Tag Archives: Pope Francis

The Christian does no harm even to his foe. — Tertullian

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In Christianity what is the appropriate response to aggression backed by force? There are, of course, the simple precepts found in the gospels to “turn the other cheek” and “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” but does this necessarily rule out the use of force to deter such an act of aggression? On August 18, 2014, Pope Francis addressed this question in commenting on attacks perpetrated by ISIS against ethnic and religious minorities in Syria and Iraq. He endorsed the prospect of a United Nations intervention, noting:

In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor […] I underscore the verb ‘stop.’ I’m not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ just ‘stop.’ And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated. […] After World War II, the idea of the United Nations came about: It’s there that you must discuss, ‘Is there an unjust aggression? It seems so. How should we stop it?’ Just this. Nothing more.”(Business Insider)

The Vatican’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, clarified the Pope’s comment, stating, “Maybe military action is necessary at this moment.” (Business Insider) Is this standpoint consistent with Christian teachings?

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“Capitalism itself is not to be condemned. And surely it is not vicious of its very nature, but it has been vitiated.” — Pope Pius XI (1857-1939)

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Pope Francis continues to raise eyebrows with his public pronouncements, the most recent coming from the publication of his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, in which he criticizes “an economy of exclusion and inequality.” (Evangellii Gaudium) In news reports discussing the publication of Evangelli Gaudium, it is said Pope Francis calls “unfettered capitalism tyranny and urges rich to share wealth.” (Guardian) This led to mixed responses, which is not at all surprising. President Obama cited a portion of the document–seemingly in agreement with Pope Francis–in a speech on inequality in US society, observing “some of you may have seen just last week the pope himself spoke about this at eloquent length. How can it be, he wrote, that it’s not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points. But this increasing inequality is most pronounced in our country. And it challenges the very essence of who we are as a people.” (as cited in SALON) A far less temperate response was delivered by the conservative pundit, Rush Limbaugh, who retorted, “This is the president citing the pope, his new best friend, because the pope is ripping America, the pope [is] ripping capitalism… and Obama’s having an orgasm. Jeremiah Wright is beside himself. Jeremiah Wright thought he was Obama’s preacher, now [the] pope somehow has co-opted Obama.” (as cited in SALON) Continue reading

“Accumulating orthodoxy makes it harder year-by-year to be a Christian than it was in Jesus’ day.” ― Brian D. McLaren

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When I started school, grade one to be precise, in Frontenac County in 1967 religious instruction was still part of the public school curriculum. While my family was Roman Catholic at the time, my mother and father were public school supporters. I recall every morning my teacher, Miss Boss, would read us a Bible story as part of our morning opening exercises. One of the first stories I remember she read to us was that of the parable of the Good Samaritan. At the time the nuances of the story were lost on me; it served as a basic moral lesson for me and my classmates that the Samaritan had done the right thing in helping the injured man, unlike the Priest and the Levite. Likewise so should we if confronted with a similar circumstance. It was not until many years later when I was a student at Queen’s University that I came to understand the story and the moral more fully. Continue reading

Tell the Devil to go to Hell

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Tell the devil to go to hell,” good advice given to me by a priest who heard my confession at St. Mary’s Cathedral. I was a student at Queen’s University and practicing Roman Catholic in the 1980s. My confessor was speaking figuratively, of course. Neither he nor I believed to “tell the devil to go to hell” involves addressing the creature sporting horns, a tail and cloven hooves. The devil in the context of our discussion was a metaphor for humanity’s evils. What my confessor told me is that I should heed the dictates of my conscience in choosing to good and avoid doing evil. What made me think of this was thoughts shared by Pope Francis in a sermon, in which he intimated that atheists are redeemed. That is, they do not face damnation when they choose to do good and avoid doing evil. This sermon raises an interesting point. I understood that in practicing Roman Catholicism, redemption and sanctification is granted via the grace of God through faith in Christ. I am no longer a practicing Roman Catholic, though not an atheist. I am a Deist. I listen to the dictates of my conscience in trying to do good and avoid doing evil, in effect telling the devil to go to hell, and until hearing the news of Pope Francis’ homily, understood, from the perspective of Catholic teaching, I am putting my soul at risk of damnation. Continue reading

Scripture, Tradition and Reformation

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Recently, Mika and I attended a meeting of gay and lesbian Catholics. Several people of all ages were in attendance. We had a very interesting discussion and it was very nice meeting these people. Among those present was a young gay man, Jesse, who has faith in Christ and the Roman Catholic Church. Jesse, like so many gay people, just wants to find conjugal love and companionship with someone who happens to be the same sex. Jesse took the time to write a heartfelt letter to Pope Francis, explaining who he is, that he is gay, leading a very normal life, hoping to have married life with a man someday and asking for acceptance in the Church. He expressed some concern he might face excommunication for what he wrote, but we assured him this is not very likely. What he can realistically expect is a polite reply from the appropriate branch of the Vatican bureaucracy thanking him for his letter and reminding him that as Roman Catholic it is expected that he abstain from sex outside of marriage. That the Church does not accept same sex relationships at present leaves him in a bind.
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