Rock On

I was taught that the pope was Christ’s representative on earth. A descendent of Peter, the rock… the apostle of which Christ said, “Upon this rock I will build my church.”

Last week, a new pope, a new rock if you will, was elected to lead the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics.

In 2000, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the man who Catholic cardinals elected as their lord’s new representative, authored a Vatican directive to priests around the world calling for a proactive stand to stop governments from legalizing same-sex marriage and for a repeal of those those already on the books that give rights, including adoption, to gay couples.

The 12-page document called on Catholic bishops and lawmakers to oppose the legalization of same-sex unions.

In 1986 as Cardinal, Ratzinger delivered a Letter to the Bishops
of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons.

In it he said: “Neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase.”

Forgive me if I find it hard to picture Christ, the man who the pope is supposed to be representing, uttering those words.

In fact, if Christ hadn’t risen from the dead, as Catholics believe he did, he’d be turning over in his grave right about now.

Ratzinger opposes contraception and the use of condoms to combat HIV/AIDS.  He advocates a diminished role for women in the Church and has called for mandatory celibacy for priests.

It seems the church’s new rock has cast quite a number of stones in his past.

I understood Christ’s message at a very young age. I incorporated that message into my life and totally got it. Unlike many of my Catholic school friends, I didn’t want to be a nun. If anything, the priesthood would have suited me better… except for the no sex thing which I found a bit well unnatural.

That’s why I find it so utterly anti-Christ to be force fed orthodox rhetoric.

For the past three weeks we’ve been force fed a one-sided coverage of a pope’s death and election of a new one. It has been the most biased coverage of any news story I have ever seen in my nearly 25 years as a journalist.. And yet, no one seems to be complaining. Or else, those who are complaining are being ignored.

And now they want to fast forward John Paul II to sainthood. It’s as if there is some intrinsic evil in criticizing the ex-pope. Excuse me, but didn’t the priest sex scandal happen under his watch? And wasn’t he the one who swept it under the rug?

A reporter on a television program the other night had the courage to ask a question meant to open up an objective dialogue regarding the Catholic Church and the prodigal sons and daughters of Catholicism who are trying to get back home to the church they call home.

He asked a panel of theologians and church representatives, “What do you say to those Catholics who believe in the church but want it to move into the 20th century?”

The response was a passionate: “They should get another religion.”

Can you imagine Christ saying that!

While I don’t advocate immorality or changing the basic core of what Christ taught, I do believe that if the bible was truly inspired by God then it can’t be confined to a moment in time, but must be continually re-interpreted and encouraged to grow as mankind evolves spiritually.

The frenzy in St. Peter’s Square when Ratzinger was named pope was electrifying. After a week without a leader… a week of having to think for themselves… the faithful once again had someone to tell them what to think.

But I suspect that in the cafés off the side streets to the Vatican, the prodigal sons and daughters of the church could be found weeping over their espressos and chiantis because their church had elected to stay in the dark ages.

But all is not lost. I’ve done a lot of soul-searching during the past three weeks and despite my disappointment with the decisions of the leaders of the church of my childhood, my belief and faith are stronger because of it.

And isn’t that, after all, what religion is supposed to do?

But what about the Catholics who have been cast aside but need spiritual guidance?

The sad thing is that by pushing away those who don’t fit their mold, the Catholic church forces them to create their own religion and abandons them during a spiritual crisis… or worse, forces them to turn to a lay counselor or psychologist when they are having a spiritual, not mental, crisis.

“I came not for the healthy,” Christ said. “Healthy people don’t need a doctor.”

I’m afraid the church’s new rock has cast a very big stone through the heart of the very people Christ came to heal.

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