Reflections on the New Pope
This week, the College of Cardinals elected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the office of Pope, replacing the outgoing Benedict XVI. This, of course, greatly disappointed the liberal Protestants as well as the atheist community. It seems our liberal and atheist friends would like to see a progressive Pope; one who will do away with the restrictive Catholic doctrines that make the religion a dinosaur.
They would like a Pope that supports abortion, gay marriage, euthanasia, will eliminate priestly celibacy, allow women in positions of power, and reverse Catholic doctrine on birth control. Someone who will sell the Vatican and feed the world.
But that isn’t going to happen, and the liberals and atheists need to make peace with that quickly.
This is the second papal election that I have seen in my lifetime. Unless Pope Francis becomes another John Paul II, it likely isn’t going to be the last one. The previous election that saw Cardinal Ratzinger promoted to Pope had the exact same groans issuing from the liberals and the atheists. I expect to hear the same groans next time as well.
Ed Stetzer had a lot of the same thoughts that I did, but as a research specialist for LifeWay he focused on demographics. What I’d like to focus on here is the theological implications of a papal conclave, and why (if the Catholics are right about what it entails) it will never produce a Pope that aligns with the world on those hot button issues.
First, let’s understand that Christianity isn’t a man-made religion. I know that atheist readers are quick to disagree and will ask me to “prove that” or “supply evidence.” Not the point of this article. So move on.
As a revealed religion, the tenets of Christianity cannot simply be rewritten. We are to value life — all life, including the life of the unborn and the lives of the dying. Whether someone has yet to live or only has a few more seconds, all life is granted by God and is never ours to take away. It is God who has appointed our time to live and to die, and has ordained the space we have between. As such, the Church positions on abortion and euthanasia are designed to value life and can’t be reversed by the decree of a sitting Pope.
It is not the Pope who decides what is binding on the Catholic faithful. The Pope and the Catholic Church safeguard what God has spoken through the Scriptures and what church leaders have written and taught in sacred Tradition. What is called “the full deposit of faith.” God has put all of his teaching in the Bible; it is the responsibility of the Church to teach that message and protect it from being subverted.
Second, Catholic Tradition has the papal conclave guided by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit inspired the message of the Bible. God doesn’t lie, and God doesn’t change. Would a conclave led by this Holy Spirit select a spiritual leader who would subvert the teachings of the Church? Who would depart from Catholic Orthodoxy?
Ultimately, if Catholic Tradition is correct, then we won’t see a Pope that is going to steer the Church away from God. Away from the teachings of Scripture. One who will depart from Sacred Tradition. Rather, we will always see a Pope that will point the Catholic Church to the Author and Perfecter of our mutual faith — Jesus Christ.
Posted on March 16, 2013, in Roman Catholicism, Theology and tagged atheist community, catholic doctrines, human-rights, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, liberal protestants, papal conclave, Pope Francis, Pope Francis I, Religion. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.
Thank you for this. This is the most fair-minded and positive assessment of Pope Francis and the Catholic Church I’ve found under the tag “Roman Catholicism.” It’s nice to have an understanding ally. 🙂
Which reminds me… I’ve been meaning to delete most of that stuff as I no longer agree with substantial portions of it. More reading, praying, and reflection have led me to the understanding that the Catholic Church is throughly Christian in every sense, and to it we Protestants owe the deposit of our mutual faith in Jesus Christ.
I let myself get too influenced by folks like James White. Good apologist, NOT fair-minded about the Catholic Church. At all.
Thank you. That’s definitely how I feel, too. Even since I’ve converted, I believe that Protestants share in that deposit of faith, and even though they are now missing some important things (babies thrown out with bathwater), we who follow and love Christ have much more in common than many people acknowledge I agree with you with regard to White. I tried to get through The Roman Catholic Controversy, and it upset me so much I had to stop. Jason Stellman, the Presbyterian pastor who recently shook the Protestant world by converting to the Catholic Church, described in an interview what I think pretty much describes White’s approach, that he spends all his time on the attack against various “unbiblical” Catholic doctrines, but never makes a positive case for why Protestant theology is correct.
White is a presuppositinalist — he’s right until you prove him wrong THEN yourself right. But he doesn’t have to argue it.
Which has a place when the person you’re debating substantially shares your worldview. However, in Catholic vs. Protestant or Theist vs. Atheist, both sides are responsible for presenting a positive case for the points on which they differ. It’s the same debate I have with atheists over and over again…
Me: I’m a theist because [insert 5 reasons].
Atheist: Those aren’t sufficient to believe in your god.
Me: Ok, then why believe that no god is necessary?
Atheist: Because you can’t prove any conception of god is correct.
Me: But that just means you don’t know if God exists.
Atheist: [changes subject while making fun of me for believing in 2000 year old Jewish mythology]
You switch “atheism” to “Reformed Baptist theology” and “theism” to “Roman Catholicism” and you can have almost the exact same discussion with White. I love the guy, but he is NOT ALWAYS RIGHT.
I totally understand what you are saying about issues such as divorce, but what about women? There is nothing sacred about not having women in leadership, is there, other than women have never done it, which doesn’t seem to be a great reason.
That’s not entirely true.
Actually, I think that Paul presents a fairly reasonable argument for NOT placing women in leadership in 1 Timothy 2:13-15. The primacy of the man in being formed first is contrasted with the woman first being deceived. This is supported by passages calling for the man to be the head of household in a marriage.
So don’t say that the ONLY reason there aren’t women in leadership roles is because of simple tradition or “it’s never been done.” There is, in fact, biblical reasoning behind it.
That said, I really have no personal opinion on this controversial issue. I tend to lean more conservative; i.e. female pastors shouldn’t be the rule. However, I have no personal issue with having a female pastor and I’m in favor of women attending seminaries and getting the academic degrees if they feel the calling from God.
For, as Paul also pointed out to the Corinthians, “Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached?” (1 Cor 14:16). The word of God has been spread effectively by both men and women. It has been taught by both men and women.
I understand and support the tradition, but I’m not as dogmatic about it as some are. I’m not convinced female pastors are biblical, but I’m not closed to the idea either. If that makes sense.
oops. I meant abortion, not divorce, though I understand divorce too.