Will Pope Francis’ Papacy Be Transformative? And How Do We Define That Word?

By Donald A. Collins | 13 March 2014
Church and State

Pope Francis waves to the crowd as he drives around St Peter’s Square ahead of his first weekly general audience as pope on March 27, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. (Photo: Christopher Furlong / Getty Images)

March 13, 2014 marks the first year of Pope Francis’ tenure and a number of puff pieces about his marvelous start have appeared in all the main stream media.

Today I happened to catch most of an interview about his year moderated by Charlie Rose on our local WETA with a priest, who is the Notre Dame President, another priest who is the Editor of “America”, the main Catholic magazine and a woman theology professor from Princeton.

Rose, the consummate questioner, was his moderate appearing self as always, but he did not fail twice in the part I saw to raise the question of where the Vatican might go on abortion, contraception and gay rights.

Those subjects seemed to me to make the two priests look like two deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car!

Boy, we heard them repeatedly extol Francis’ humility, his feel for the poor, and his big plans to change the corrupt Curia. The ND prexy projected that his papacy might even be “transformative”, if, at 76, Francis lives long enough.

While they did admit that regaining credibility after the horrific pedophile scandals was going to be difficult, Francis they said has brought love and the main messages of Jesus forward with great Christian force.

Of course this assumes that a increasingly number of us in this scientifically zooming age will want to believe in the Virgin Birth, the resurrection from the dead, life after death and all the myths created by the New Testament, which the alleged billions of Catholics are supposed to.

In my lifetime, I have met so many former Catholics, that I assume the many who only go to church on Easter or belong for social and/or business reasons make that huge number of claimed devotees even softer.

The real tests of whether this Pope is transformative are several, but I was particularly persuaded by the words of Edd Doerr, President of Americans for Religious Liberty, who posted these comments on line on March 6th with the Washington Post.

The real test of Francis’ papacy will be if he has the courage and wisdom to rescind the Vatican’s ban on contraception, locked into place by Pope Paul VI in 1968 against the advice of the vast majority of his own advisors. The contraceptive ban and the Vatican’s decades of powerful interference with international efforts to make contraception universally available has been responsible for the deaths of many tens of thousands of women worldwide, a large portion of the more than 40 million abortions per year worldwide, and a staggering amount of the poverty affecting billions. The Vatican cannot pontificate loudly about abortion when it itself is largely responsible for the high abortion rate.

The Vatican’s anti-contraception stance has also contributed to the over-population, climate change, environmental degradation, resource depletion, soil erosion, deforestation, desertification, water shortages, bio-diversity shrinkage, and socio-political instability and violence crises that are threatening civilization itself.

The ball is in Francis’ court. With a stroke of his pen, he can earn the gratitude of the whole world.

Mr. Doerr, I would not go so far as to give the behavior of the Vatican and its world wide octopus of power complete credit for the list you offer. And I gather you would not either. Indeed, let’s be ecumenical and admit that the other major male dominated monotheistic sects such as Islam certainly have had a major hand in exacerbating the looming crises affecting planetary survival which you list.

But without doubt, the initial corrective action on the use of modern contraceptives which you suggest by this new pope could be transformative indeed!

Of course most Catholic women use modern contraceptives now, basically disregarding the Vatican’s advice. Much more relevant would be for Francis to embrace choice, which again simply would offer women a safe option instead of forcing the poorer among them to seek dangerous services as several high profile cases recently have revealed.

The concept of basic human rights for all needs radical redefining by these religions. In so doing remarkable progress can ensue. And occur at a rapid enough pace to avoid the dire results bearing down on the entire planet as we add perhaps 4 billion more humans to our present 7 billion plus by the year 2100.

The great Martin Luther King in his historic speech in 1963 on the Washington National Mall cried, ‘Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last.’, but clearly it was not God Almighty who made the immense progress on race relations possible. It was heroes like King, many who were virtually unsung, who forced our laws to apply equally to people of every color, after more than 100 years from the time our Founding Fathers signed our Constitution and its Bill of Rights.

Let us pray, secularly of course, that it won’t take Francis or his antiquated institution that long to do the right thing about contraception and all the basic human rights which should apply equally to reproduction and partner selection.

Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC., has spent over 40 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013.

From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013

By Donald A. Collins
Publisher: Church and State Press (July 30, 2014)
ASIN: B00MA40TVE
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