Hope Where I Least Expected

Fun Fact: I grew up Catholic. I even went to Catholic school through eighth grade and trudged uphill, through rain, sleet and snow to church every Sunday for my first two years of college. Fortunately (or some may same unfortunately), I had the audacity to question the church even as I attended mass. I thought I could pick and choose what to believe in like many other Catholics I know and find fulfillment. I haven’t considered myself Catholic for quite a while now, so it goes without question that I did not find the fulfillment I sought. There are things I believe and advocate that Catholicism is against. There are many things I could say about why I no longer consider myself Catholic, but I will leave it at this: the Catholic Church and I have different views on the definition of gender equality and love.

Enter Pope Francis. I can’t find the articles I read about him around the time he first became the head of the Catholic Church, but what I read left me with the impression that he would be more of the same. Quotes from him before his papacy positioned him as being vehemently against homosexuality, and that is all I needed to know to dislike him (let me make a long story short here. I believe that divinity, the universe, God or whatever name you choose to give it, is love. The love that exists between lovers, friends, mentors and all other human relationships is a literal manifestation of this divinity in our lives. Call it grace or whatever  you want. It’s sacred, equally so, whether is exist between a mother and her child, a father and his child, a man and woman in love, two women in love or two men in love. To deny that presence, to discredit it and call it evil is, to me, akin to denying the presence of God in a person’s life. Yes, this is the short version).

My first impressions of Pope Francis seem wrong. To my great surprise, I almost have hope that the Catholic Church has the potential to be the kind of dogma I can get behind again. That hope is even more evident after reading this interview in La Repubblica.it. Whether you are religions, spiritual or otherwise, this is a fantastic and thought-provoking interview. I recommend everyone take the time to read it through.

Here are some of my favorite excerpts from the article, all of which are quoted in the article as Pope Francis’s words:

  • Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us.”
  • “You know what I think about this? Heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy.”
  • “…when I meet a clericalist, I suddenly become anti-clerical. Clericalism should not have anything to do with Christianity.”
  • “And I believe in God, not in a Catholic God, there is no Catholic God, there is God…”

Seriously, go read the article.

For my part, here is my overall impression:

While I was reading it, I thought to myself that this was something I could get behind. It’s been my personal belief for a while that the most important spiritual relationship is between the individual and the universe (or divinity, or God or whatever you call it. It’s all the same to me). It is through that relationship, not religion or frequent  church visits, that we form our morality. It seems to me this pope is saying something very similar to that. The only missing piece of the puzzle is the piece I will probably never find in a religion, openness to questions. As in, I think the only way to grow that relationship is to constantly question personal belief. If we rest, assured by our religion that we have all the answers to what is right and wrong in the world, we only realize a minuscule fraction of true spirituality. While some may say religious faith is open to questioning, if we are forbidden by that religion to rest upon an answer that is contradictory to that dogma, then we are forbidden to question.

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