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Meditation 1116
A year of Francis

by: John Tyrrell

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This week marked the first anniversary of the election of Pope Francis. Generally the views on his first year of office have been laudatory, even from those who have been traditionally at odds with the papacy, such as non-Catholic believers, non-believers and the LGBT community. Are such views warranted?

My concerns with the pope and the Vatican generally are not with Catholic Church issues. Other than the criminal operation of the Vatican Bank and the long-standing cover-up of child abuse, what goes on in the Catholic Church is the pretty much solely the business of Catholics. My additional concerns are the areas in which Catholic Church attempts to impose its teachings on non-Catholics. These areas include birth control, abortion, and LGBT rights. Has any of this changed?

We'll start with the cover up of child-abuse issue. What we see is continued stonewalling by the Vatican (using the fact it is considered a sovereign country) on requests from other countries for information on child-abusers, some of whom live safely within the Vatican. What we see from Pope Francis is yet another committee to investigate and give him recommendations. After a year in office, that merits a failing grade.

How about the Vatican Bank? John Paul II set up a committee to investigate and reorganized a little. Benedict set up a committee to investigate and reorganized a little. And Francis set up a committee to investigate, reorganized a little, and put in a new oversight committee. Will that clean up the crime and corruption in this bank? That's yet to be seen. But by not tearing the bank down and rebuilding from the ground up, he keeps the approximately $50 million a year profits the bank generates.

Now for what I would sees as the external issues.

Pope Francis did in several public statements demonstrate a remarkable openness to the LGBT community. But when you dig down, he's open to them only if they are gay in inclination, but not in practice, and only if they don't look for equal rights. Around the world his bishops continue, with the pope's full blessing and encouragement, to oppose same-sex marriage and to oppose adoption by same-sex couples. It's just the old love the sinner, hate the sin doctrine that the fundamentalist protestant denominations love to declaim. On the plus side, some of his bishops have denounced the extreme anti-gay laws recently passed by several African countries. But overall, I give Pope Francis a failing grade.

We see the same with abortion and birth-control. In the US particularly, we see the Catholic Church leading the fight to exclude these basic women's health requirements from health insurance. I don't care what the pope tells Catholics to do because they are free to leave the church. But, when he looks at regulating the lives of non-Catholics, he crosses a boundary line. Another failing grade.

Remember, in the early days of Francis's papacy he suggested the Church didn't need to take such an active role on the issues of birth control, abortion, and homosexuality and should focus instead on the poor and marginalized. While the pope has set an admirable example in a personal focus on the disadvantaged, his church continues to fight, as actively as ever, to impose its values on the rest of society. And the changes so many people are reading into his words isn't coming.

Even though he has not yet chosen to follow his predecessor and attack intolerant agnosticism, I'll take a pass on naming Pope Francis as man of the year.

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