Thoughts On The Next Pope

Pope Benedict XVI resigned. That’s no longer new information to anyone, but considering that the pope is the religious leader of one out of every seven humans on the planet . . . it’s still a big deal.

According to the trend in how popes are selected by the conclave, they tend to alternate between selecting long-term popes and short-term popes. Which is the polite way of saying that just about every other pope is someone who is quite old to begin with and not expected to live for too long. The other popes, however, are expected to live for a longer period of time.

So the next pope who will head the Catholic Church may very well be pope for the next few decades. I am not Catholic, but the next pope is still important to me. It’s a big deal for the world.

Why? Because the Catholic Church’s influence may have been waning for centuries (and showing no sign of regaining a social or political foothold), but the pope still wields a great deal of influence throughout the world.

Recently, Benedict has been using that influence and a number of major speaking opportunities to voice his continued opposition to marriage equality, even as (or, perhaps, especially as) proponents of marriage equality have won a number of battles in the United States (obviously, other places—marriage equality continues to gain popularity in Europe).

Assuming that I do not gain mind-control powers any time soon (which, tragically, is a fair assumption), I think that it is safe to say that no matter who the next pope might be, he will not be pro-choice or a proponent of gay rights beyond the basic: “Look, they don’t get all of the rights of the rest of us, but don’t set them on fire, okay?”

I’m exaggerating. But, basically, the next pope is still going to be opposed to birth-control (and the use of condoms to prevent the spread of STIs). The next pope will still be opposed to female reproductive autonomy. The next pope will still be opposed to marriage equality for same-sex couples, and likely opposed to adoption by same-sex couples. The next pope will be opposed to premarital sex. To women in the priesthood. To transgender acceptance. Almost certainly to married Catholic priests.

There are a lot of people who are looking at this selection of a new pope, still early in the Twenty-First Century, as an opportunity for a non-white cardinal to lead the Catholic Church. It would be historic and, obviously, past due.

But while a non-white pope would be a progressive move, it is only a progressive move if the new pope in question is no more conservative than the likely positions that I listed above. In other words, certain African and South American cardinals have some outrageous views on civil rights—like opposing same-sex adoption because they confuse members of the LGBT community with child-molesters. Like supporting medieval legislation that would imprison gay citizens.

Look, I’m not going to agree with the new pope on a lot of things. I want equal human rights for women and the LGBT community and not for embryos or fetuses. Like the Catholic Church, I am opposed to the evils of the world, but I think that we have very different ideas of what constitutes evil and different ideas for remedying it (my solution involves the death penalty).

But, while many of the Church’s social positions are seemingly antiquated, whoever becomes the next pope should be a Twenty-First Century pope. A pope who would vehemently oppose Uganda’s “Kill The Gays” bill instead of remaining silent or partially supporting that sort of legislation (and for more reason than simply Catholicism’s opposition to capital punishment). A pope who remembers that women exist. A pope with a genuine interest in interfaith dialogue, with all faiths, and not simply to “unite against the atheists.”

So, at the risk of sounding really negative about African and South American cardinals, let’s be very cautious before praising any “progressive” choices from those continents.

The Catholic Church is slow to change and adapt—let’s all hope that, in choosing the next pope, the conclave does not take a step backward.



You Might Also Like ...

It’s Not the Man It’s the Miniskirt

In Swaziland, which is in South Africa, they’re saying “It’s not the men, it’s the miniskirts that cause rape.”  Yup, they are enforcing an 1889 law against “immoral” dressing—aka miniskirts, low-rise jeans, or crop tops.  Police spokesperson Wendy Hlelta said, “We do not encourage that women should be harmed, but at the same time people should note acceptable conduct of behavior. The act of the rapist is made easy because it would be easy to remove the half-cloth worn by the women. I have read from the social networks that men and even other women have a tendency of ‘undressing people with their eyes’. That becomes easier when the clothes are hugging or are more revealing.”

Right, because rapists don’t attack women in mom jeans. It’s the sexuality of the dress, it’s not the screwed up mindset of the man! Don’t you see? Women should learn how to “not get raped”—you don’t need to teach man to not rape.

To that end, women are also being instructed on how to bend over and pick things up properly:  “For females it is polite that when you have dropped something, squat with your upper body still upright and pick up the item rather than bending half your body head first to pick up the item.”

Don’t bend over or men will rape you!  And I thought America was behind in the progressive country movement. Hell, we might just be on par with a country you never heard of in South Africa.  This is insane, this is insulating and this is sad.

It’s not the miniskirt, it’s not the red lipstick, it’s not the CFM heels—it’s the man. I’ll even go one further, it’s the man the culture that protects him by blaming the woman. Enough.



You Might Also Like ...

Is It Sexist To Be Especially Bothered By Female Jihadists?

Photo of Female Jihadists in Court

Fact: terrorists scare the hell out of me.

I do not understand the drive to slaughter other human beings in the name of a holy war.  As far as I’m concerned, mass murder seems to contradict the tenets of love, forgiveness, and making an effort to do good for others that I learned in ten years of CCD.

Of course, I’ve read the Bible extensively since then and have studied other religions, learning to my grief and eventual cynicism that there’s an unfortunate correlation between organized religion and violence.  From the Crusades to the Israeli-Palestinian mess to 9/11 and everywhere in between, shedding the blood of the innocent as a necessary by-product of God’s glory has been a recurring theme.

Even with that knowledge, however, it’s still possible to be taken by surprise at the ingenuity—and truly depraved nature—of terrorists.

Especially when they’re women.

I know that sounds sexist, that extremist women are just as likely to exist as extremist …

Continue reading



You Might Also Like ...

Sophie’s Choice, Africa Edition?

Photo of Somali Child Pulling on a Woman's Robe

If you haven’t heard of Sophie’s Choice (both William Styron’s book and Alan Pakula’s film adaptation featuring Meryl Streep are top notch), you should definitely check them out.  The story involves a woman who, upon arriving at Auschwitz with her son and daughter, must choose which child will be immediately “eliminated” and which will be allowed to live … well, as much as life in a concentration camp can be considered “living”.

Unquestionably a work of fiction, right?

Except that something very similar is going on in Africa right now … yup, in 2011.

The tales pouring out of east African nations, notably Somalia, of terrible choices faced by mothers are heartwrenching.

From Yahoo News:

Wardo Mohamud Yusuf walked for two weeks with her 1-year-old daughter on her back and her 4-year-old son at her side to flee Somalia’s drought and famine. When the boy collapsed near the …

Continue reading



You Might Also Like ...