Author of Adam and Steve, a novel about reexamining your prejudices

Posts tagged ‘tolerance’

Pope Francis – the future of the Catholic Church

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Pope Francis
Image courtesy of: http://bit.ly/163k4lm

These are amazing times for the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict XVI resigned due to his advanced age and declining health, making him the first pope to relinquish the papacy on his own accord since 1294.  He left the Church reeling in scandal, with pedophile priests molesting young parishioners, money laundering through the Vatican Bank, and a widening gap between the Church’s teachings and its parishioners’ beliefs on issues such as homosexuality, abortion and a female’s place in the hierarchy of the church. Benedict apparently believed that another Pope could better lead the Church through these scandalous and difficult times. Benedict was right.

On March 13, 2013, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the 76-year-old Jesuit Archbishop of Buenos Aires and first Pope hailing from the Americas, was elected Supreme Pontiff. See, http://bit.ly/16VIYIs. His election was a bold move toward a new perspective as evidenced by the Pope’s extraordinary actions taken during his young papacy.

To combat the long-standing accusations that the Vatican bank engaged in tax evasion and money laundering, Pope Francis created a commission of inquiry to reform the bank, better harmonize the bank with the Church’s calling and eradicate the appearance of favor. The commission, which includes a female Harvard Law professor, reports directly to Pope Francis and has the power to obtain information without regard to the secrecy of the offices from which the information comes. See, http://bit.ly/18jrmqW.

In an attempt to align Church policy with international legal standards, Pope Francis dramatically changed Vatican law by issuing a decree making sexual violence against minors, including child molestation by priests and child pornography, a crime punishable by up to 12 years in prison.  Importantly, the Pope extended the reach of the new law outside the Vatican, making it possible for both the Vatican and the country in which the crime occurred to indict the alleged child abuser. See, http://bit.ly/10P09HS; and  http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/07/11/19420382-pope-francis-targets-child-abuse-leaks-in-vatican-legal-reform?lite.

The Pope’s recognition that the Church was “obsessed” with homosexuality, abortion and contraception, that it “marginalized” gays, and that it needed “to find a new balance [or] the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards” was also extraordinary. Http://nyti.ms/18dJO0s.  It was not necessarily a change in theology, but rather an unprecedented transformation of the discourse. We understood that a new day of inclusion and mercy had dawned when the Pope asked, “if someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Http://news.yahoo.com/pope-says-gays-must-not-judged-marginalized-110838664.html and http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/455215/who-am-i-to-judge-pope-says-of-gay-priests.

We now have a Pope who will criticize his Church for putting dogma before love, who believes that his “Church …should be…the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people,” and who believes his Church has a mandate to serve the poor and oppressed. Pope Francis has washed the feet of prisoners, hugged disabled pilgrims and visited a refugee center. It is this Pope’s vision of the Catholic Church as a church of tolerance that is truly profound.  See, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/20/world/europe/pope-bluntly-faults-churchs-focus-on-gays-and-abortion.html?pagewanted=all.

The Promise that is America

English: Dr. Martin Luther King giving his &qu...

Dr. Martin Luther King giving his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington in Washington, D.C., on 28 August 1963. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An inauguration of a President is proof that our Democracy and our American principles are alive and well, as governance continues seamlessly without bloodshed.  Yesterday’s second inauguration of our first African-American President was historic for another reason.  It occurred on the day we honored the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. , who told the entire world not far from where our President spoke that he had a dream. That dream was for this nation to “rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'”  Yesterday, in a most spiritual confluence of sentiments, our President intoned the same words as “the star that guides us still”. He called upon us “to carry on what [our forebears] began”, to make  our national dream/Dr. King’s dream a reality for all Americans.

Recently Washington has been caught in too many and too heated inter-party squabbles that overshadow the difficult work we elected our officials to perform. All too often, we see the sneering and the name-calling. We see hints of racism, sexism and elitism coming from the mouths of our elected officials. Who can forget that on national television our African-American President was called “lazy” and in the halls of Congress our leaders debated the different types of rape, some better than others, some forcible, some not?

Yet, yesterday our President standing shoulder to shoulder with Dr. King implored us to embark on a journey that would not be complete until:

  • “our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts”;
  • “our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law”;
  • “no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote”;
  • “we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity”; and
  • all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm”.

For a video of the full text of President Obama’s second inaugural address, see: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/video/inauguration-2013-president-obamas-2nd-inaugural-address-full-18274078, and for the full text of Dr. King’s speech, see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/17/i-have-a-dream-speech-text_n_809993.html

In front of hundreds of thousands on the Mall in Washington, DC and in front of millions around the globe via the media, President Obama pledged his second term to making equality a reality for all Americans. It was a historic inaugural speech made on a historic day.  Hopefully, his words were more than hyperbole made by a President who was moved by the moment.

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Image courtesy of: http://blog.zap2it.com/pop2it/2013/01/president-obamas-second-inaugural-speech-we-are-made-for-this-moment.html

Happy 150th Birthday USA!

English: Abraham Lincoln, president of the Uni...

Abraham Lincoln, president of the United States of America. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All over the world and throughout time, people seem to be unable to live in peace with diversity. Even a minor difference can incite hatred that can last millenia. For example, although both Mohammad and Jesus preached peace and tolerance: Sunnis and Shi’ites have been killing each other over a political difference – who should lead the people and safeguard Islam after Mohammad’s death; and Catholics and Protestants still kill each other over whatever strikes their fancy at the time.

Nowhere on earth is there a country made up of such a diverse population as that of the United States. That diversity has led to much anguish in many of our citizens. I’m not sure why, but maybe it’s because our genetic makeup includes an I’m better than you gene.  But, to our credit, Americans strive against what seems to be our baser instincts. By struggling through our differences, we have created a better society and a better people. Currently, we are in the midst of one of those struggles concerning the LGBT community. There’s no argument; the United States of America is a work in progress.

Our country has not always been a place where we struggled against our baser instincts. Until the Civil War, even with all of our inspiring founding documents, we were still a nation adhering to European biases, as we aggrandized the White race. But on September 22, 1862, President Lincoln changed it all by issuing a proclamation stating:

“That on the 1st day of January, A.D. 1863, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free….”

January 1, 1863, was the day of the birth of the great experiment we call the United States of America. Happy 150th birthday!

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