Pope Francis gestures during his weekly general audience at the Paul VI audience Hall on Dec. 7, 2016 in Vatican. (Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images)
We've all witnessed people wrongly stereotype others through a stinging rebuke.
They are easy to spot as they tend to be delivered by people who have very little respect for whatever demographic they use as their example. They go something like this...
"If that's the way you park, you might as well be a woman."
"If that's how you throw a punch, you might want to consider a gay lifestyle."
"Mel Gibson is a less of an asshole than you."
Suffice it to say, women, LGBTQ members and Mel Gibson would not be lining up to express their gratitude for being the working example of people just a tiny bit better than the supposedly weak, incompetent jerks on the receiving end of any one of those statements. A woman might rightfully tell you to get bent, a gay guy might deliver a stinging retort and Mel Gibson might tell you to smile and blow him.
So when Pope Francis tells the world that it is better to be an atheist than a hypocritical Catholic, why does the media fawn over his alleged warmth and generosity towards non-believers? After all, he is using the incredulous folks as the bar for what is usually seen as immoral or sinful.
But here we are, post-backhanded compliment, and the world seems to be rushing to add more progressive legitimacy to a pope who has better public relations than any other human in world history. No, seriously, I wish that were an understatement.
How Pope Francis, a man who leads an organization best known for the systemic sexual torture of countless children worldwide, can be heralded as anything other than a steward of hypocrisy is a testament to what people can get away with when they claim to be speaking for god. The insincerity one needs to promote progressive ideals while maintaining draconian status quos, like those embedded inside the Catholic Church, is incalculable.
But here we are, as we are a few times a year, singing the praises of Pope Francis, a.k.a. Jorge Mario Bergoglio, as if he just performed an actual miracle such as bringing his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI to justice for enabling pedophilia. Instead, Jorge receives endless accolades for saying the right things, even as the Catholic Church continues to officially contradict many of his most progressive statements.
Pope Francis gestures as he talks during a meeting at the University Roma Tre in Rome, Italy Feb. 17, 2017. (Photo: Max Rossi/Reuters)
Jorge is widely praised by some gay activists for modernizing the church's position on issues like same-sex marriage, but he is still the leader of a religion whose views are precisely the same as the southern Republicans who are on the receiving end of biting criticism from those same activists. Typically, the Pope's actual views on homosexuality in the church have not changed. It's just the soundbites that are different.
On women, Jorge leads an organization still living in the dark ages, but he once said Mother Mary was more important than all the apostles, so heck, all is forgiven. I mean, it will be a cold day in hell before the church lets women be priests, but still... isn't he something!
One of the most condescending actions of this pope was when he gave priests the power to forgive women for having abortions. The mental and moral gymnastics this decree requires from freethinking, liberated followers of the rule of law is staggering, but Jorge was once again praised as a shining light of modernity.
This pope could do himself a favour if he opted for the types of reform most Catholics now support.
Sarcasm aside, I realize as a non-believer I have obvious motivations for criticizing the church, most notably my supposed place in the fiery pits of hell for not believing in the first place. But perhaps my heathenism serves as an advantage when spotting the sanctimony and double-speak of the spiritually endowed. As a recovering Catholic myself, I can recall several instances from my childhood when Jews were used as the example of those who had a first-class ticket to Abaddon. A contrarian at 10, I would raise my hand and ask the nuns as to the resting place of Jewish people, given the acrimonious tone of the New Testament.
"Unless they repent, Jews will be judged and sent to hell, Jamie."
I guess, in an ironic twist, atheists are the new Jews. Actually, what am I thinking -- atheists have always been the lowest life forms in the eyes of the church. But this is the first time I can recall being contrasted against another group of hell-bound infidels where atheists came out on top.
But make no mistake; this was not a compliment. Jorge was just using the most obvious example of who does not deserve everlasting life and threatening another group with being as wretched as them. That some media found a way to twist the context into something positive is a testament to how gutless they have become. Jorge has played them better than Trump, albeit from the opposite end of the spectrum, by shrouding the reality of the church in palatable, progressive quotes, while actually implementing none of the morals behind those quotes.
And let's be clear: regular, everyday Catholics are by and large good people, insofar as they have progressed much faster than the Vatican itself. This pope could do himself a favour if he opted for the types of reform most Catholics now support.
Because it would be a cold day in hell before the Vatican acts like the following jab at your neighbour is something even resembling a compliment:
"Even a priest would make a better babysitter than you."
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