Pope Francis has sent the world into a tizzy with these words: “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods.”
To be sure, the pope is not giving up the church’s position on any of these items. That would be revolutionary. It is radical enough to observe that the church’s obsession on these issues has compromised its core missions of salvation, mercy, and comfort.
Francis is a conservative, though in his words he has “never been a right-winger.” A conservative seeks to hold on to all of what the church has to teach. Right-wingers, apparently seek authority founded on their narrow issues. Right-wingers have closed the door to the church. Francis seeks to open it.
As a Jew and a liberal (but apparently not a left-winger), I am impressed. By opening the door of the church to all, Francis has laid down a challenge to me. Are there issues that my community insists on to the dereliction of our greater mission? It should come as no surprise that they are basically the flip side of the issues that distract the Catholic Church.
Let me give you an example. Last week I saw the hubbub in the blogosphere about a Republican legislator who said that preferences for women in the workplace have led to decreased opportunities for men. Now, I am tired of the shrillness of the name calling these days, so I passed over the name of this legislator, but I’m sure there are many others who would agree with him. And each would be vilified by left-wing bloggers.
And the bloggers would be right, in a way. But what happened to liberal concerns about workingmen? Is our insistence on gender equality blinding us to workplace issues that negatively impact both men and women? By judging this politician for his sexism, do we impair our ability to work together to raise the conditions of both working men and working women? Frankly, employers like seeing this lack of worker solidarity.
I don’t mean to say that liberals should give up gender equality (or any other type of equality) as an issue. I am just saying that we lose our way (just as Catholics do, according to the pope) when we insist on a few divisive issues to the exclusion of other important issues.
We are human. We can’t do everything at once. And we can’t do anything alone. We have to build bridges, not tear them down.
For sure there are right-wing Catholics who are very unhappy with the pope’s approach. And I have liberal friends who will undoubtedly disagree with what I am saying about our side of things.
And that’s the problem. To the wingers it’s all about sides. Deviation is a sin (religious or secular) punishable by excommunication. And punishing is the attraction. It is their way of maintaining authority and control, as the pope says. But it never advances their cause. Just the opposite.
And it’s not just Catholics and liberals who do this.