Rosemary Ganley The Peterborough Examiner November 26, 2020
It’s a hard thing to be in a position such as I am today: a fan in many respects of the leadership shown by Pope Francis, the Argentine pastor and a brainy Jesuit too, who has been head of the Roman Catholic Church for seven years.
At the same time, I am a sharp critic of his major blind spot, which is really a big one, regarding gender, women and sexuality.
The man is, as we say in Jamaica, very vexing, all taken together.
One’s head spins. Last week, he was quoted in a film called “Francesco” as accepting “civil unions” for LGBTQ2 people, a huge progressive step forward. It is getting a thunderous rejection from traditionalists, even among his own bishops. But it is completely the right thing to do and shows his profound pastoral side.
Yet the Vatican, which perhaps has him trapped, is “walking the statement back” in a letter to the world’s bishops.
I also applaud his two important letters; the one five years ago entitled “Laudato Si” (Praise to You”), a quote from his favourite saint, Francis of Assisi. That work was hailed by scientists all over the world. The respected environmentalist Bill McKibben of 350.org recently quoted it again.
Based on solid scientific evidence, which the Pope acquired from scientists he brought in to advise him, it focused on the cultural, ethical and spiritual aspects of the climate crisis, appropriate for a religious leader. He used the term “integral ecology” because he wanted to jointly hold up the earth and the human, both in distress.
“Laudato Si” remains a key modern exhortation, widely hailed around the “secular” world as timely, preceptive and profound. To the everlasting shame of the middle management of his church of 1.2 billion people, it never got the exposure at the grassroots which it should have. A faithful parish member shouldn’t have to go online to www.vatican.va and dig up important statements from the supreme leader. These gentlemen-bishops should never assume their posts without teacher education in their resumes.
Now comes his long letter, Oct. 3, about social friendship and the deep divisions in societies, called “Fratelli Tutti,” in Italian, “Dear brothers.”
Oh dear, the exclusively masculine language again: he could so easily have added “Sorori” (sisters), too. A few good women in his circle would have helped him avoid such an error, which deeply offends modern sensibilities. He quoted no women at all.
It is a long letter, fully 40,000 words and easily readable. No country is mentioned by name, but the slide of America toward authoritarianism was clearly on the Pope’s mind. He feels the pandemic has laid bare the inequalities and injustices of our world.
Francis has developed a remarkable friendship with the grand Imam of the mosque in Cairo, and it is this inter-spiritual context he speaks from. “Laudato Si” taught that everything is connected, and this letter asserts that everyone is connected too.
Interestingly, the letter condemns capital punishment and does away with the long Catholic tradition of the “just war.”
Then in a small but significant step on Oct. 26, Pope Francis announced 13 new cardinals the men who will elect his successor. The bishop of Washington, a Black man named Wilton Gregory, was named to the group. He stood up to criticize Donald Trump after that photo op in front of a church when the president awkwardly held a bible.
But virtue begins at home, and the Vatican is rife with rivalries, power struggles, financial funny business, unresolved pedophilia scandals and obtuseness in regard to the needs of its members.
One sympathetic critic, the Franciscan Sister Ilia Delio, wrote with sorrow that the Pope speaks to the world because he is not heard at home.
He could, before his end, appoint women cardinals, rescind several damaging teachings about human sexuality and let some fresh air in.
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