, why would a new Pope do anything other than sell “the same old product,” if he believes that product came from God?
Please understand, dear reader, I’m not commenting on the truth of the propositions I just articulated. In fact, I’m an instrumentalist philosophically, so I try to refrain from arguing for or against the truth of a proposition. I’m only interested in its instrumentality, or utility if you prefer. And I cannot argue with the proof of the pudding, the Roman Catholic church has been around for about two millennia and currently stands at 1.2 billion members. This would lead me to believe that its doctrines are very utilitarian for lots of folks.
But here’s the fun part; you are not required to believe those doctrines if you are not a member. Even some members don’t believe all the doctrines. And fortunately for us, we’ve arrived at a time in humankind’s evolution, at least in America, when we are not required to believe anything religious if we so choose. (Even though there are factions in America trying to change this as I write this.)
At this point I want to bring the German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche to my aid. Against positivism saying there are only facts, he said, “no, it is precisely facts that do not exist, only interpretations.”
So the continuing argument that gives birth to thousands of Christian churches, branches, sects, and synods is an argument about interpretations. Arguing the truth of an interpretation has always been a slippery slope. We simply need to review the history of religious wars and persecutions to see the evidence.
That said, where am I going with this? First and foremost look to your own heart for your interpretation of right and wrong. If they fit with the teachings of the Catholic church, then by all means, join it. If not, don’t. But to expect the new leader of the oldest Christian institution on the planet to reject its core values doesn’t make much sense to me.
It would be like a newly appointed CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation telling his board that he just doesn’t believe in profits.