Many Catholics, both Mass-going and lapsed, were pleased to see Time Magazine accord the new Pope, Francis I, its “Person of the Year” award.
He not only has been one of the top news-generators this past year, what he is saying, and how he is walking the talk, has spoken volumes to people hungry for some moral leadership in this world dominated by situational ethics.
No one would characterize me as a “pray, pay and obey” Catholic. Indeed, conservative Catholics would probably tag me with the pejorative “cafeteria Catholic,” meaning one who picks and chooses which Church dictums to follow.
The counter to this myopic view is to point out that above all else the Roman Catholic Church affirms the right of an individual to exercise his or her own conscience after prayerful consideration of church teachings.
Much of Catholic doctrine has evolved over the two thousand years the Vatican bureaucracy has functioned; and many senseless rules have been promulgated by fallible men in that span.
Pope Francis understands this which is why he is calling on Catholics to refocus on the basic injunctions in the New Testament that ask people to care for the poor, help their fellow men and women in distress, and put into practice one of the few commandments stated by the Lord: to love one another. Another commandment from the Lord was to “judge not lest you be judged.”
Again, Francis says only God can judge for only God knows the heart. He adroitly side-steps the issue of gays and lesbians in the Church by stating all should be made to feel welcomed regardless of sex, creed, color or orientation.
The Pope has now embarked on a remarkable exercise made possible by modern technology. He has sent every diocese a questionnaire built around the notion of the family as the domestic model of the Church in the basic unit of society.
Many parishes are already holding meetings to develop their response which is especially appropriate as Christians everywhere focus on the Holy Family and the birth of Jesus. The responses are then forwarded to the Bishop or Archbishop of the diocese; a summary and consensus document is crafted and sent to Rome. It all leads to a Bishop’s Synod in 2014 and a General Assembly in 2015.
I participated recently in a session at my parish. Of the 30 people there, 20 were women and ten were men. Most of the women were divorced and single parents. Most of the men there were in stable long-time marriages, but only two were under 40.
The purpose of the questionnaire appeared to be to garner whether the church is providing sufficient support to the laity (Not even close was the answer) in dealing with the challenges presented to church-goers trying to raise children in a culture that glorifies hedonism, sexual promiscuity, easy divorce and a changing definition of whether marriage can only be between a man and a woman as well as condoning cohabitation before marriage regardless of the genders. (more…)