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An essay donated by Susan Humphreys

Will Pope Francis I hinder, harm or help the world?

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Hinder, Harm or Help:

A new Pope has been elected. The news commentators tell us that he is Conservative and speculate that means there won’t likely be any major changes in the social policies of the church. They also say that he is very concerned about the plight of the poor and that he is concerned about bringing people back to the church that have left it.

There is talk about his needing to reform the way things are done in Rome. The problems with the “sex scandals” in the US haven’t gone away and I wonder when problems will come into the open in other countries. It is hard to imagine that the “sex-scandals” are a purely American phenomenon. There is religious unrest (strife/hatreds) all around the world. Global warming issues only seem to be getting worse which will cause problems with food supplies around the globe increasing pressures on the poor. The rich keep getting richer and the poor poorer and the middle classes are being squeezed from both ends.

The world is in a mess and this man finds himself in a position of being able to Hinder, Harm or Help the world -- not just his own church --and find a way towards a better and more hopeful future. I think he will find “the shoes of the fisherman” are a bit uncomfortable and difficult to wear.

He will need all the help and best wishes and prayers he can get. Yes I said prayers even though I know prayers don’t work the way people hope they work. However, they do let the man know that people are pulling for him.

In an earlier essay I offered some advice for the new Pope. Here I will be a bit more descriptive because I realize that the new Pope can’t help the poor without considering the many social issues that work to keep them that way. And he certainly won’t bring lapsed Catholics back to the church if he ignores the issues that drove them away in the first place.

Let’s look at any church’s policies/doctrines on the three “hot topics” of our times, homosexuality, birth control/abortion and the place of women in the church and the rest of society. These issues affect more than just the Catholic church and more than just Christians, they are of concern (or should be) for people of all religious traditions and those who follow no religion.

Then ask yourself: does my church’s policy regarding the use of birth control, Hinder, Harm or Help a person? Does it hinder, get in the way of their spiritual development, their health and well being, the society as a whole? Does it cause harm -- as in cause the opposite of what you think it should cause, have unintended consequences? Or is it a neutral policy that neither harms, nor benefits, nor hinders, nor have unintended consequences?

If you choose to say that using birth control harms/hinders a person’s spiritual development you won’t be able to support that position with factual evidence. There are many women in this world that use and have used birth control whom by any measure or standard are considered good, upstanding, members of their community and spiritual people. Any God that would refuse to grant them salvation because they used birth control isn’t a God worthy of being worshipped.

Then ask what affect the policy has on women’s health and well being. We know that many women can not refuse their husbands sexual demands (they suffer beatings and forced sex) and that too many pregnancies are harmful to a woman’s health and well being.

Then ask yourself: does my church’s policy Hinder, Harm, Help, or have no effect on the society as a whole? If you choose to say that a policy that restricts birth control has no effect or is beneficial to society as a whole you will again be unable to support that position with facts.

The world is over populated. Population pressures lead to civil strife, fighting over limited and precious resources, hunger and starvation, oppression and genocide. It would be difficult to claim that any of those are beneficial for society as a whole or even for the individual’s spiritual development.

We know that malnutrition brought on from not having enough food or not enough of the beneficial food (balance of vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats) for children harms their development (physically and mentally). Having too many children is harmful for a family living on the edge of existence and is a contributing factor in keeping the whole family poor and limiting the chances of any child from breaking out of the cycle of poverty.

We also know that some men when denied sexual satisfaction at home will seek it elsewhere, from prostitutes or forced rape of other women contributing to the spread of sexually transmitted disease as well as social unrest.

So how can the Catholic church continue to justify it’s position against the use of birth control? What purpose does that position serve?

If you can answer that last question you will understand what I mean when I say the goals and objectives that support the “church” are actually harmful for the “religion”—the spiritual development of the individual.

The position against the use of birth control supports the male dominance and authority of the “church” by keeping women subservient. There is no spiritual, social or health/welfare justification for that policy.

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Then do the same with your church’s position on homosexuality. Does my church’s policy regarding homosexuality, help/benefit a person? Does it hinder, get in the way of a person’s spiritual needs, of their health and well being, of the needs for a stable society? Does it cause harm —as in cause the opposite of what you think it should cause, have unintended consequences? Or is it a neutral policy that neither harms, nor benefits, nor hinders, nor have unintended consequences?

I think church policies should teach people to respect ALL people, whatever their differences, not encourage fear and hate of those that are different. The church will have a very difficult time trying to argue that their policies Help homosexuals or society as a whole.

Now think about the position/role of women in society and the church. No society can long survive if it cuts itself off from the creative talents of half of its adult population. No society can progress if it sends the message (even if unintentional) that women aren’t as good as men, that they are to be subservient to men. That attitude leads to domestic abuse and social unrest.

Then consider your church’s policy on abortion, stem cell research, end of life choices, attitudes towards those who practice other religions or who practice no religion, towards marriage and divorce, ……

Consider your church’s doctrines on salvation, on the sacraments (baptism, communion, marriage, even confession). Do those doctrines Hinder, Harm or Help or have no effect on the individuals spiritual development, on the health and well being of individuals, on the society as a whole?

Those are all difficult and uncomfortable questions to ask. But they are ones that need to be asked if the Catholic church and other church’s ever hope to get out of the mess they have created for themselves with the conflicts between the needs of the “church” the governing body, and what is best for an individual’s spiritual development , the individual’s health and well being and what is best for society as a whole.

The new Pope really has no choice, he will have to address these social issues IF he really wants to help the poor and wants to bring lapsed Catholics back into the church. What’s most important to him Doctrinal purity or helping those in need?

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Originally posted: 2013-MAR-17
Latest update: 2013-MAR-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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