Friday, January 9, 2015

A Conversation between Francis and a Hufftington Post Blogger

   I came across a post this morning which got my attention. I usually get all sorts of articles about religion in my news feed. Some are pro and some are against, every-once in a while I get one which makes me think, and every-once in a blue moon I get one which makes me sit and write a blog post. Today is that blue moon I guess.

   The article in question was published (of all places) in the religion feed of the Huffington Post.(If you do not know about the Huff-post I should tell you that it is one of the major hubs of all things Liberal in cyber-world, they usually give what I would call a less than balanced view of religion, and specifically the Catholic Church). The article, by Kerry Huston Reightley.  a mother from Washington state,  has a very catchy title for someone like me, involved in ministering to people interested in the Catholic Church; "Are You Catholic Curious? If so, What One Question Would You Ask the Pope?".

So with much curiosity I clicked in the link to see what was it all about. I have to admit, the first paragraph didn't look too promising:

I confess: I'm Catholic curious. Sort of. I've always been fascinated--and, admittedly, frightened--by this notion that Catholics can slip behind a closet door, confess any kind of sin, from the monumental to the mundane; and, theoretically, emerge with a clean slate. A true tabula rasa. Where do I sign up? Simply admit my sins, and I'm back to zero? Is there a credit card with these kinds of benefits?

  ...but, like I said, since this is the sort of statement I'm used to hearing from non-Catholics (And some Catholics too!) I kept reading. Following this "first salvo", Kerry tells the story of her husband, a pilot, meeting a group of ladies which while meeting Pope Francis were speechless until Francis broke the ice with some good old "papal humor" (Based on the effect this event had on Kerry it seems that she doesn't  realize that some recent popes have been quite hilarious). This encounter inspired her to ask random friends simply: "What would you ask the Pope?", an action which generated quite a list of questions:

Since like I said, I'm in the business of answering questions about the Church, and since these questions are answered with just a few words. I decided to compose this post with what I think Francis would say. (I do not know of any Canon Law which specifically prohibits clergy from speaking for the Pope without his permission so I figure I'm in the clear (and I can always follow Kerry's advice and go to confession... right ???))

Here we go, Francis musings will be in "quotes".

  • If God sends people to Heaven, and the Devil punishes bad people by sending them to Hell, then isn't the Devil good?
"Actually God doesn't send anyone to Heaven, and the Devil has no power to send anyone to Hell. We send ourselves by our actions. God just provides the standard by which we are judged and the Devil derives pleasure by punishing those who decide to "do their own thing" instead of listening to God. So no, the Devil is not good."
  • Why is the Christian faith more real to him than any other faith?
"Because the founder of the Christian Church is the only one who said: "I will be killed and in three days I will return from the death" and actually did it." 
  • I don't know who he is, but I would rather ask questions to my parents than ask someone who is Catholic.
"This is a strange statement (I suspect it comes from a child). I guess the only thing I could say is if you are buying a car and want to buy a Corvette would you ask questions about the Corvette to the Honda sales person? I'm reminded of what Bishop Sheen once said "In the US there are less than 100 who hate the Church, the rest just hate their own idea of what they think the Church is."
  • How do you hope to address the issue of poverty?
"By telling the rich nations they have to do something about poverty, and by encouraging the many Catholic Charities in the world to continue serving the poor. There is a reason we are the largest charitable organization in the world, but we can always do more (Not just the Church but all of us)"
  • I'd applaud him for truly embracing what a Man of God should be in today's society. And I'm not Catholic.
"Thanks! please pray for me as I will pray for you. "
  • What are your thoughts on the afterlife?
"There is an after life, Jesus proved this fact. To quote St. Paul, "Human eyes have not seen nor human mind conceived what awaits for us in the after life."
  • Do you believe that our loved ones come to us in our dreams, and give us messages?
"Yes, God can use anything to reveal himself to us."
  • Will we see our loved ones in heaven?
"Yes, without a doubt."
  • Do we stay the same age in heaven, as we did when we died?
"St. Thomas Aquinas (A doctor of the Church) believed that heaven will bring the best of each one of us. He mused that 18-24 years are the years in which we are "at the top of our game" so this will be the age our "heavenly bodies" will show. Now imagine a whole heaven filled with people 18 to 24 year old...quite a picture if you ask me!"
  • How will he utilize the digital-age computer to teach the younger members about the Catholic Church?
"Here the Church is making strides but it still has a long way to go. We could learn much about how our Protestant brothers are using "new media". I would be remiss if I do not mention that I know of this deacon in Maryland who has a great blog, I'll tweet you the link later."
  • "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent? Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent? Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?" - Epicurus
"I think God would like us to prevent evil first, before we sit down and wait for him to "take care of business", this is why he gave us Free Will so that we make use of it for good. Evil "cometh" from our violations of this free will, specially when we do not use it to love others.  About omnipotence I would say that many people have an erroneous idea of this concept. Just because God is omnipotent doesn't mean he can act in any way he wants.There are things God can not do, for example he can not act illogically and he can not contradict himself, but most importantly He will not violate our free will. This freedom, which is a gift from God is too precious for Him to break and for us to squander away."
  • What's his favorite work of fiction?
"I'm partial to South American authors, Gabriel Garcia Marques is always a good bet. "
  • How can anyone--from any religion--think they're the only ones who will be saved?
"The desire for salvation is universal although different traditions do not express this desire in the Christian way. There are longings in the human heart which transcend time and nationality. We all want to be loved, and we all want to love. We all gravitate towards what is safe and beautiful. Because of our human frailties we tend to become insular and think that "only my group" is worthy of this love and beauty. The reality is God is the only one who will allow us entrance into His kingdom. I suspect that many of us will be very surprised when we meet some of the people who made it through."
  • What is your vision of God?
"Loving father. "
  • I'd have him pray for "Unc."
"I will pray for "
  • How can Christians, or any faith, justify killing in the name of religion?
"I suspect that there is not much difference between people regardless of what religion they are. People kill because they have closed themselves to God's love, to a point that they have stopped using their God given capacity to reason, and allow others to use them for their own selfish interests. I think we should not hate these people, we should pity them and pray for the light of God to illumine their hearts so that they realize the evil they are causing.  "
  • Who would he like to go to lunch with?
 "St Ignatius of Loyola."

So there you have it; solid Catholic teaching in just a few lines. There is one more question Kerry would like to ask Pope Francis, here it is with what I think Francis would answer:

  • Why does the church continue to shield criminals, who have [sexually] abused generations of devoted, innocent followers?
"I believe that every time this question is asked the first words coming out of any minister of the Church should be "On behalf of every, bishop, priest, deacon, nun, and religious brother who have ever even thought about hurting anyone, I ask for your forgiveness". The next words should be "if you think you have credible information to arrest and throw these criminals and the people who are shielding them in jail, I implore you, drop what you are doing and contact the pertinent civil authorities",  The last thing we should say is "If you do not have any information about these people, and this statement is just based on your opinion, let me ask you two questions 1) Do you think it is fair to throw a shadow over the work of hundreds of thousands of good and holy people based on just "your perceptions"? 2) What would it take for you to change your opinion of 'The Church" in this regard, since the only thing you have is your perceptions and nothing else?"

And I think Francis would  end with

"Please pray for me, as I assure you of my prayers for you."

"Viva Cristo Rey!!" (Ok that was not Francis but me :-) )