“The Gospel is Not the Ancien Regime”

Pope Francis was in the news again yesterday, but the coverage was almost entirely about his acknowledgment of a “gay lobby” inside the Vatican. That story is less about sexual preference per se, more about power–or, as the NYT story rightly noted, “blackmailability,” and the Pope’s wise-as-serpent-innocent-as-dove way of managing to “cut the issue down to size, ” in the words of Alberto Melloni of the John XXIII Foundation in Bologna. By making a fairly bland-sounding acknowledgment of the obvious, Francis has signaled that other issues–such as unjust human suffering–are really more important.

Almost as interesting to me was the photo of Francis sitting in a circle of six men and women religious (non-ordained women and men). What’s missing? Nuns in regular clothes, no head covering, chatting with a pope! The Pope said nuns should expect threatening letters from the Vatican office formerly known as the Inquisition, but–yes he did say this–hey, stuff happens, don’t let it bother you, explain what you have to explain and move on! (source is Chilean website Reflexion y Liberacion)  He also criticized two “currents” in the 21st-century Roman Catholic church for trying to rehabilitate ancient inauthentic forms of faith: the “pelagian current” bent on restoration to the ways of Francis’s teenage years, which he lampooned by telling of one antimodern group that offered him the “spiritual treasure” of “3,525 rosaries” after his election this March; and a “gnostic current,” which he satirized with the story of a mother superior who encouraged the sisters to “give themselves a spiritual bath in the cosmos” in place of morning prayer. Tell us what you really think for a change. Francis said there is no way he could reform the Vatican bureaucracy himself because “I’m very disorganized.” But no worries, he has appointed an eight-member council of cardinals to kick butt and take names. Could be a bumpy and interesting ride.

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