March 14th, 2013
09:07 AM ET

My Take: What it means for one of my brothers to become pope

Editor's Note: Father James Martin is a Jesuit priest, editor at large of America magazine and author of the The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything

By Father James Martin, special to CNN

(CNN) - Pope Francis is the first Jesuit pope in history.  When I heard his name announced, after shouting aloud, my first thought was how improbable it all was.  But why?  Why was a Jesuit pope so hard for people (including me) to imagine?  And what would St. Ignatius Loyola, the 16th-century founder of the Jesuit Order (more formally known as the Society of Jesus), have thought?

Let’s take that first question first.  Why was it so improbable?  For two reasons.

First, most cardinals come from the ranks of the diocesan clergy.  That is, most study in diocesan seminaries and are trained to work in the more familiar Catholic settings of parishes - celebrating Masses, baptizing children, presiding at marriages and working closely with families in their parish.  Their lives are perhaps more easily understood by the public at large.  They begin as parish priests, and later are appointed bishops and archbishops and, later, are named cardinals by the pope.

Members of religious orders, like the Franciscans, Dominicans and Jesuits, live a different life.  We take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and live in communities with one another.  (By contrast, parish priests receive salaries.)  We are also not as focused on parish life.  In this country, for example, the Jesuits are known mainly for their educational institutions: middle schools, high schools and colleges and universities like Boston College, Georgetown, Fordham and all the schools named “Loyola.”  So our lives are different from those of the diocesan clergy; not better or worse, just different.  So members of religious orders may seem more “unfamiliar” to cardinals. Thus, not many popes in recent history have been from religious orders.  When choosing a leader, then, the cardinals naturally prefer someone from their “world.”

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But not this time. Perhaps they felt it was time for a change.  A big one.

Also, the Jesuits were sometimes viewed with suspicion in a few quarters of the Vatican. There are a number of reasons for that, some of them complex.  The first is, as I mentioned, our “differentness.”  Second, our work with the poor and people on the margins sometimes struck some as too experimental, radical and even dangerous.  “When you work on the margins,” an old Jesuit said, “you sometimes step out of bounds.”

In the early 1980s, because of tensions between the Jesuits and the Vatican, Pope John Paul II “intervened” in our internal governance.  After a stroke felled our superior general, the pope appointed his own representative as our leader (rather than allowing the normal procedure, which was for us to elect a successor).  That was his right as pope, but it still discouraged many Jesuits.  A few years later, we elected a new superior general and the warm relations were restored.  Still, the cloud persisted in some quarters of the Vatican, which meant that a Jesuit pope was too far-fetched to even imagine.

With a Jesuit pope, that cloud has been if not removed then lifted much higher.

What does it mean to have a Jesuit pope?  Several things.

First, the new vicar of Christ is thoroughly steeped in the spirituality of St. Ignatius Loyola, who founded the Jesuits in 1540.  Pope Francis has twice in his life, as all “fully formed” Jesuits do, participated in the Spiritual Exercises, the monthlong silent retreat that focuses on the life of Jesus Christ.  The Exercises call on you to use your imagination to enter into the life of Jesus in prayer.  So Pope Francis, we can assume, is an intensely spiritual man who has plumbed the depths of the life of Christ in a particularly Jesuit way.  Since his election Wednesday, I have heard at least a dozen Jesuits say, “Well, I don’t know much about him, but I know he made the Exercises.”

Second, Jesuit training is extremely long.  Pope Francis entered the Jesuit novitiate in 1958, at the age of 22, and was not ordained until in 1969.  (That’s about the average length of time of training for a Jesuit priest. I entered in 1988 and was ordained in 1999.)  So the new pope is an educated man who also has experience in a variety of ministries, which he would have been assigned to during his long training.  Typically, a Jesuit in training is asked to do work with the poor, tend to patients in hospitals, teach in schools, and all the while perform what St. Ignatius called “low and humble tasks,” for example, like scrubbing out toilets and mopping floors.

Third, the new supreme pontiff knows poverty.  Jesuits are supposed to take our vows of poverty seriously.  This means in the novitiate living on a pittance, working with the poor and having nothing to call your own.  The already-famous stories of Cardinal Bergoglio using public transportation and cooking for himself may find their foundations in St. Ignatius Loyola, who said we should love poverty “as a mother.”  We Jesuits are asked to follow “Christ poor” - that is, to emulate Christ in his poverty on earth - and live as simply as possible.  Some of us do that better than others, and once he was appointed bishop and archbishop, he was released from his vow of poverty, but it is an essential goal in the life of a Jesuit, and most likely deeply embedded in his spiritual life.

Pope Francis’ name has been remarked on, and I was overjoyed that he chose to honor  St. Francis of Assisi, perhaps the world’s most beloved saint.  It signals a great desire to help the poor.  But I couldn’t help wondering if as devoted as he was to Francis, his first experiences of ministering to the poor came when he was, as Jesuits say, a “Son of Ignatius.”

Fourth, Jesuits are asked to be, in St. Ignatius' Spanish tongue, disponible: available, open, free, ready to go anywhere.  The Jesuit ideal is to be free enough to go where God wants you to, from the favela in Latin America to the Papal Palace in Vatican City. We are also, likewise, to be “indifferent”; that is, free enough to flourish in either place;  to do anything at all that is ad majorem Dei gloriam, for the greater glory of God.

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Fifth, we are not supposed to be “climbers.”  Now here’s a terrific irony.  When Jesuit priests and brothers complete their training, they make vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and a special vow to the pope “with regard to missions”; that is, with regard to places the pope wishes to send us.  But we also make an unusual promise, alone among religious orders as far as I know, not to “strive or ambition” for high office.

St. Ignatius was appalled by the clerical climbing that he saw around him in the late Renaissance, so he required us to make that unique promise against “climbing.” Sometimes, the pope will ask a Jesuit, as he did with Jorge Bergoglio, to assume the role of bishop or archbishop.  But this is not the norm.  Now, however, a Jesuit who had once promised not to “strive or ambition” for high office holds the highest office in the church.

On that second question: What would St. Ignatius Loyola have thought?

St. Ignatius famously did not want his men to become bishops and even resisted the Vatican at times to prevent that from happening.  On the other hand, he was disponible enough to know that rigid rules needed to be broken.  Plus he was also devoted to doing anything he could for the church, and to ask his Jesuits to do the same.  In one of the founding documents of the Jesuits, Ignatius announces his intention to “serve the Lord alone and the Church, his spouse, under the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ on earth.”

Anything for the “Greater Glory of God,” as our motto goes, and for the service of the church, Ignatius would say.  So, frankly, I think St. Ignatius would be smiling at one of his Sons not only serving the Roman Pontiff, but being one. 

I sure am.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of James Martin.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pope

soundoff (168 Responses)
  1. Marks md

    Beware of the black robed pope , he could be a wolf in sheepskin clothing

    March 14, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
    • Zombie Squirrels Shall Feast Upon Your Nuts!

      The correct idiom is "wolf in sheep's clothing," but thanks for the laugh!

      March 14, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
  2. Baphomet

    It takes complicity with a corrupt government or group, ignoring horrible crimes against a group with/or opposing a status quo. Turning a blind eye to rampant pedophilia. Using your beliefs to propagate your groups hate of others who don't share your views. Ignoring scientific fact that absolutely dis proves multiple assertions from your group. Etc..........No god, ho.mos are not abolitions, Catholic church harbors ped.ophiles. Those are facts.

    March 14, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
    • CoastRanger

      Would you mind rephrasing that in coherent English?

      March 14, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
    • Mark

      LOL...you could be speaking of a group as small as a family. People are people. Some families are wonderful, some are harsh, and some are downright deadly. Humans have that capability. So, what you speak of covers us all in all manifestations of groups of every size and level. And, yes, some of us understand the past is irreconcilable and not subject to alteration other than the stories we tell of the past and so we move on to a greater glory, hopefully. Based upon you description of humanity, we should cease to exist as a species as I doubt the history is clean of any abhorrent act in any surviving family. That is not the case because we try to be better and use the past as a lesson and a yardstick to measure our forward progress. As a youth my family said 'no' to me for a variety of behaviors- many of which probably were very innocent and of little consequence to my overall growth but still they said 'no' out of love and not hate. Saying 'no' does not amount to hate. It is the reason why one says 'no' and two people can say 'no' – one out of hate and another love. That is a fact. Another fact is we do not like being told 'no' even if it is good for us. Another fact is that, as children, we believed we had the correct answers and our parents were wrong. We may be adults but we are still children at heart. I will agree the church has a checkered past, as I do, but it also has a wonderful past entwined with it and it has delivered wonderful things along with those things that create scars. Like all families, all it can do is move forward and work to be what it seeks to be, just like you and I. It has much to improve upon and it has much to give and 'hate' is simply an easy word to use but it is a worthless word because it is used to poison more than it is used to heal and it has come to simply mean someone does not agree with what we want.

      March 15, 2013 at 9:46 am |
  3. Mark S

    When I read the unintelligible rants and petulent diatribes of neo-athelists, the illusion of faith being incompatible with reason gently melts away. The intelligent learn the docility necessary to be drawn into relation with the Divine, then they receive Wisdom. The fool shouts and protests...then fades awaaaaaay: )

    March 14, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
    • Intelligence ≠ docility

      A nice blend of ad hominem and argument from assertion you have there. You are a master of multi-layered, nuanced fallacy.

      March 14, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Any proof your divine friend is real Mark? Why would you need religious faith for your "reasonable" assertion?

      March 14, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • Mark

      intelligence is not much more than the facade of ignorance. Time usually strips away what we once called intelligence and exposes the structure of ignorance each generation seeks to hide.

      March 15, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • Mark

      To Blessed are the Cheesemakers: I like the scientific postulations. The one you use, "if you cannot prove it exists, it does not exist" is a particularly fun one because what it really states is, "if we do not agree on what is proof, then it does not exist". So, we argue over what is proof and what is not and believe that argument settles the main argument. Very funny. This guy says prove it doesn’t exist. You say prove it does exist. This guy says the world and the fact we are is proof and you cannot refute that so you disagree and believe you won the argument. That’s pretty much a Sienfeld.

      March 15, 2013 at 10:05 am |
  4. elizabeth

    Ham AND cheese in the byline again,...c'mon Marin what would it take for a SISTAH to be pope.

    March 14, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
  5. kevobx

    The sinners in Zion are afraid, they thought they were apart of the 144,000 in Revelation 7. Name your tribe, or shut up. The Most High is with thee. *Isaiah 37:32 For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion:

    March 14, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
    • Larry of Nazareth

      You know, almost all fourth graders know the difference between "apart" and "a part." Guess you dropped out in the third grade.

      March 14, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
  6. ateyist

    There is no God.

    Man came to be due to an accident of nature. There is no creator. There is no soul. There is no soul mate. There is no meaning of life. Your life has no meaning. There is no fate. Nothing was ever “meant to be”. There is nothing sacred. Your body is not sacred. When you’re dead, your body has no value, no meaning, no significance. It’s just rotting meat. You are no different from the meat in a BigMac. Remember, you are just an accident. A freak accident.

    March 14, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • snopes says

      you are a poe

      March 14, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
    • Topsy Turvey

      So hard to accept the truth, isn't it "ateyist"? That your delusions of grandeur are just lies, that you aren't immortal and that there isn't some superbeing who thinks you are so amazing that he gave you meaning and immortality and special insight?

      You can keep your childish delusions if you like. Good luck with them.

      March 14, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
    • CoastRanger

      Asserted without evidence, rejected without evidence.

      March 14, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
  7. kevobx

    All the churches in the world how did you become apart of 144000 in Revelation 7? Name your tribe, or shut up. (*Acts 8:32-33*)

    March 14, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
    • snopes says

      John of Patmos is false
      Paul is false

      March 14, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
  8. MagicPanties

    I am so proud to have just been elected the princess of the invisible pink unicorns.
    I will pray daily for you and hey, you don't even have to give me money.
    Just believe, it's so easy.

    March 14, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      I don't believe and here is why.

      There is normally much more magic IN the panties than the panties themselves.

      March 14, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • Topsy Turvey

      You have to believe in invisible pink unicorn to have invisible pink unicorn provide her evidence. All others are deceived by the great deceiver, Danny the Evil Magenta Deceiver Unicorn. If you don't believe in pink unicorn, you will be sent to pink unicorn hell, a place we call "Pascal." I demand you prove that invisible pink unicorn doesn't exist – look at the invisible pink unicorns fail to provide evidence!

      March 14, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
  9. Anna

    The miracle of Christianity is the fact that twelve fishermen who hardly had any schooling go on to describe a very comprehensive moral system that endured the persecution of the Romans and atheists. There are now 1.2B Christians in the world. Atheists really hate this because no matter the education they had, they can’t seem to come up with a comprehensive moral system. Nothing. Not them. Not their mother. Not their grandmother. Not their great grandmother. All they do is hurl insults. But they can’t really point to a comprehensive moral system. Atheism does not even condemn murder or lying. That’s why I tend to believe more in Christian teaching than I do atheist teaching (which, as atheists prove time & again, does not exist). Yes, Christians are not perfect. We can say that because they have rules to which they can be held accountable. In contrast, atheism has no rules. No teachings.

    It’s simple. Just point to a comprehensive moral system that is better than the teachings of Christ. Look at it this way, if Christ does not exist, then atheists can’t even compete with a non-existent person. That’s pretty sad.

    March 14, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
    • MagicPanties

      There were plenty of moral people BC.
      Get a grip.

      March 14, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • Arvn Huac

      So how is it that the more religious a region or country is, the more violent crime occurs there? Study after study shows that secular countries and regions are far less criminal. It would be the opposit if religion made people behave better.

      Religious people commit more crime. Proven in many many studies.

      March 14, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • merikano

      @Arvn Huac

      Are you talking about the Americans ?
      Yes, they're a violent bunch. They are not religious people. That's why they're violent. That's their choice. As John Kerry said, "In America, people have the right to be stupid."

      March 14, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • Arvn Huac

      Well if you bothered to google the studies, you would find that applies everywhere in the world. But it's nice to see religious people are bigotted about things other than religion too, like other nationalities.

      March 14, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • elizabeth

      Teachings of Buddah are at least just as good and so is a sunrise..

      March 14, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • Arvn Huac

      It’s easy to be atheist. I don’t have to believe anything. I don’t have to follow anything. I can claim to be better than chris tians because I have no sin. Having no sin is a consequence of having no beliefs. I don’t even have to prove that I’m a moral person. I don’t believe in God because I don’t see him. But I expect people to believe me even if they don’t see me, I use a false name, and have not shown any shred of goodness. It’s an easy life.

      March 14, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
    • Arvn Huac

      Ah, how cute! I have my own troll, and it's a really stupid one too! I prayed that I would get a really stupid troll one day, and my prayer was answered. Prayer works!

      March 14, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
    • breathe deep

      You're lying, but you know that already. If you would ask any atheist what their moral system is, the answer always comes back as "I don't do to other people, what I would not want done to me". I don't want somebody to murder me or anybody I care about, so I don't go murdering people. I don't want people stealing from me, so I don't steal. It sounds like what you have such a problem with is empathy, you don't have any, so you don't understand why anybody else would have any either.

      March 15, 2013 at 12:29 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Peter, Andrew, James, and John were all fishermen and Matthew was a tax collector.
      The occupations of the other apostles are not mentioned.

      You speak as though Christianity is the only ethical system that has ever worked.
      Secular humanism, naturalism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Shintoism, the code of Hammurabi....
      We are selfish creatures by nature, yet our survival depends on cooperation. In order to balance these two conflicting instincts, mankind has had to develop rules that allow room for both.
      These rules are not the same for all communities – hence we've had so many different types of religion and government throughout history.
      Religion binds communities together by giving a common frame of reference. Shared fears (like divine retribution), hopes (like going to heaven) and rituals allow the instinct for self preservation to extend beyond one's self and immediate family.
      This is why the great majority of evolutionary biologists find no conflict between religion and science – as long as religion is recognized solely as a social adaptation.
      Evolution favours the development of communities – but not only those bound by religion.
      There are examples of societal ideals based on principles other than Gods. One need look no further than the Declaration of Independence for such as example.

      As for atheism – it does not condemn anything – nor does it allow or praise anything whatsoever.
      It is a negative statement that describes only what one does NOT believe.

      It is akin to calling a singer an "a-intrumentalist" – the term tells you that they don't play an instrument, but it doesn't describe their actual musical skill.

      Just becuase someone rejects the supernatural, that doesn't automatically make them an immoral sociopath.

      March 15, 2013 at 7:52 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      It’s easy to be atheist. I don’t have to believe anything. I don’t have to follow anything. I can claim to be better than chris tians because I have no sin. Having no sin is a consequence of having no beliefs. I don’t even have to prove that I’m a moral person. I don’t believe in God because I don’t see him. But I expect people to believe me even if they don’t see me, I use a false name, and have not shown any shred of goodness. It’s an easy life.

      March 15, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • midwest rail

      Nice try, fake Doc. How difficult was it to knock down all those straw men you've constructed ?

      March 15, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • midwest rail

      I can't explain what I believe in either. Nothing.

      March 15, 2013 at 3:43 pm |

  10. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxIEaJXSPmA

    March 14, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
  11. kevobx

    Ask the Christians, what tribe are they apart of in reading Revelation 7 the 144,000 *Matthew 19:27 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? (Come out of the churches my people thee, and see *Matthew 19:28* The last days are in front of your face, *Isaiah 2:1-3* (The new Pope is all for the poor, but all of his friends are living in lasciviousness, even in idolatry why? *Galatians 5:19-21* )

    March 14, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
    • snopes says

      Paul is false

      March 14, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
    • snopes says

      John of Patmos is false

      March 14, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
    • snopes says

      Isaiah is folklore

      March 14, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
    • snopes says

      Matthew is unfounded

      March 14, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
  12. LookANDSEE


    March 14, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
  13. J. Davis in Knoxville, TN

    I think our new Pope is just what the Church needs at this point–humility, self-sacrifice, lack of interest in "material" things! Also, Jesuits are deep thinkers so I have heard.

    March 14, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      The last thing I would equate to the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church is humilty. There is nothing humble about it.

      March 14, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
    • Science

      How deep did you have to go for that deep thought ? Way down in the brain aye !

      Free thinking works well too.


      March 14, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
    • LookANDSEE

      Well if yor nor sure u can put "jesuit information" into Google and click on websight – answers.com
      You will learn Frances is not all that humble as they make itto be!

      March 14, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
    • A scientist

      The wonderful thing about the Jesuits is that they are indeed deep and critical thinkers. For example, they welcome the Truth that comes from scientific discovery because they see God's presence in the laws of nature. I have met some of the Jesuit astronomers who work with Vatican Observatories and they take their science (and spirituality) VERY seriously. Unlike some christian fundamentalists who are fearful of science and reason, the Catholic Church and especially the Jesuits welcome this truth because they have a deep understanding of what faith is and what science is, and know that these things are not conflicting. I hope that Pope Francis will bring some of this critical thinking to the Church as a whole. It is a shame that the mass impression of the Catholic Church is that it is some sort of totalitarian thought-police; as a recipient of Jesuit education my experience with the Church has been quite the opposite. It was thought provoking and deeply challenged my beliefs with reason.

      March 14, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
    • Larry of Nazareth

      Jesuit scientists who can see the not-there evidence of god in astronomy.

      I'm thinking you aren't a scientist in the science definition of the word.

      March 14, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
    • A scientist

      Larry, that's not quite what I mean. One does not see God in science by means of science itself. An astronomer does not "see God" in science by finding some new and rare piece of data that proves God exists as if God were like an alien visiting from another planet, which would be a childish and materialistic understanding of what God is. A secular astronomer and a Jesuit astronomer study the exact same natural phenomena and draw the same scientific conclusions using the same strict scientific method. But in these ordinary natural things the Jesuit astronomer sees God, because as St. Ignatious emphasized, God is present in all of existence and not just extraordinary things. The difference in perspective is faith, which can be informed by science but is not science and is not exactly concerned with the things science is concerned with. Sorry for this long probably unwanted off topic ramble, but I think it is important to understand other people's beliefs.

      March 14, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
    • Larry of Nazareth

      You ended up exactly where I said. Jesuit "scientists" see all the same science, and yet imagine they "see" god in it despite the total lack of any evidence whatsoever for that conclusion. That's not science, and any status as a scientist stops at the evidence part. They are purely imagining the god part.

      It's all imagination, and science is not the study if imaginary unevidenced self-delusion.

      March 14, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
  14. Ann

    Thank you for this informative article, Fr. Martin. 🙂 My co-workers couldn't understand my excitement yesterday, when I learned the new Pope is a Jesuit. I graduated from a Jesuit university a few years ago. The education I received went so far beyond the classroom walls and I will forever feel indebted for the experience. With a focus on social consciousness, service for others and education, I learned some of the greatest lessons of my life so far, from amazing professors. I will be praying for Pope Francis and the Church to experience the same passion and desire to serve others, all for the Greater Glory of God.

    March 14, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
    • peternocito

      Ann- thanks for this positive post. I attended a Jesuit high school and college as well as doing service work for the Jesuits in South Dakota. I am a firm believer in their teachings and methodology and owe a bulk of who I am to their philosophies and practices. It made me very happy to see some positive mixed in with all the negative here.

      March 14, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
  15. jesuit pope?


    March 14, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • SAAB

      no juicy pope.

      March 14, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
  16. sam

    The choice was based on whoever was the most hardassed conservative they could find, so they can rein in those pesky gays and women. And, you know, keep things around the 15th century or so.

    March 14, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
  17. sdgo

    Mr. Martin, this is a very interesting article. One of the biggest ironies that you didn't mention, is that the first Jesuit Pope is also from Latin America. During colonial times, because of the fears of the church that you mentioned and the fear of the Kings of Europe, Jesuits had gained so much influence among the poor of the colonies, that they were expelled from Latin America for several hundred years.

    March 14, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
  18. Praedicator Gratiae

    I guess those who do not believe in God have nothing better to do than spend their time writing negatively about God and those who believe in God in a blog called "belief". What irony.

    March 14, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Ironic that you would not notice that people BELIEVE there is no god , so a belief blog is the perfect place to discuss beliefs...even those who disagree with you. It's called freedom of speech.

      March 14, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      Praedicator Gratiae,

      No god affects us, but Believers do. They affect the laws and government of the country, progress in science and the education of children (to name a few) with their fantasies and superst'itions.

      March 14, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Praedicator Gratiae: You do realize that belief isn't just a christian thing...right? And if we're not here, debating and setting the record straight, then it left to you and then this site becomes no better than FAUX news.

      March 14, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • Ignatz the cat

      I just hope the new guy is a real human – remove the pedophiles and punish the thieves at the vatican bank. Let him truly be righteous and hide no wrongdoing. Then I will believe that these popes are true decent persons – until then they are all evil and sinful and crooked. They preach a good sermon but dont live that way! Lets see if this guy is a good christian!

      March 14, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • CJA

      My opinion. I think the church does mostly good work, I'm a student at a Jesuit university. But I think the whole theology is just "made up" Most of those stories about Jeus are made up. They where honed as verbal stories for generations before they wre wriiten down and then the "best" of the writing were collect and save in the bible. What we have is a very much edited bit of fiction about some guy who likely did exist. But this hardly matters. In the end they do mostly good. Maybe in in a 1,000 preists like little boys but the other 999 really do try to do right.

      2500 years ago the greeks build a great civilization while beleving in a silly notion of gods living on top of Mt. Olympus, their theology was kind of dumb (why didn't some on simply climb the mountain and look?) but it did not hold them back. They invented democracy and marble columns

      March 14, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Christians work very hard to be noticed, and then when atheists take notice, they can't understand why.....now that's irony.

      March 14, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
  19. tony

    Christianity promotes a Heaven that is pure Socialism. US Christian leaders and their Politician Fellow travelers promote a highly armed, pure selfish capitalism society here on Earth.

    March 14, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
  20. Reality

    Part of the flawed underbelly of Christianity that even a pope named Francis or a conclave of Jesuits will not be able to put back together:

    (only for the new members of this blog as current members know the flaws already):

    Saving Christians from the Infamous Resurrection Con/

    From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15: 14, Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

    Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

    To wit;

    From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

    "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.

    Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.


    "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."

    The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

    With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

    An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,


    "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

    p.168. by Ted Peters:

    Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

    So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, covered with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

    March 14, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • Reality

      Who is "Reality" ? Have you seen me ? Do you know who I am ? Do you know what I've done in my life ? Do you know if I ever actually did anything good ? Do you know if I even exist ? Of course not. But I expect you to believe me. Surely, you should have the faith to believe in what I say even though you have not seen me. You people should not believe in God because you have not seen him. But you should believe in me even though you have not seen me.

      Christians have a comprehensive moral system. It's written in the Bible. I am atheist and believe that I am better than Chris tians even though I cannot point to a comprehensive moral system. Other than a refusal to believe in God, I have to admit that I have not explained anything else that I believe. I am speechless as far as telling you the other things that I believe in. Nevertheless you should believe that I am a better person than chris tians.

      Trust me. Have faith in me. Believe what I say.

      March 14, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • Reality

      The latter "Reality" obviously is not the original Reality.

      For those interested in learning more about the historic Jesus:

      o 1. Historical Jesus Theories, earlychristianwritings.com/theories.htm – the names of many of the contemporary historical Jesus scholars and the ti-tles of their over 100 books on the subject.
      2. Early Christian Writings, earlychristianwritings.com/
      – a list of early Christian doc-uments to include the year of publication–

      30-60 CE Passion Narrative
      40-80 Lost Sayings Gospel Q
      50-60 1 Thessalonians
      50-60 Philippians
      50-60 Galatians
      50-60 1 Corinthians
      50-60 2 Corinthians
      50-60 Romans
      50-60 Philemon
      50-80 Colossians
      50-90 Signs Gospel
      50-95 Book of Hebrews
      50-120 Didache
      50-140 Gospel of Thomas
      50-140 Oxyrhynchus 1224 Gospel
      50-200 Sophia of Jesus Christ
      65-80 Gospel of Mark
      70-100 Epistle of James
      70-120 Egerton Gospel
      70-160 Gospel of Peter
      70-160 Secret Mark
      70-200 Fayyum Fragment
      70-200 Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
      73-200 Mara Bar Serapion
      80-100 2 Thessalonians
      80-100 Ephesians
      80-100 Gospel of Matthew
      80-110 1 Peter
      80-120 Epistle of Barnabas
      80-130 Gospel of Luke
      80-130 Acts of the Apostles
      80-140 1 Clement
      80-150 Gospel of the Egyptians
      80-150 Gospel of the Hebrews
      80-250 Christian Sibyllines
      90-95 Apocalypse of John
      90-120 Gospel of John
      90-120 1 John
      90-120 2 John
      90-120 3 John
      90-120 Epistle of Jude
      93 Flavius Josephus
      100-150 1 Timothy
      100-150 2 Timothy
      100-150 T-itus
      100-150 Apocalypse of Peter
      100-150 Secret Book of James
      100-150 Preaching of Peter
      100-160 Gospel of the Ebionites
      100-160 Gospel of the Nazoreans
      100-160 Shepherd of Hermas
      100-160 2 Peter

      3. Historical Jesus Studies, faithfutures.org/HJstudies.html,
      – "an extensive and constantly expanding literature on historical research into the person and cultural context of Jesus of Nazareth"
      4. Jesus Database, faithfutures.org/JDB/intro.html–"The JESUS DATABASE is an online annotated inventory of the traditions concerning the life and teachings of Jesus that have survived from the first three centuries of the Common Era. It includes both canonical and extra-canonical materials, and is not limited to the traditions found within the Christian New Testament."
      5. Josephus on Jesus mtio.com/articles/bissar24.htm
      6. The Jesus Seminar, mystae.com/restricted/reflections/messiah/seminar.html#Criteria
      7. Writing the New Testament- mystae.com/restricted/reflections/messiah/testament.html
      8. Health and Healing in the Land of Israel By Joe Zias
      9. Economics in First Century Palestine, K.C. Hanson and D. E. Oakman, Palestine in the Time of Jesus, Fortress Press, 1998.

      Added references are available.

      March 14, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
    • Reality

      BTW I put out a lot of text to distract you. The reality is that I am unable to tell you what I believe in. I will tell you all day long that christianity is flawed or is wrong. But I can't tell you what I believe in because I really have nothing better. I criticize. That's all I do. But I have no moral teachings to share with you.

      March 14, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
    • Reality

      The Apostles'/Agnostics’ Creed 2013: (updated by the original Reality based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

      Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
      and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

      (references used are available upon request)

      March 15, 2013 at 12:31 am |
    • Reality

      The morals of the ancients serve us well today:

      Many OT, NT and koran thu-mpers are actually thu-mping the rules and codes of the ancients like King Hammurabi and the Egyptians who wrote the Book of the Dead and who did NOT need revelations from angels or mountain voices to develop needed rules of conduct for us h-o-minids.

      "Hail to thee, great God, Lord of the Two Truths. I have come unto thee, my Lord, that thou mayest bring me to see thy beauty. I know thee, I know thy name, I know the names of the 42 Gods who are with thee in this broad hall of the Two Truths . . . Behold, I am come unto thee. I have brought thee truth; I have done away with sin for thee. I have not sinned against anyone. I have not mistreated people. I have not done evil instead of righteousness . . .
      I have not reviled the God.
      I have not laid violent hands on an orphan.
      I have not done what the God abominates . . .
      I have not killed; I have not turned anyone over to a killer.
      I have not caused anyone's suffering . . .
      I have not copulated (illicitly); I have not been unchaste.
      I have not increased nor diminished the measure, I have not diminished the palm; I have not encroached upon the fields.
      I have not added to the balance weights; I have not tempered with the plumb bob of the balance.
      I have not taken milk from a child's mouth; I have not driven small cattle from their herbage...
      I have not stopped (the flow of) water in its seasons; I have not built a dam against flowing water.
      I have not quenched a fire in its time . . .
      I have not kept cattle away from the God's property.
      I have not blocked the God at his processions."

      "The Book of the Dead was written circa 1800 BCE. 2 The Schofield Reference Bible estimates that the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt and the provision of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai occurred in 1491 BCE., some three centuries later. Many religious liberals, historians, and secularists have concluded that the Hebrew Scripture's Ten Commandments were based on this earlier docu-ment, rather than vice-versa."

      March 15, 2013 at 12:34 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.