News & Politics

Pope Decries 'Rigidity' in the Church and Warns of Christian Decline

Pope Francis Pope Francis visits the University Roma Tre, Rome, Italy - 17 Feb 2017 (Rex Features via AP Images)

Pope Francis sent a Christmas message to the cardinals, bishops, and Vatican bureaucrats acknowledging the decline in influence of Christianity in the Western world while criticizing the “rigidity” of traditionalists.

Globe and Mail:

Francis called for Vatican bureaucrats to instead embrace change during his annual Christmas greetings to the cardinals, bishops and priests who work in the Holy See.

Francis’ message appeared aimed at conservative and traditionalist Catholics, including within the Vatican Curia, who have voiced increasing opposition to his progressive-minded papacy. Their criticisms have accelerated over the past year, amid Vatican financial and sex abuse scandals that may have predated Francis’ papacy but are nevertheless coming to light now.

The “change” Francis is calling for is not cosmetic or superficial. It goes to the heart of the Roman Catholic Church — its beliefs, and yes, traditions.

He cited the late Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, a leader of the progressive wing of the Catholic Church, who in his final interview before dying in 2012 lamented that the church found itself “200 years behind” because of its inbred fear of change.

“Today we are no longer the only ones that produce culture, no longer the first nor the most listened to,” Francis told the prelates. “The faith in Europe and in much of the West is no longer an obvious presumption but is often denied, derided, marginalized and ridiculed.”

As a result, he urged the Catholic hierarchy to embrace the necessary pastoral reforms and outlook that will make the church attractive so that it can fulfil its mission to spread the faith.

I don’t think we’ve ever heard a pope talk like a used car salesman. He wants to make the church more hip and “attractive” — as if belief and faith can be bought and sold by being more “modern.”

And I hate to break it to his holiness, but the Roman church has been losing influence since the Reformation. Wasn’t that pretty much the point of Luther nailing his theses to the door of the church?

He recalled, as he has in the past, that people who take rigid positions are usually using them to mask their own problems, scandals or “imbalances.”

“Rigidity and imbalance fuel one another in a vicious circle,” he said. “And these days, the temptation to rigidity has become so apparent.”

Since most church dogma is based directly on scripture, perhaps he wants to change the New Testament. Or teach people not to take it so seriously.

“Rigidity” is sort of the point of the Catholic church. The centuries roll by, world leaders come and go, war, pestilence — and through it all, the church and faith in it stands like the rock that Christ intended it to be.

The pope is attacking the fundamental basis for the existence of the Catholic church. Could the church be more open-minded, more expansive in its view of the modern world? Few would disagree with that. It’s outlook on women, especially, should — must — undergo a radical reformation.

But that’s where leadership comes in. And this pope continues to make enemies of the traditionalists and conservatives without building any bridges to the past or future.

He is a disaster for the Catholic church and for Catholics as believers.