In a recent message from the Vatican, Pope Francis confessed that the Catholic faith has lately lost its mass appeal, and that, to regain adherents, Catholics must not be afraid to make bold changes, if not found a new religion altogether.
In a pitch eerily reminiscent of the 2008 Obama campaign slogan, “Change we can believe in,” the Pope appealed to Catholics to give up their “rigid” catechism of beliefs and embrace their inner utopian progressive in order to establish heaven on earth, rather than waiting for the end of time, an event prone to frequent delays and uncertainties.
Stipulating that the eternal and unchangeable God will still have pride of place in the new Francis Church, the Pope argued that He must henceforth permit a safe space for more modern, inclusive and earth-friendly ideas. A new social justice ethos will replace stuffy old Catholic teachings of right and wrong, sin, and the many attendant “thou shalt nots.” The Christian world, after all, has changed in two thousand years. Many acts once marked as evil or sinful, are no longer evil or sinful, and other sins are in the rehabilitative process of evolving from reprehensible to desirable and soon to be mandatory. This is the essence of the “living” Christian doctrine that the Pope favors, a fully permissive Catholic theology that will one day consist solely of affirmations, rather than prohibitions, since scolding people only makes them feel bad about themselves and keeps them and their donations from church.
Within the church of the new progressive Christian faith, pretty much everything will be permitted as long as no good people are harmed. And if, by chance, good people are harmed, such acts can still be justified if they serve a greater good, such as the destruction of the capitalist West and its false gods of prosperity and opportunity.
Like Bernie Sanders, who saw the goodness and even the beauty of the old Soviet bread lines during his many journeys in the Soviet Union, where he hoped to learn how to effectively level an economy, the Pope argues that poverty is a godly and even a preferable state, as long as everyone is equally poor. For, in poverty there is greater scope for spirituality. As Jesus was supposed to have said, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a Steyer or a Bloomberg or a Trump to enter the kingdom of God. The Pope makes clear that he takes the side of the world’s poor camels, who presumably do not enjoy that mystically acrobatic demonstration.
While Francis’ defenders insist that the Pope is not advocating the overthrow of the core of the Catholic faith, it is admittedly not obvious to others what remains of the faith when the catechism is stripped of its former articles of belief regarding marriage, sex and sin, divorce, celibacy, et al. This question has left the Pope open to scurrilous charges, even from within the Vatican, that he is in fact a heretic, and not a Catholic at all.
But, if the Pope is a heretic, what will future generations make of the old retort, “Well, is the Pope a Catholic?” uttered when replying to an obvious or rhetorical question? Luckily, in this case, the equivalent expression, “Do bears s??t in the woods?” will probably suffice.
But not every problem raised by the new Catholicism will be solved so neatly. After being exposed as a font of debunked moral ideas and backwards moralizing, will anyone want to, or be permitted to, read the Bible? And if permitted to do so, why bother, when the entirety of the new Christianity’s commandments can be displayed on a 2x2 sign carried by a Code Pink or Occupy Wall Street protester?
Who will remember Aquinas, never mind attempt to read and understand him, or any of the venerable giants of Catholic philosophy, if their writings are nothing but error, and thus harmful to the new Catholics?
Perhaps the Pope is both wise and infallible to raze what had once seemed eternal and unalterable and larger than any one man, even a Pope. But if you are one of those who feel a nagging doubt at the pace of change, and wince at the modern penchant to toss out everything that humanity held dear even five minutes ago, you are not alone.
While the new Christianity of the future will surely bring us to a better world than this, those who rue the pace of change may be forgiven if they hope that the bears, at least, in a bucolic nod to the last ragged threads of tradition and stability, continue to do their business in the woods as they have always done.