Friday, 20 September 2013

Is the rainbow pope on a collision course with doctrinal conservatives?

This picture just cracks me up: the "Rainbow Jesus". What in the flying fuck was the person who made this fabulous image thinking? In any case it predates the publication of a long interview with Pope Francis that came out in a number of Jesuit magazines globally in which the pontifex says that the Catholic Church is on the wrong track when it expends too much energy proscribing gays, abortion and contraception. The New York Times headlines its story 'Pope Bluntly Faults Church’s Focus on Gays and Abortion', so of course the obvious thing to do is to look for a picture that suggests the pope is embracing homosexuals. Right?
“It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” the pope told the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, a fellow Jesuit and editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal whose content is routinely approved by the Vatican. “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. 
“We have to find a new balance,” the pope continued, “otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”
The elderly Argentinian may look like a greengrocer but he's a lot smarter than your average buttoned-down apostolic purist because he understands that a structure that is too rigid risks cracking and toppling over into ruin. For those who value the Catholic Church and give a fuck whether it topples into ruin or not, the story contains a bunch of heartstoppingly-radical ideas, such as this:
“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality,” he told Father Spadaro. “I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”
Cathoholics with mental tools equipped to unleash the full flavour of papal utterances might also find guidance - if that is what popes are designed to provide - in Francis' hipster retro-60s bent, which privileges the kind of artefacial modernisation people in Australia might most readily identify with troops of young Christians sitting on the ground at night around a campfire singing Kumbaya:
“The church is the totality of God’s people,” he added, a notion popularized after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, which Francis praised for making the Gospel relevant to modern life, an approach he called “absolutely irreversible.”
Given the rise and rise of megachurches the aesthetic repercussions of this tendency might seem quaint but, after all, the daggy Christian protester of the 70s today is probably sitting in a huge amphitheater on her Sunday afternoons listening to hot gospel sounds blasting from towers of brain-altering speakers and waving her hands above her head like a sea anemone. Given this scenario, Francis starts to look refreshingly like some kind of albino clownfish, the only one of its tribe able to survive the touch of the anemone's stinging tentacles.

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