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.



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What Is Up With The Pope Lately?

If you’ve read anything about the pope recently, you have probably read about him talking about same-sex marriage. He talks about it a lot. And at weird times. The pope is using just about every major speaking opportunity to emphasize his opposition to same-sex marriage. And, while I know that that’s his position, it’s weirding me out.

What’s strange to me is not that the pope’s stance is exclusively for opposite-sex marriage. The Catholic church, which has survived for over 1,500 years, has historically been slow to change its views but it has changed them. It will change them again, over the next century or so, if it intends to survive as an institution (which will be interesting to watch, either way). In 2113, will we see a female pope, married priests, and same-sex marriages performed with the blessing of the Vatican? Possibly. I doubt that it will be that soon. But, since I intend to live forever and the science for it seems almost within reach, it should happen in my lifetime.

So, I get it. Right now, the Catholic Church is opposed to marriage equality, and they do not care for the trend in parts of the US and Europe of same-sex couples receiving rights and privileges just like heterosexual couples.

What I do not understand is why Pope Benedict seems determined to bring it up at every occasion, particularly when there are much more pressing issues (school shootings and other instances of gun violence, anyone?) that he might be addressing. Like, does he know that it makes many people who otherwise like him uncomfortable (there are plenty of anti-choice people who support gay rights). Is he just pulling a Kathy Griffin and bringing up what he’s been advised against mentioning because it’s entertaining to him?

I’m going to go with no. I think that he is trying to double-down on his position. Which I understand—supporting your ideals, even when they’re the worst, makes sense. Practically speaking, it’s not doing Catholicism any favors in the long-run. And while he makes ridiculous comparisons (same-sex marriage “deceives human nature” and other statements), they’re consistent with the Vatican position on the topic.

It’s unfortunate for a lot of reasons, but we can all take comfort in the fact that he’s not just on the wrong side of history on this—he’s on the losing side. Latino voters within the US, the majority of whom are Catholic, voted for Obama and support same-sex marriage. Europe, where Catholicism is even more prevalent, is pushing forward with marriage equality, nation after nation.

Eventually, when the dust settles and marriage equality here to stay in the West (the Middle-East and Africa, in particular, are going to take a while), we can expect to hear about it less from the Vatican. Until then, expect a lot more of the pope’s public addresses to label female reproductive autonomy a “threat to world peace” and marriage equality as a “lie.”



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The Pope Says the Condoms are OK as a “Last Resort,” I Roll My Eyes

photo of men opening up condoms on the floor pictures photographs

I’m all for religion. Really. I feel that everyone should be allowed to hold whatever beliefs that they want to without the threat of persecution.

However, when religious figures get in the way of the truth, I am not down. Especially when it comes to the truth about sex and sexuality.

Pope Benedict is known by now for making comments that inflame the general public. On a trip to Africa last year, he was heavily (and justly, in my opinion…) criticized for allegedly stating that condoms actually contribute to the spread of HIV.

Now, he’s attempted to take back these comments. And he’s …

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