The Widdershins

Activist Monday: Here Comes the Pope

Posted on: September 21, 2015

Photo credit: The Associated Press

Good Monday, all! As a Noo Yawkah, I am experiencing some trepidation about what will happen this week when the Pope, the President and the United Nations all converge upon the City that Never Sleeps. Now, I’m not a Catholic, nor do I play one on the Interwebz; but many of my closest friends are believers, and so I have been following Pope Francis’ career with some interest.

Those of you who have been reading my writings for a while know that I am not a fan of the Catholic church. I have pointed out in the past that Catholicism, much to its detriment, has not experienced a modern, liberalizing Reform movement. Its focus on celibacy has, rather predictably, attracted priests who have major sexual dysfunctions, and the Church is still recovering from the horrible revelations of the widespread child abuse practiced by so many clerics in the fold. By contrast, Reform Judaism and many Protestant forms of Christianity have embraced married, female and openly gay rabbis/priests, and by and large, these awful crimes are not committed in Reform temples and churches. I’m not even mentioning the retrograde views of birth control that are embraced as part of the Catholic church’s doctrine, which, per a Guttmacher institute report in 2011, are not even practiced by the majority of those who call themselves Catholic. As for American Catholic women who have had abortions, that is a much lower number (27%), but it’s certainly not as low as the Church would want it (0%).

Fast-forward to this week’s visit. There’s been a lot of excitement about Pope Francis and his statements on the environment, helping the poor, and seeming embrace of tolerance of LGBT. So today I ask the question: Is Francis a harbinger of liberal reform?

From what I’ve read, the Pope is certainly attempting to lead the Church down a path that is more focused on the (liberal) teachings of Jesus, and less focused on sexual repression. As noted liberal pastor Jim Wallis writes in the Huffington Post:

During the course of his visit, Pope Francis will address Congress and the United Nations, preside over worship services, and take part in parades — none of which is particularly surprising for a visiting pontiff. But the pope isn’t limiting himself to this sort of high-profile event. He is also spending an unprecedented amount of his trip interacting with the people Jesus calls the “least of these” in Matthew 25 — including refugees and immigrants, homeless and disabled men and women, low-income schoolchildren, and prisoners. Some of these people are the very same people who are demonized in our nation’s recent political discussions, and are regularly ignored by most of our politicians.

It’s these events on the pope’s schedule that should attract the notice of all people of faith and conscience — Catholics and non-Catholics alike — because they exemplify who Pope Francis is as a person and as a leader. As one of his job titles, the “Vicar of Christ,” indicates, he strives to promote the teachings of Jesus by acting like Jesus acts in the Gospels. That means focusing as much of his time and energy as he can on the people with whom Jesus spent the most time.

And speaking of conscience….there are some pretty jaw-dropping public statements out there about the Conscience of Conservative Catholics. Apparently, examining their own behavior and beliefs isn’t really where they’re at, man.

Francis’ moral instruction about daily life — on the Christian duty to stop consuming so much, start spending more time with the poor and give up air conditioning for the sake of the environment — has left some feeling scolded.

“We have a pope who makes us, to put it bluntly, uncomfortable,” Kurt Martens, a canon law professor at the Catholic University of America, said in a recent talk at the Council on Foreign Relations. “He asks questions about, ‘What did you do for the poor?”


Greg Erlandson, president of the Catholic publishing company Our Sunday Visitor, who covered Pope John Paul II from Rome, said Francis, the first Latin American pontiff, is asking people to “examine our consciences” — and “examination of consciences really makes you uncomfortable.”

“It’s stressing everybody a little,” Erlandson said. “We’re really hearing a voice from the Southern Hemisphere. We’re hearing from someone who has literally seen the world from a different perspective.”

I think these are all very good signs. Francis is “liberal” on climate change, caring for the poor, and at the very least, not discriminating against LGBT because of their sexual orientation. But…what about the ordination of women? And what about women’s rights to control their own bodies?

Mmmmm….not so much.

Despite his talk of expanded roles for women in the Church, Francis is still firmly against ordaining women as priests or, for that matter, as clergy of any kind. He has even rejected the idea of reviving an older tradition of lay cardinals that would include women. (A lay cardinal is a nonclerical member of the College of Cardinals.) The proposal has drawn influential support from the likes of Lucetta Scaraffia, a historian and columnist for the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, but Francis has unambiguously shot it down. Francis’s clearest statement on the ordination issue came during an airborne press conference in July 2013, when he was returning from Rio de Janeiro. “The Church has spoken and says no. . . . That door is closed,” he said.

The pontiff’s rejection of female clergy is so unwavering that critics have accused him of having a blind spot on women’s issues. Jon O’Brien of the liberal dissent group Catholics for Choice, an organization that defies orthodoxy by supporting abortion rights, said in 2013 that the pope’s message seems to be “Women can wait while he takes care of more important issues.” In October 2013 a progressive priests’ group in Ireland leveled a similar charge when Francis signed off on the excommunication of Australian Fr. Greg Reynolds, in part for his advocacy of women’s ordination.

From reading the rest of the article, I’ve come to the conclusion that Pope Francis’ view of women is as servitors and proselytizers, not as wielders of power and influence. In defense of his position, he falls back on intellectual arguments such as advocating against clericalism and machismo, and doesn’t address the indisputably harmful effects of the Church’s medieval policies towards women. I find this disappointing, dishonest and supremely unimpressive.

After standing up to “progressives” to prefer Hillary over fake feminist Obama and “all talk, very little action” Sanders, I’m not willing to give any leader who is “otherwise liberal” a pass on gender equality. Welcome to Noo Yawk, Pope Francis, and I hope the Big Apple is where you experience your Road to Damascus moment. But don’t expect me to accept you a reformer until that happens.

This is an open thread.



57 Responses to "Activist Monday: Here Comes the Pope"

“Role” is another one of those whitewashing words like “domestic violence”.

Disenfranchised and oppressed men have places the powerful put them in and keep them in. Women have “roles”. The word falsely implies that what is done to women is as unreal and meaningless as a play, and that women can move in and out of these “roles” as they choose. Women who are forced to obey laws made exclusively by men and administered exclusively by men are not acting “roles”. A woman whose body has been appropriated by her government and forced into pregnancy and childbirth against her will is not acting a “role”. A woman who dies trying to keep this from happening is not acting a “role”.

The Catholic church’s two millennia long history of excluding women from the fundamental right of representative government is always referred to by the media as “women’s role in the Church”. When that Church’s laws become our laws, as recent court decisions have again shown can and does happen, their exclusion of women from their own government becomes our government.

Thank you for speaking out against this.

Thanks for this post. I agree with all you say. Practically, turning a ship as large as the Catholic Church, keeled with legions of doctrinaire zealots, is a long process. Even getting baby steps out of a 2,000 year old is a major accomplishment.

I like Francis’ tolerance and commitment to outreach. The judgmental piece of his predecessors seems to have been lost to history. I hope these steps are harbingers for equality for women and marriage of priests.

I hope you are out of Noo Yawkah this week. It’s going to be a Cat 5 mess. Get out while you still can.

What can I say? I am a “cradle Catholic”, baptized at 6 weeks of age by my mother’s devoutly Irish Catholic family. There is so much of beauty in my Church that it pains me to be so utterly lapsed. I recently found a picture of myself in my First Holy Communion dress taken in front of St. Patrick’s Church in Havre de Grace, Md, which is the family parish. I only wish that I felt the same devotion today, but I can’t.
I am cheered by Pope Francis’ commitment to social justice, as we have not seen this since Pope Leo the Great railed against the Gilded Age. I am even more cheered by his indignation that women are paid less for the same work. Now, all I ask is that he use the same logic to see that we are not less than men in the eyes of the Church, that we are not incubators/transporters for the next generation of Catholics, and that we are of value in leadership positions outside the Alter Rosary Society’s annual bake sale.
I appreciate his outreach to gays, prisoners, the homeless, and divorcees. Now, finally, is there room for women on the agenda? I do not think that he will ever approve of choice, nor do I expect him to do so. If there is one place where the Church outs its money where its mouth is, it’s in social outreach. Any pregnant woman, regardless of creed, can go to her local church’s St. Vincent de Paul Society and ask for money, cribs, car seats, formula, whatever and get help. Just accept us as equals, and we’ll work through the rest of it as we go along.
I cannot wait for his address to Congress, when the reactionary miserly Republicans who are ostentatiously Catholic get to hear his message of kindness and generosity to the poor, the ill, and the elderly. These jerks beat us over the head with the anti-choice message, now let’s see what they do with the rest of it, and if they ever figure out that being pro-fetus is not the same as being pro-life.
I’ll show myself out now.

I’m not even mentioning the retrograde views of birth control that are embraced as part of the Catholic church’s doctrine, which, per a Guttmacher institute report in 2011,are not even practiced by the majority of those who call themselves Catholic.

American Catholics for the most part, tend to be “cafeteria Catholics” and kinda pick and choose which parts of doctrine they choose to follow. Naturally I’m not talking Bill Donahue-Catholic League types.

I recall a conversation with a supv. one time when he said he would be off a day or so. He told me was going to get a vasectomy. I asked him if he was okay with disobeying church teachings on that (I asked in jest) and he said “They ain’t payin’ the bills my household.”. Apparently he felt fine with getting the snip and still going to Mass.

I suspect many a parish priest knows there are members of his flock who are not following all the “rules”, but leave any discussions of such things unmentioned.

I’m also someone who was raised Catholic and mostly in the South, to boot.

That upbringing gave me a headache from double vision. The Catholic church taught that racism was morally wrong, a lone voice in the sixties and seventies, but strong enough that the very large parishes in coastal Alabama and Louisiana at least paid lip service to the idea. And some went beyond: it was my southern mother and not my northern father who would not allow any of us to use racial epithets, who pointed out the extreme poverty of most black families in the areas we lived in and who would not faint on command from the neighbours when a black employee of my school was kind enough to bring my sister and myself home when we’d stayed out after dark.

And there was that Catholic emphasis on the mind: at the elementary level at least, the schools were much better than the public schools.

But that made it harder not to notice the overt double standard, especially as girls began to find some value for their own minds as they grew closer to adulthood. The high schools where I lived segregated boys and girls (not the races, that would have been wrong!) and required Latin for the boys as well as advanced math and other useful subjects. In the girls’ high schools, these were optional where they were even offered. The explicit reason given by a church spokesman when I asked, was that girls were going to be wives when they grew up and had no need for such things.

I was spared the necessity of a make-or-break confrontation with my father over this by the whole family’s being assigned somewhere that did not have comparable schools. It was still in the South and again, I could not help noticing at the public high school I attended, the double standard of the necessity of ending racism and the same-ole, same-ole with respect to enforced sexism. A wave of military kids from all over the world took over that insular ignorant school and smacked it right into the late twentieth century with regard to race.

Because Truman had ended racism in the armed services a generation before, absolutely and without exception, in spite of riots and mass resignations, these were kids who had been raised from birth and lived with the fact that race simply doesn’t define a human being. Their clean-washed vision shook up that school and changed it completely.

There never has been a comparable ukase with regard to sex. Women have not had the benefit of this vision-clearing reality, nor this escape from caste enforcement. Women are being raped out of the U.S. military so routinely that congressional hearings have been compelled to produce a new term, the ultimate in solutions for women: “military sexual trauma”.

The only reason I can see for anyone to give moral credit to something so wrong as the Catholic church is about perfectly normal wonderful human beings, is that they share its disgust for us, women: the others.

Pat, your story is a lot like mine. Northern father with ties to the military, Southern mother. We also desegregated while I was in high school.
I agree that it should be as simple to end gender bias as it was to declare an end to racial segregation.
While I have grown far from my childhood Catholicism, I am still able to give the Church her due for her social services, though I haven’t been to mass in decades. I have gone to my grandchildren’s first communion and confirmations, because those I just can’t miss. Maybe some day I’ll feel welcome in my church again.

I’m not Catholic, although I went to their services many times, with friends, or to a wedding or something. When I was a little girl, they still wore the little white lacy things on the head which I thought was fun.

So, I’m no expert, but I hope they move forward in their thinking. Francis seems like a huge improvement over the last one, and is actually interesting to read about. Sorry I have nothing more to add on the subject…oh, except my mom says my life was saved by a nun who was a nurse at St Josephs hospital in beautiful downtown Burbank. (notice how I connected Chat’s post to MBs!)

Anyway, I really like your timely & informative post MB.

This is probably lame, but laker & his fellow film dudes at school love it. It’s pretty silly, but you might find it funny if you watch it in the right frame of mind (like if you’re tired, or drinking). Anyway, it shows that the younguns are paying attention to the primary season…and giving it the respect they think it deserves.

@7: Nice little nexus there annie!

In the event no one noticed, Scott Walker dropped out or was kicked off of the Repub clown car today.

I’m hoping Piyush stays in awhile longer because the longer he’s away from the state the better. Hell, the guys who are running to replace him don’t even mention his name! 😆


It’s worse than you know – your alma was my alma, tho’ in so effete a major that if we’d ever been caught dead chanting, it would’ve been something like: “Go, you doggies. Go on. Go now.”

Pat@11: Did you have your own fainting couch?

Scott Walker drops out from Republican free for all. Thank God.

Fredster, that is good news.

Wisconsin may suffer, but the rest of us can breathe a sigh of relief.

@12 No, but only because we’d only have been caught dead cheering,

The dead have pre-fainted.

Pat, I’m sure the Wisconsinites are not enthused about the news at all.

The dead have pre-fainted.


@16 Like the groundhog’s shadow – six more months of Walker.

@18: Wisconsin folks are hardy. They’ll survive.

@11: Well, how ’bout them ‘Dawgs? I had sorority sisters that were art history majors, and they chanted, though softly. When were you in the Classic City?
It does seem that we were living parallel lives.

Okay, the Koch Bros are roached up in their sky high apartments eating frosting out of a can and ice cream because they had to breakup today. They broke up with the guy who had a bald spot growing like kudzu in potting soil.

The Bros Koch are thinking: They bought him nice things. He seemed nice, but he smelled like “past prime Wescottsin cheddar”.

Wonder where they will spread their filthy dollars now?

They’ll stand out on the corner, winking and blinking, until a nice Canadian Cuban catches their eyes. He won’t play hard to get, quite the opposite, he will be so eager to entertain he’ll start magically crapping “Yellow Roses of Texas”.

The Bros Koch will be fascinated, but they will remember they had a ventriloquist dummy back in the time that looked just like him. They will remember the ventriloquist dummy ran away to Hollywood, took the stage name of Chunky, and was a slasher living under beds.

The Bros Koch will buy more frosting at the nearest bodega.

@20 Sorry, Chat, my lappie seems to have died a heat death – went >boom< in the middle of my reply, so this is on a borrowed computer.

Short answer, waaaaay too long ago. Mid to late 70's, with breaks for bumming around Europe and a year's trial run at being a grown-up with a full time job. The alumni association just found me *again* after a recent move. Those folks sure are tenacious – the NSA's got nothing on them!

@24: I beat you there by almost a decade – class of 1970. Let’s just say that UGA I was still the mascot when I arrived……..

Wonder where they will spread their filthy dollars now?

You can bet Piyush will be on his hands and knees and…oh never mind. The Bros. Koch want a winnah this time.

@22: There’s still time for Mike Pence to enter the race! Anything that will keep him away from Indiana and his race for reelection as Governor is fine with me. Go Mike! Please!

From CNN: “Scott Walker’s exit sets off Republican feeding frenzy”

“The candidate’s super PAC raised $20 million in the first half of 2015, some of which will be returned to the Republican donors who supported it. At the heart of Walker’s financial shop was the Ricketts family – one of the GOP’s heavyweight contributors over the past two election cycles. Joe and Marlene Ricketts gave $5 million to the super PAC to run television ads, and their son, Todd Ricketts, was Walker’s national finance co-chair.

And Walker has long been seen as a hero in the deep-pocketed political network organized by Charles and David Koch, who personally have pledged not to get involved in the Republican primary but have repeatedly gushed about Walker, who made his name by beating back organized labor. Walker’s allies in the Koch network are now up for grabs as well.”

The CNN article goes on to speculate that Marco Rubio will likely benefit the most from Walker’s departure.

@28, Joe and Marlene Ricketts are the parents and Todd Ricketts is the brother of the current governor of Nebraska, Pete Ricketts. Pete bears an uncanny resemblance to a viper with a heart to match. Think of every policy you hate, dial it up three notches, and it approaches Pete Rickett’s view of the world.

The Ricketts family has more money than God. They are TD Ameritrade. Tom Ricketts, another brother, bought the Chicago Cubs.

Think of the family as Koch Lite.

Beata@28: I loved this from your comment:

some of which will be returned to the Republican donors who supported it.

Those donors may send Big Vito to collect! If we see Walker hobbling around we’ll know.

Oh how awful for you guys – I didn’t know Pence had another term available to him. 😦

I’ve read bad things about the Ricketts.

Hillary came out today against Keystone:

@31: Well, I’ve got to say *finally*. I wish she had done it earlier.

@31: And against prescription drug gouging.

@31, 32, & 33, Annie, here’s a hint about the Rickett clan, they would say you have no right to have such an opinion since as a chattel, you shouldn’t be able to read so count your blessings.

Between Keystone and prescription drugs — the federal government exercise of its strength in negotiation is so long overdue it means finally good policy gets a chance. Mass price negotiation is only precluded because Dubya and Rove wore out brand new sets of knee pads on big pharma for the 2004 reelection campaign. This change Hillary suggests would save at least $112 Billion over 10 years.

@33 and 34: I’d like to know the specifics about that $250 cap. What are the particulars?

I saw that b@stard that bought the drug company and raised the price of the med to $750 per tablet has backed down. He says will now be below $750. What…$749?

@36, Shkreli is the poster boy for Romney and every conservodroid who believes business can be trusted. He adds a whole new dimension to vulture capitalism.

It’s not just him. Doxycycline went from $4 to just under $200, levothyroxine from $4 to $150, prednisone from $5 to $50, retin-a from $40 to $200, etc etc etc. all in the past year.

@38, are they the generics that have gone off patent and there’s not enough profit margin for the majors to manufacture them? I had no idea that there was a subculture hedge fund cottage industry to snatch up these legacy drug manufacturers and then screw people. I find that so immoral I would never think of anyone doing such a despicable thing, I guess I’m just naive.

@39: Exactly. Remember the great flu vaccine shortage? Same concept. Create a shortage, then inflate the prices and fill the void. This started blowing up early 2014, and every time I go for a refill, the price has gone up dramatically.

@40, I read something, and again, had no idea, that no antibiotic, not a single one, is produced by a major pharmaceutical company because there is no margin in curables. In other words, if it isn’t chronic, then screw it. Where’s Caribou Barbie and her whining about, what in essence, is a death panel?

Hmmmm…..I would have thought some of the newer on-patent thirty-third generation whatevers might still have been, but truly chronic is the gift that keeps on giving.

@42, another example of Noam Chomsky’s maxim of you’ll always be amazed at some of the things you will say or hear:

If I get sick, I really hope it is a chronic disease.

Anyhoo, that’s what happens when you let a hedge fund manager run a pharmaceutical company, He actually had the nerve to say that he was raising the price to finance research for newer better drugs. Sounds great, doesn’t it? The thing is, that Daraprim treats very few diseases, but treats them well. Also, these are not mainstream illnesses – toxoplasmosis, and malaria.Medically, there is virtually no need for replacement drugs at this point in time.
That said, the company has backed off the gigantic price hike, but has declined to say what the price is. The $1 drug that became a $13 drug when purchased by the first company that then became a $750 drug will now cost “less”, and the company admits that it’s because of the furor.

God, that’s terrible. I hate the drug companies. I haven’t been aware of how bad its gotten because drugs are included in our insurance, and my Dad’s drugs were paid for 100% by the VA.

@38 & @44:

Chat, this is just obscene.

Doxycycline?!! levothyroxine?!!

Levothyroxine is necessary for the maintenance of life on a day-to-day basis for those who need it and was up to now inexpensive enough that a person could afford to buy their life out of whatever resources they had. Just coincidentally (not!) it treats the fallout from a stress-induced lifelong illness, hypothyroidism, that has reached epidemic proportions among women in North America.

Doxycycline should be the poster child equivalent of malaria vaccine for North Americans. With Lyme’s disease on the rise, and a one/two shot of this drug to make it not a problem, what the hell are they thinking of??? Should Americans be the beneficiaries of international charities showing how a small amount of overseas currency could prevent a lifetime of debilitation?

Still4Hill has Hillary’s blueprint for combating this insanity. It makes sense, it will work. Any advice on how to get the word out to reach those who have always voted Republican “just cause?” The daily lives of many of these folks would be greatly affected by this.

chat: see 36.
And out of curiosity I checked the doxycylcine on my prescription website and it’s come down to somewhat normal prices. Checked it also on the walgreens prescription club page and it’s down there also.

annie@45: Y’all are indeed fortunate. Do you have any co-pay at all for scripts?

Prolix, we have a $10 copay.

HillaryMen go after yours and Fredsters favorite cretin:

@49, Thanks Annie for that. It is about the best indictment of MJ I’ve seen. Even in something so well researched and written, they have no idea what the genesis of their Hillary hate is.

RIP, Yogi Berra. I guess it’s over now that it’s over.

@51 – the perfect eulogy!

The Pope I in DC with Obama today. 15,000 on the White House lawn.

PDXPat, your comments were fascinating. Amazing how much you and Chat have in common!

I read this morning on FB that Hillary’s lead in Iowa is back to 21 points post-apology. And, last time I was in Texas Fox News was all about the email scandal…yesterday it was all about how Hillary is a strong campaigner and will be focusing on keeping ACA. I really think she did the right thing.

@51, Yogi came to that big, final fork in the road and he took it.

@53 – another home run!!

@52: Believe it or not, we now have four (4) Georgia girls on this blog. We can convene a meeting of the GRITS (Girls Raised In The South) Club. Go, ‘Dawgs!
@54: Arrgh.

@55 GRITS! Love it!

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