Pope Francis and I have similar backgrounds. Both of us spent College, and 8 years of Graduate School in a highly structured monastic-like atmosphere, studying the same text books, reading the same manuscripts, listening to the same religious instructions, chanting the Psalms in Latin, and finally being ordained to the same Catholic Priesthood.
We think alike, the two of us. But we don’t think like every other Catholic priest, believe me. There are several priests, bishops, and even Cardinals who have already pegged Pope Francis as a “potential heretic.” And me? Well, I’ve been a heretic for years. What does that mean?
A heretic is someone who believes or teaches something that goes against the accepted or official Catholic beliefs or laws. For example, in the Catholic Church, it is simply heretical to teach that divorced and remarried Catholics can receive Communion; they are people in sin and they must repent completely of their life styles before they can approach the altar. It’s the Law!
However, just last week, Pope Francis said: “This status quo is unacceptable. For the spiritual well-being of the divorced and remarried members of our Catholic family, for the salvation of their souls, we’ve got to do something!.” Okay. What are we going to do? Well, we’re not going to keep the law, that’s for sure!
This is where the Pope and I are very close. We are not afraid to ask: “What good is this law?” We had a Latin phrase we used a lot when the two of us were studying Canon Law: Cui Bono? “What good is it?” We need to ask if this law is still as beneficial as it was when it was written. I’m sure not many of us today would want to enforce many of the laws that are still contained in the Jewish Tanakh (the Old Testament.)
If a man commits adultery with a married woman, both must be killed. (Lv.20:10)
If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son …the men of the city will stone him to death. (Dt.21:21)
We can overturn political laws like Slavery and Women Voting Rights and Health Care, but it’s more difficult when the law is preceded by the words: “God Says.” Religious groups of all kinds use these words constantly.
I shudder when I hear a TV evangelist telling his audience exactly what God wants them to do. But the Catholic Church has done this for centuries. Until now.
Now a smiling Jesuit priest, called Pope Francis, raises his hand and calls a halt to this insanity. No longer do we hear condemnations and infallible proclamations spewing from the Vatican; instead the whole world is overjoyed to hear words like:
“Who am I to Judge?” (When asked about Gays)
“There is no Catholic God” (When asked that question)
“The Church has locked itself up in small-minded rules” (in an interview Sept.30, 2013)
I think we have entered into a new era that will benefit not only millions of Catholics, but also every intelligent, well-meaning man and woman of whatever belief, (including former American Catholics, who, if they formed their own Church would be the country’s second largest denomination, after the Catholic Church itself.)
I am delighted to shout out that we finally have a Church Leader who is willing to look at all the ancient religious laws and traditions and proclamations and ask with a big smile:
Cui Bono? What good is it?