Going The New Pope’s Way Still Undermines Our Precious Secular Freedoms

By Donald A. Collins | 7 October 2013
Church and State

(Credit: Elvert Barnes / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Hey, Barry Fitzgerald and Bing Crosby, charmed all of us of that era in that 1944 classic film, “Going My Way”. People now don’t remember how beloved these two were and how much respect they could muster among the whole US population. Then, later, in 1963, dancer and actor, Gene Kelly, starred in an ABC TV series of the same name with the same plot and formula.

Recall the film’s warm and fuzzy story which allows the crusty, traditional older priest to finally bond with young Bing, (Father Chuck O’Malley) whose renditions of the Irish lullaby, “Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral”, made everything including Fitzgerald’s passing at the end sentimentally satisfying.

In one revealing episode, Bing gets to put a happy spin on the Catholic celibacy taboo when, as Wikipedia reports, he “meets with his old girl friend, Jenny Linden (Rice Stevens), an old girlfriend of O’Malley’s whom he left in order to join the priesthood, but who has since risen to a highly successful acting and singing career. O’Malley and Jenny discuss their past, and he then watches from the side of the stage as she performs a number for her starring role as Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera.” Ah, we learn apparently that her singing served the Father as a full substitute for his normal young male sexual appetite!

Then, Wikipedia says, “The elements of the story now begin to come together. Jenny visits O’Malley at the church, sees the boys’ choir, and reads the sheet music of “Going My Way”. She, O’Malley, and Father O’Dowd devise a plan to rent out the Metropolitan, perform “Going My Way” with the choir and a full orchestra, and sell the rights to the song, thereby saving the church from its financial woes. The plan fails, as the music executive brought on to listen to the song does not believe that it will sell. As the executive (William Frawley) is leaving, the choir decides to make the most of its opportunity on the grand stage, and sings another song, “Swinging on a Star”. The executive overhears the song and decides to buy it, providing enough money to pay off the church mortgage.” Hey, what a boy’s choir with Bing and Rise can accomplish! We know some of those RCC boys’ choirs had different experiences.

Those were the days, my friends, before the pedophile scandals, the absurd prohibitions against reproductive rights for its women (before Vatican opposition got fully organized) and the blatant open border efforts of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to back open border amnesty legislation that will bring in endless more numbers of high fertility aliens to fill its churches’ pews and mint more priests. The RCC’s priestly population now has been reduced to perilously low numbers.

The administrations of the Catholic Popes since the 1960s have underlined the above sad history, but the appointment of Pope Francis has brought a new voice that has gotten huge media coverage from his promising messages of implying some changes. I was traveling in Argentina in March of this year when he was named. Reactions there about this native son were very positive.

A 9/20/13 Washington Post article gives us the flavor of this new voice.

On Thursday, Pope Francis said in a historic interview that the Catholic Church talks too much about abortion. Then on Friday he gave his most forceful antiabortion comments to date.

What’s the strategy here? Is there one?

Since becoming pope in the spring, Francis has electrified people across the globe with gestures and words that focus on healing. He directly calls hurting parishioners and writes letters-to-the-editor reaching out to atheists. In an unusually long and frank interview published Thursday in the Jesuit magazine America, he said the church should be a “field hospital” and should focus on mercy, not doctrine — even as he said he agrees with the doctrine. Then Friday he told a huge group of Catholic physicians that their responsibility is to “see the creative work of God, from the very first moment of conception.”

His comments immediately set off discussion across Catholic America, in particular about the pope’s overarching intention. Is he trying to make the church more open and liberal, or instead using inclusive language in order to plant orthodoxy more firmly?

Experts on Catholicism and religious leadership see a savvy pope trying to reposition a church that, at least in the West, has been tangled up for years in a culture war.

Some think the end game is a revival of “big tent” Catholicism, of the Catholic middle — thus his very public embrace of priorities dear to different Catholic camps. Others think he is being deliberately general in his language — reaching out several times over just a few months even to non­believers — to affirm the legitimacy not just of Catholicism but of Christianity.

“I think he’s in­cred­ibly strategic,” said D. Michael Lindsay, president of the evangelical Gordon College and an expert in religious leadership. “I think this pope perhaps understands better than any religious leader of our day how important symbolic action is. I think he’s trying to recapture the charismatic authority” of the Catholic Church, the world’s largest religious institution.

Lindsay believes that Francis is using the church to re-convince the world “that the Christian faith has something important to offer.”

John Allen, a prominent writer on Catholicism, said the pope is trying to make a modern church that reflects the big middle, people who “are looking for moderate, inspirational leadership,” he said.

“This is not a naive guy, he doesn’t blunder into situations without considering consequences,” Allen said of the interviews. “He is trying to position the Catholic Church as a force for tolerance, as a force for acceptance.”

John Gehring, a former communications staff member with the U.S. bishops conference who is now with the progressive advocacy group Faith in Public Life, believes the pope is deliberately “laying the spiritual groundwork for potentially bigger changes” — not necessarily female priests or church-approved contraception but a more democratic Catholic Church.

So no female priests and no church approved modern conception methods means, as one former Jesuit priest who is now married and teaching noted when I asked him what among those needed vital changes Francis might bring, he sent me a one word email: “None”.

A NY Times article also of 9/20/13 puts more drama into Francis’ remarks.

Six months into his papacy, Pope Francis sent shock waves through the Roman Catholic church on Thursday with the publication of his remarks that the church had grown “obsessed” with abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and that he had chosen not to talk about those issues despite recriminations from critics.

His surprising comments came in a lengthy interview in which he criticized the church for putting dogma before love, and for prioritizing moral doctrines over serving the poor and marginalized. He articulated his vision of an inclusive church, a “home for all” — which is a striking contrast with his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, the doctrinal defender who envisioned a smaller, purer church.

Francis told the interviewer, a fellow Jesuit: “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time. The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.

“We have to find a new balance,” the pope continued, “otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”

The pope’s interview did not change church doctrine or policies, but it instantly changed its tone. His words evoked gratitude and hope from many liberal Catholics who had felt left out in the cold during the papacies of Benedict and his predecessor, John Paul II, which together lasted 35 years. Some lapsed Catholics suggested on social media a return to the church, and leaders of gay rights and gay Catholic groups called on bishops to abandon their fight against gay marriage.

But it left conservative and traditionalist Catholics, and those who have devoted themselves to the struggles against abortion, gay marriage and artificial contraception, on the defensive, though some cast it as nothing new.

“Nobody should try to use the words of the pope to minimize the urgent need to preach and teach about abortion,” said the Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, who said he spoke Thursday about the “priority of the abortion issue” at a Vatican conference.

So the same voices that have driven women to coat hangers and quacks (the pro life crowd) and choir boys into sexual bondage (those who insist on no married priests) are still heavily able to influence any Pope’s actions, regardless of how much, in his heart, he would favor real changes.

My view about the above is simple. The question becomes is it achievable? Some people believe in snake charming as a valid form of religious exercise. Others find flattening themselves on prayer rugs 5 times a day brings nirvana. Religious observances throughout human history have always been utterly subjective options followed in infinite variations.

The predominant religions of the world are male dominated and monotheistic; let’s call them the MDMRs. America’s founders were mainly deists or atheists and their plan for our governance set a new standard for freedom, innovation and sustainability.

In the advanced nations of the world, women are more and more valued and provided with options withheld by those MDMRs. Since FDA approval of the Pill, those options have flowered. While the equality of women in America is far from completed, its fate lies in the hands of a government unhindered by religions which preach historical anomalies.

Consequently, keeping the influence of religious entities from influencing secular governance of our nation must be constantly guarded against by our citizens. This Pope’s tribe has been highly effective in interfering with and influencing US government policies.

Guarding the precious concept of keeping church and state matters separate, the mission of this web site, remains a difficult task, one which requires constant vigilance. Only such vigilance will make the goals of equal human rights for all citizens of our nation achievable.

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.

Jon O’Brien discusses Pope Francis’ comments about women and gay men

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  1. "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose."
    However, it is too much to expect that a sudden reversal of long standing church doctrines would be effected by any new pope. All of the constituencies have to be considered. Politics is "the art of the possible" and Pope Francis" statements and actions may be all that is possible for the present.

  2. Brilliant writing by Don Collins. The Pope may be a little smarter in 2013, but the Church remains cemented in the past. It cannot or will not, along with Islam, dislodge itself from ancient dogmas that carry no weight or meaning in the 21st century. At some point, a younger Pope will present all of humanity with the fact that the church operates off of myth, pageantry and pomp. Facts and reality will not be tolerated by the Church. Old men in red hats with no understanding of sex, intimacy and love between couples–cannot possibly make comments or enforce their wrath on abortion, birth control or choices. When you look at where the Church dominates, you see too many babies, too much illiteracy, too much poverty and no end to human misery. Haiti comes to mind. Mexico comes to mind. In the end, intelligent Catholics must choose for themselves and get real with life in the 21st century. Frosty Wooldridge, 6 continent world bicycle traveler who has witnessed the consequences of religions on women's choices, intellectual freedoms and well-being.


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