It’s all a bit confusing isn’t it? The honeymoon with Pope Francis may be drawing to a close. Many of us have been inspired by his character, his teachings and his actions. But is he going too far? We have incidents such as his refusal to judge a homosexual and the tricky problem of someone in a second marriage (given certain circumstances) receiving the Eucharist. A few hundred years ago such views would be a matter for the Inquisition. But he is not a softy – ask the cardinals who have got into his bad books.
While many of us have not been enthusiastic about the way that the Church has rigorously ruled – and particularly in the matter of moral teaching, we may have thought that this was the only way the Church could hold together and evade what we see as the instability of Protestantism. Indeed many converts have been attracted by its certainty. I have a friend, once an Anglican clergyman, who converted to Catholicism for this very reason.
Many have been enthusiastic about a more democratic Church which takes the laity seriously, and is prepared to consult it. We are no longer peasants in the pew. Others argue that this is just spreading confusion and point to the New Testament where Christ gives authority to the Apostles and their successors. Not even his mother gets this.
Recently Pope Francis has visited Myanmar. Many have criticised his failure to condemn the authorities there for their part in the Rohingya crisis. The UN have described this as “ethnic cleansing”. It has been suggested that he was protecting the small proportion of Catholics in the population. Maybe, but others argue that this omission would never have happened in the past: we have to proclaim the truth irrespective of the consequences. We remember how Pius XII was criticised for failing to condemn with clarity the actions of the Nazis against the Jews.
I am describing here views I have heard widely expressed in the Catholic community: I say nothing about my own views. But there is no doubt that the present position is an unsettling one. Will Francis change the Church for the foreseeable future, and his lead continued and strengthened by succeeding popes? Or will his successor be chosen to put things safely back as they were? Francis then becomes an historical anomaly.
What do you think?