Pope Francis has been visiting the U.S. in September 2015 and it is safe to say he is far more personable and human than most of his predecessors. In fact, it would be easy, even as a non-believer, to sympathize with his plight - he is a prisoner of the pronouncements of the supposedly infallible Popes of the past. A word about Papal infallibility; it became official only in 1870 although the concept had been articulated centuries before.
In any case, among the past pronouncements that a Pope has to deal with are those against all forms of contraception, including condom use, the pill and even non-vaginal sex. Oddly the Catholic Church opposes these forms of birth control even though these methods would reduce the number of abortions performed, legal or otherwise, a form of birth control which the Church really, really opposes. As a result of the Church's opposition to the preventative measures for contraception, Catholics, in fact, have more abortions than non-Catholics on average. An ABC poll says 22% of Americans are Catholics, yet the Alan Guttmacher Institute says Catholics have 28% of the abortions. That's about 27% more than to be expected.
If the Pope and social conservatives truly wanted to reduce the number of abortions, they would embrace and promote the use of condoms, the pill, etc. They would NOT oppose Planned Parenthood whose first mission is to help women avoid unwanted pregnancies.
If Pope Francis has as much common sense as he seems to have, then he must know the Church's position increases the number of abortions. He also must then realize what the real motivations are for continuing down this contradictory path; the motives are an inability of the Church to deal with all matters sexual in an adult manner and a desire by the Church to uphold the tattered idea of Papal infallibility and the dogma of the Church as the Body of Christ on earth. Since the Church has held that all forms of sex that cannot lead to conception are mortal sins, all forms of birth control are forbidden. Any admission of being incorrect at any point, even in the distant past, cannot be tolerated by the Church. The Pope is prisoner to these incredibly self destructive concepts. It's as if the Church cannot be improved, cannot learn and cannot become better and wiser. And so it does none of these things.
The Pope does say some things that gives one hope that he can moderate the worst traits of the Church, although I would suggest no one hold their breath. Here is what Pope Francis said to our Congress on September 24, 2015: "Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind," he said.
The pope noted that when working to combat extremism, people must not view the conflict through a black and white lens and must protect religious freedom.
"A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners," Pope Francis said. "The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps."
He called on people not to take on the anger of extremists.
"We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject," he said." Go to http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/pope-francis-religious-fundamentalism
This statement is very similar to one that President Obama uttered to much criticism not long ago and of course, is a sentiment that secular humanists, and this writer in particular have been promoting pretty much forever. If there is anything that secular humanism stands for it is for being dogma-free and always judging a behavior or policy, religious or secular, on whether it uplifts the human condition.
On Saturday, September 26, 2015, a mere 2 days after the Pope gave the above noted speech, Bill Donohue of the Catholic League said the following on CNN's Smerconish: "I think that he's (Pope Francis) engaged in outreach in pastoral changes, some stylistic changes, to soften the church's approach. But in terms of substantively changing doctrine, he's referred to the idea of gay marriage as the work of the devil. I mean, why don't people read what he has said?
Why doesn't Bill Donohue listen to everything the Pope says including the line about "simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil?"
Now I haven't actually found a quote of Pope Francis where he's said that gay marriage is "the work of the devil" - this is Bill Donohue saying the Pope has said that. But the Pope, as a Bishop, DID oppose the legalization of gay marriage in Argentina, his home country. He surely had no choice if he wanted to continue within the Church. That is unacceptable but it may be a case where the Pope, once again, is a prisoner of his own Church.