Lesson 11: Opposition to Pope Francis

Protests against Pope FrancisAs I wrote this series on the theology that informs Francis’ papacy, I became more cognizant of the opposition that has risen against him. I knew it was there, but did not comprehend how deep it ran in certain groups or the strategy these used in attacking him.
In closing this series, I want to disclose what I found over and over again.

The argument has always boiled down to a conflict that is presently dividing all Christian groups. Francis sees the Holy Spirit primarily as a creative love that reveals God’s will in our everyday lives, often opening up new potentials. His opposition associates the Spirit principally with the eternal laws of a deposit of faith inherited from the past that can be applied in all situations to determine God’s will.

I think we would benefit greatly from a balanced discussion between the two positions and was disappointed when I did not find this. Francis’ opposition subtly suggested any Pope who does not unconditionally promote the deposit of faith should be removed. They restricted their largely ad hominem attacks to three issues, often accusing the Pope’s allies of being unscientific and dishonest.

The first issue was, of course, abortion. Francis’ opposition claims to be pro-life but only pursues this unconditionally when it comes to the unborn. Every one of the arguments I remember judged all abortions as evil, citing those based on some devastating exception.

The second was LGBTQ rights. Francis’ opponents claim to be pro-marriage, defined as needing a father and a mother to raise children in a civilized manner. Again, the arguments were based on citing exceptions, such as some failed gay marriage.

The third less familiar issue was religious liberty. The opposition claims to be victims of an all-out campaign to destroy God’s church. I again can remember only arguments based on the exception making the rule, such as using an anti-church statement by a secularist to claim there is a aggressive, secret battle going on against basic human rights. In this context, Francis’s gentle kindness is a compromise leading us to a godless society.

I expected better, especially from the natural law scholars. I wondered, for example, why they never made an effort to show the difference between going beyond the Bible to grant rights to slaves and women but refusing to do the same for the LGBTQ community. Eventually, I became greatly disturbed when I found myself comparing what I was hearing to Donald Trump’s political rhetoric.

In the end, I was still less than thrilled by the arguments used by the opposition, but began to see much of their shallowness stemmed from the nature of our modern media. I was basing my disappointment on what I ran across in the public conversation, not lengthy books or long discussions. When most religious opinion is formed from what is found on the radio, television, and internet, it is going to be as self-serving as modern political debates.

Perhaps that explains my wife’s response to all my contorted attempts to understand the opposition to Francis’ benevolent papacy. She shakes her head in pity and observes, “Oh, phooey. It’s all about white males trying to preserve their power.” She is usually right.

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