I’m not Catholic. I was never Catholic. A quarter of the American population is at least culturally Catholic, however. That’s 75 million people. And if you include the adult children of Catholics who no longer identify with their parents’ faith, we’re looking at the largest reach of any religion in the country where I live.
For generations upon generations, the Vatican has inserted itself into the bedrooms of its followers, exacerbating the already existing foundation of American Puritanical guilt and obsessive, well, I’ll call it modesty to be polite. Oh, fuck polite. Repression, judgment, shame, dysfunction, frustration, and general angst have simmered under the surface of Catholics, their families, their partners and their progeny so long it’s impossible to imagine it ever changing.
Or it was until yesterday.
In an interview with an Italian Jesuit journal, Pope Francis pulled the Church out of its followers’ sex lives:
It is not necessary to talk about these issues [abortion, gay marriage and contraception] all the time. The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.
My jaw is still on the floor. And not because this pope is perfect (you can find plenty of reports on his deficiencies pre-papacy). Or because I think the Catholic Church is suddenly without failing or accountability for past and ongoing injuries to its parishioners. The bureaucracy is ancient, massive and in need of an overhaul like yesterday.
Despite that, this atheist’s heart leapt while reading the interview because the lives of my friends and their children may be changing. And so might mine.
A full thirty percent of Congress is Catholic. The runner-up for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 was Catholic. Which reminds me: has anyone checked on Rick Santorum? He turns my stomach, but no child should find their father comatose in his study, clutching a rosary in one hand and his 2016 presidential nomination acceptance speech in the other.
Santorum and his contraception confiscation crusade are not an anomaly in American politics. Though 99 percent of Americans walking around with a uterus have used birth control, we have a loud, well-funded, regressive group of Catholic elected officials and candidates in this country who think legislating away family planning is a winning issue. Well, gentlemen, the solid rock you were standing on to preach those platitudes just suffered a massive earthquake.
I understand that Church doctrine didn’t change. That sort of thing takes hundreds of years when it happens at all. If Pope Francis can call attention to the actual teachings of Jesus in that book his religion is supposed to be built on, that will be plenty for me. Perhaps feeding the hungry — COUGH House GOP majority that voted to cut Food Stamps yesterday, housing the homeless, healing the sick and showing compassion to the masses can take center stage.
If our conversations about religion and life and the direction of my country could leave Rick Santorum and his patriarchal pals in Pope Francis’s wake, maybe the future could be something like this:
Now THAT is a reason to be hopeful.
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Categories: Speaking Up