Pope Francis tries to brush Catholic bigotry under the carpet

Pope Francis seemed to extend tolerance to LGBT people, abortion and women on Friday in a long form interview published in the Jesuit Journals. He said:

The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all.

This seemed to imply, at the very least, that he wanted to focus on the more spiritual side of Catholicism. He said he wanted to move away from these ‘petty rules’ that have ‘socially wounded’ so many.

Now allies don’t deserve a cookie every time they don’t hate a gay person or employ a woman or support a woman’s right to choose what happens in her own uterus. However I wanted to applaud these forward movements and coax them along like a frightened, gangling foal – if only for the benefit of those whose suffering will be reduced by the slight liberalisation. It seemed to give hope.

By Saturday however all hopes were dashed when Pope Francis decried abortion as part of a ‘throw away culture’ in a meeting with Catholic gynaecologists. His statements seem to completely invalidate his professed desire to move away from a focus on rules and toward love and mercy. His choice of words leaves something to be desired as well. Equating abortion with ‘throw away culture’ mocks the difficult situations of many women who have abortions. It suggests that aborting a baby is the same as throwing away old clothes or using disposable cutlery. In reality, for many if not all women, the decision to have an abortion is a deeply conflicting experience even when it is the right choice.

Pope Francis and I were unlikely to ever agree on much. However for a moment I hoped there was a light at the end of the tunnel. It is obvious now that it was painted, cartoon style, onto a brick wall. His Friday interview now seems designed to give people the illusion of progress without actually having to do anything. He doesn’t want to change the Catholic faith, he just wants us to stop calling them out on their despicable beliefs and behaviours.

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