If you have been following the recent online activity in my social media accounts (Facebook & Twitter), I’m sure you have seen me root for Pope “Bergoglio” Francis. I would share and retweet news of his activities, when compared to that of his predecessors, give us a breath of fresh air and hope for a more inclusive and forward looking Roman Catholic Church. I publicly announce my support and admiration for him. I would even jokingly say that I would head his fans’ club.
This is a big deal for me because I am an atheist… A very outspoken one and very critical of religious bigotry, intolerance, misogyny, and the protection of pedophile priests. Some may even say I have been critical to the point being on a permanent “attack mode” when talking about religion especially the Roman Catholic Church. (Probably because it is the predominant religion in my country and has great influence and impact over the government and the society that I belong to.)
Initially, I had a lot of misgivings against Bergoglio when I heard that he was elected to the seat of St. Peter. Reading about his past, I learned that he supported a dictatorship and had given very misogynistic and homophobic statements.
Then he became Francis. Pope Francis. The first Jesuit pope that started to shake up and “clean up” the Roman curia and the whole of Christendom! He made very controversial statements about being more open to the gay community and even, gasp, saying that we atheists can be good too! He spoke against capitalism and of Catholics being “obsessed” with gay marriage, abortion, and contraception.
He shocked the world with his simplicity. He lived in simpler home compared to the “castle” that he could have lived in. He became the people’s pope and reached out to the masses. He snuck out to feed the homeless at night. He allowed a child to hug him as he preached. He kissed a severely disfigured man. These are but a few of the good things he did that earned him brownie points to become Time’s 2013 Person of the Year.
Many in the online atheist community, including some of those in the Filipino Freethinkers and the Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society (PATAS), were naturally skeptical and still unforgivingly critical of Pope Francis. They said it’s all talk without the walk. They said it’s all a public relations spin. They belittled his efforts and said he has done nothing about the things that really matter. I somewhat agree with them. Being exposed to public relations, I know a lot of the news were PR stunts. I agree that the more important issues have not been addressed by him.
But I chose to stay positive and hopeful. I still supported and believed in him. I held back my tongue (fingers, to be more precise) and chose not to focus on what he lacked but on the good that he has done.
Then, BOOM! I read yesterday about him excommunicating an Australian priest for openly supporting women empowerment in the church and “married” gay couples in unofficial ceremonies during gay rights demonstrations. It’s actually old news that came out last September but it skipped my radar.
The forward walk I was patiently waiting for him to do was actually a run in the complete opposite direction of his talk. I would understand if he defrocked the priest, but to excommunicate?! That’s supposedly the harshest punishment for the most grievous of sins. The priest is banished and cannot receive his god’s grace. If I’m not mistaken, if the priest dies before the excommunication is reversed, it’s tantamount to being condemned to eternal hellfire. (Not that I believe in any of that.)
This made me ask, has any priest been excommunicated for sodomizing young boys? Apparently not. They are actually STILL being protected under Pope Francis’ leadership. He did talk of investigating and punishing those sick bastards. But all this is happening INTERNALLY. Erring priests are removed in “damage-control” efforts but we have never heard of the church cooperating in investigations of secular authority nor have we heard of any priest getting jail time. In fact, they are actually still witholding information and paying off victims. (If you do not understand the magnitude of this problem, I suggest you watch the documentary “Mea Maxima Culpa.”)
So Francis EXCOMMUNICATED a priest for actually walking the talk while failing to do anything substantial on the issue of rampant sex abuses of his clergy. Talk about priorities!
I can go on with a list of other reasons why not to root for Pope Francis any longer, but I think this one act of hypocrisy is more than enough. (Since I am also trying to be more mindful and focus in the things I love and less on the things I hate.)
I still hope for positive change but I am not as confident in Pope Francis. I believe in the goodness of my family, friends, the rest of the decent people in the Roman Catholic Community, those of other faiths, and of those without any religious affiliations or beliefs. We as people can end most of the ills in our society if we promote goodness and denounce the bad.