home
RSS
March 16th, 2013
10:00 PM ET

The pope's four biggest challenges

By John L. Allen, Jr., CNN

Editor's note: John L. Allen Jr. is CNN’s senior Vatican analyst and a senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter.

Rome (CNN) - Every new leader gets a honeymoon period, and Pope Francis is smack dab in the middle of his. His gestures of simplicity and humility, set against the traditional grandeur of the papacy, have captured the imagination of the world.

Frankly, a whole team of PR wizards couldn’t have scripted a better start to his papacy.

At some point, however, charm alone won’t be enough, because Francis will have to turn to the heavy lifting of actually governing the world’s largest and most centrally organized religious body. Taking stock of where Catholicism stands today, he’s got his work cut out for him.

Four challenges loom especially large for the new pope.

First, two-thirds of the 1.2 billion Catholics on the planet today live in the Southern Hemisphere, a share projected to reach three-quarters by mid-century. If Catholicism was once a Western faith, associated with institutional power and privilege, its center of gravity is now in the developing world and its membership is strongest among the poor.

As the first pope from Latin America, and the first pope from outside Europe in more than 1,000 years, Francis carries the aspirations and expectations of all those non-Western Catholics with him into the papacy. They will expect him to be a tribune for their concerns: the inequities of a globalized economy, the carnage of war and violence, environmental degradation, and the perception that international affairs are stacked against the interests of smaller and poorer nations.

Sooner or later, a heart that's in the right place won’t be enough for those folks. They’ll expect Pope Francis to revive the diplomatic and political capital of the papacy, perceived to have diminished during the Benedict XVI years, in order to move the ball on their agenda.

It remains to be seen whether a 76-year-old intellectual, perceived to have had a rocky relationship with Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her late husband, Néstor Kirchner, will be able to fulfill those expectations. It’s obviously unreasonable to expect one man, even a pope, to solve deep-seated maladies such as poverty and violence by himself, but the growing share of Catholics suffering the burden of these inequities at least expect him to try.

5 things to know about the new pope

Second, the most harrowing Christian storyline of the early 21st century is the rising tide of anti-Christian violence and persecution in various global hotspots. From the Middle East to Sub-Saharan Africa, from India to Eritrea, Christians today often find themselves in the firing line, and they’ll expect the new pope to have their backs.

The statistics are staggering. According to the International Society for Human Rights in Frankfurt, Germany, fully 80 percent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed at Christians. According to the Pew Forum in Washington, Christians face some form of harassment in 137 nations, two-thirds of all countries on earth.

In the most bone-chilling assertion of all, the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary claims that an average of 100,000 Christians have been killed for the faith each year for the past 10 years. That works out to 11 new Christian martyrs every hour of every day for the past decade.

Some experts believe that estimate to be inflated, but no one disputes the big picture. In Europe and the United States, a threat to your religious freedom means you might get sued. For scores of Christians in other parts of the world, it means you might get shot, which obviously rates higher on the urgency meter.

Christians under threat will expect Pope Francis to act on their behalf. Many believe that Benedict said the right things but never mobilized the resources of the Catholic Church to make an effective difference on the ground.

The first test for the new pope is likely to come in Syria, where Christian leaders are terrified that they’ll be the next Iraq, meaning the next country where Christians are the primary victims of the chaos and rising Islamic militancy that follows the collapse of a police state. Last fall Benedict XVI tried to dispatch a high-level delegation of five cardinals to Syria to appeal for peace, but it fell apart amid confusion about its mission.

A complete outsider to the world of the Vatican, Francis will be challenged to get his hands around its diplomatic apparatus quickly and to use it effectively.

Third, Francis inherits the unfinished business of the clerical sexual abuse scandals, which represent the greatest blow to the moral authority of the Catholic Church in centuries. In many ways, Benedict XVI was a reformer on the scandals, meeting with victims, apologizing for their suffering and embracing a “zero tolerance” policy for abuser priests.

Bergoglio's journey to the top of the Church

Critics, however, believe the process of reform has a long way to go, beginning with accountability not just for the priests who abuse but for the bishops who cover it up. The world will be waiting for a clear signal from Francis that his legendary “closeness to the people” includes compassion for abuse victims, and that prelates who mishandle abuse complaints will pay a price.

He’ll also have to make hard decisions on other unresolved questions about the abuse scandals, such as whether to impose a “mandatory reporter” policy on all bishops worldwide, requiring them to relay all allegations to civil police and prosecutors, and whether to order dioceses to release their files on accused priests.

There may well be good reasons for not taking those steps, at least as a matter of binding global policy. There are some corners of the world, for instance, where police and prosecutors don’t always have the best interests of justice at heart, and a policy of automatic cooperation could be tantamount to a suicide pact. At minimum, however, Pope Francis will have to explain the logic for his choices in a transparent fashion, in order to convince the world that the Catholic Church has turned a corner.

As history’s first Latin American pope, Francis is especially conscious that so far the sex abuse crisis really hasn’t exploded across the developing world as it has in Europe and North America. That may impose extra pressure to get ahead of the curve, sparing the Church in his part of the world the painful experiences of Catholics in the West.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

Fourth, Pope Francis also inherits a Church in Europe and North America that appears to be increasingly at odds with the surrounding secular culture.

In the United States, the Catholic bishops and other Christian leaders are still wrestling with the Obama administration over contraception mandates issued as part of health care reform, with the specter of prolonged litigation and nasty public fights. In the United Kingdom, several Catholic adoption agencies have been shut down after the 2010 “Equality Act” made it illegal for them to refuse to place children with same-sex couples.

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, considered the leading intellectual light among the American bishops, issued an ominous forecast in 2010: “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.”

These tensions with the broader culture are exacerbated by divisions within the Church. A Pew Forum poll taken shortly after Benedict XVI announced his resignation found that 46 percent of American Catholics wanted the next pope to move Catholicism in a more progressive direction, while 51 percent wanted him to maintain its traditional teachings. That’s a fair reflection of the deep left/right divide within the Church.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus famously says that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” In many ways, the Catholic Church across the West is just such a house divided, plagued by tensions among competing tribes – pro-life Catholics versus the peace-and-justice crowd, liturgical traditionalists against innovators, dissident theologians against hard-line bishops, not to mention the free-for-all of the Catholic blogosphere, where no spleen ever goes unvented.

Francis will be expected to reach across those fault lines, reminding Catholics of what they have in common rather than what divides them, and working out a modus vivendi with an increasingly skeptical secular world.

Despite being a staunch theological conservative, Francis has a lifetime of experience within the Jesuit religious order, where the center of gravity tends to be more to the left. Perhaps that background will give him a leg up on trying to heal fractures within the Church, and in its relationships with the wider world.

So far, Pope Francis hasn’t made many substantive moves to address these challenges, but he has gone some distance towards reframing the debate.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

Traditionally, critics accuse the Catholic leadership of being out of touch and drunk on its own power. That’s likely to be a harder case to make against a pontiff who shuns his limousine in favor of taking the bus, who packs his own bags and pays his own bills, and who makes his own phone calls.

Those may be small touches, but popes teach as much with their deeds as with their words, and so far Francis’ gestures have spoken to a humbler, simpler style of leadership.

Gestures alone won’t spare the pope tough choices. They may, however, incline the world to give the pope making them a greater benefit of the doubt. For a Church that’s long had an image problem, this alone can’t help but seem an awfully promising start.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pope Francis • Vatican

soundoff (684 Responses)
  1. clarity

    When challenged that the anonymous gospel writers plagiarized, all that several early Christian apologists could come up with as an excuse was that the devil had set up things to look bad. They claimed that he disseminated the fake pagan stories to come before the "real" gospel stories. They may have just as well had said "Don't look at that man behind the curtain, we are OZ!" wink wink

    Read about 'plagiarism in anticipation' (Justin Martyr and others).

    March 17, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • lol??

      lol??
      And no, I didn't demonize you. It was your own DIY project...BBBBBBWWwwwaaaaahahahaha

      March 17, 2013 at 6:00 am ;

      March 17, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • .

      What's the matter, lol?? Afraid of the truth? Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

      March 17, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
  2. Mass Debater

    Are we allowed to test God? Elijah didn't have a problem with it apparently...

    20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing. 22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God.”

    Then all the people said, “What you say is good.”

    25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. 27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention. 30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. 33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.” 34 “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again. “Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench. 36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!” 40 Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there." 1 Kings 18:20-40

    Why exactly did it work then but not today? Was God more concerned with proving himself to a relatively small tribe? Or was Elijah playing to the crowd and that wasn't really water that soaked the logs? We'll never know but one thing is for sure, the bible presents Elijah as a prophet of the true God and he was allowed to test God, but now we are told testing God is wrong, but I believe that's only because except for Elijah, he's never answered another request.

    March 17, 2013 at 11:32 am |
    • lol??

      lol??
      And no, I didn't demonize you. It was your own DIY project...BBBBBBWWwwwaaaaahahahaha

      March 17, 2013 at 6:00 am ,,,,,

      March 17, 2013 at 11:35 am |
  3. Jim C

    "You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it's going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it's always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt." – Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

    March 17, 2013 at 11:32 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      Nice. Barker utilizes that reasoning in most of his public appearances, too. Think if all the scientists got together and chanted "gravity is real! gravity is real."

      March 17, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • lol??

      lol??
      And no, I didn't demonize you. It was your own DIY project...BBBBBBWWwwwaaaaahahahaha

      March 17, 2013 at 6:00 am "

      March 17, 2013 at 11:38 am |
  4. Try Logic Instead

    "He told me there was no God and all men have morals and their own laws. So I began to think and watch how rude he was to people and how unhappy he was but I said if there is no God then I really don't have to worry and started to do the things to him that he was doing to others, but he said it wasn't right. I said who got to decide that?"

    I'm sorry but you have to admit, this idiot is pretty funny. I don't think they intended it but I love where they say all men "have their own laws" then almost immediately says the supposed atheist is "doing things" to others as if they already forgot that the atheist just told them they were still bound by "morals" and "laws".

    Maybe if we speak to them like three year olds they will understand. Here we go.

    Here are some basic laws that people decided upon to make their lives better:

    Do not murder.
    Do not steal.
    Do not r a p e.

    Why should all humans follow those laws? Is it because if they don't they will have some intangible soul sent to a place of eternal torment? Is it for the reward of an eternity in bliss?

    If either of those are why you obey those laws, then you are a terrible person who doesn't deserve the live they have been given, because if the only reason you are not a murdering, thieving r a p i s t is because you have been bribed or scared into obedience, then you are not worth the kb it takes to store these letters on CNN's server.

    I choose to obey those laws because I love my fellow man as I love myself which is a simple principle to live by that outdates the bible by nearly 800 years as it was included in the code of Hammurabi. Yes, there were exceptions they made at the time to allow them to abuse their slaves and people they didn't like, but the principle was there long before Abraham or Moses or Jesus were ever a sparkle in their parents eyes.

    The bible did not invent morality, humans did. All the bible did was take those good principles and couple them with a bunch of other laws which gave them loopholes on how and when they didn't have to follow those principles.

    again and again

    re-posting:
    Is it nasty to tell a Big Foot aficionado that you don't believe them and don't think Big Foot is real? Is it nasty to infer something about the intelligence of one who believes in Big Foot? Would saying anything like that reveal anything about yourself other than the fact that it takes more than some 1970's footage of a large hairy creature to make you a believer?

    Sadly, there is far more evidence for Big Foot than for a divine superbeing Christ returning to save (some of) mankind.

    I have no idea why anyone would think my posts are so powerful and moving to have to try to delete them over and over. There's nothing even remotely offensive in these posts, though i will admit I have posted some that might not pass a clean filter...

    I wonder if the person trying to play thought police knows all they are doing is getting my and others posts re-posted so they constantly stay in the recently posted and tend to get viewed more than a post that was simply forgotten. Silly Wabbit...

    I guess they do know and just really really like my stuff....

    March 17, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • lol??

      lol??
      And no, I didn't demonize you. It was your own DIY project...BBBBBBWWwwwaaaaahahahaha

      March 17, 2013 at 6:00 am ,,,

      March 17, 2013 at 11:40 am |
  5. Bob

    the Top 10 good things about being godless:
    1. Secularity is on the rise in the U.S. and throughout much of the world.
    2. Godless people and secular people are less sexist, less chauvinistic and much more supportive of women’s rights.
    3. We are more tolerant and accepting of others not like us.
    4. We are better educated and maybe even a little bit smarter.
    5. The godless are less homophobic.
    6. We are more moral and more ethical.
    7. Atheists experience and enjoy more oral sex than religious people do.
    8. We are better parents.
    9. When there are a lot of us in one place or one nation or one state or one group, the result is societal success and wellbeing.
    10. We’re just better looking.

    March 17, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • lol??

      lol??
      And no, I didn't demonize you. It was your own DIY project...BBBBBBWWwwwaaaaahahahaha

      March 17, 2013 at 6:00 am .......

      March 17, 2013 at 11:29 am |
  6. Rainer Braendlein

    America get some profound knowledge from good old Pruzzia!

    Frederic the Great, King of Pruzzia, against the Roman Catholic Church

    (Antimachiavel, Chapter 11, by Frederic the Great, King of Pruzzia, Promoter of Enlightenment)

    (the book “Antimachiavel” refers to Machiavelli’s book “The Prince”, and is a refutation of “The Prince”)

    I have always found it very strange that these who call themselves successors of the apostles, I mean some poor men – preachers of humility and repentance – should possess great wealth, wallow in luxery, and fill posts more proper to satisfy the vanity of the age and the ostentation of the great than to occupy men who must meditate on the nothingness of human life and on the quest for salvation. However, the clergy of the Roman church is extremly rich. Bishops hold the rank of sovereign princes, and the temporal and spiritual power of the first bishop of Christendom renders him somehow the arbiter of kings(“arbiter of kings” means that the pope was higher than the Emperor, and thus the actual temporal ruler of the whole world) and the fourth person of the Divinity (“person of Divinity” means that the pope really presumes to be on a level with God).

    (Catholic) Clergymen and theologians separate the attributes of the body from those of the soul more scrupulously than anyone else, but their arguments might better be applied to the subject of their ambition. You, they could be told, whose ministry is restricted to the spiritual realm, how can you have so grossly confused it with the temporal? You who so subtly employ the distinguo when it comes to the mind, which you do not understand at all, and to matter, which you understand very little, how does it come that you reject these distinctions when it comes to your interest? It is because these gentlemen worry very little about the unintelligible jargon that they spout out and very much about the great revenues that they take in. It is because their fashion of reasoning must conform to orthodoxy and their fashion of action to their passions; and that the tangible objects of nature are as dominant over their intellect as the real happiness of this life is over the ideal happiness of the next world.

    The astonishing power of clergymen as well as everything which regards their temporal government is the subject of this chapter.

    Machiavelli finds that ecclesiastical princes are very happy because they have to fear neither the rebellion of their subjects nor the ambition of their neighbours (neighbouring princes). The respectable and impressive name of the Divinity shelters them from whatever could oppose their interest and greatness. The princes who attack them would fear the fate of T-itans (T-itans were thrown into the Tartarus, a kind of abyss, by the Greek god Zeus; the Catholic equivalent of Zeus is the pope) and the people who disobey them that of the sacrilegious. The pious policy of this kind of sovereign aims at persuading the world of what Despreaux expresses so well in the verse:

    “He who loves not Cotin loves neither God nor king.”

    What is strange is that these princes find enough credulous dupes who adhere blindly to whatever they want them to believe. It is certain, however, that no country swarms with more beggars than one run by priests. There one can see a touching picture of all human miseries, not of those poor attrackted by the alms of sovereigns, or of those insects who attach themselves to the reach, but of starving beggars deprived of necessities by the “charity” of their bishops so as to prevent them from becoming corrupted by affluence.

    It is undoubtly upon the laws of Sparta where money was prohibited that the principles of these ecclesiastical governments are founded, with the difference that the prelates reserve for themselves the use of the wealth of which they most devoutly despoil their subjects. Blessed, they say, are the poor, for they shall inherit the kingdom of heaven! And since they want everybody to be saved, they make sure that everyone is poor. Oh, ecclesiastical piety, is there anything that escapes your wise foresight?

    Nothing should be more edifying than the story of the heads of the church or vicars of Jesus Christ. One expects to find examples of irreproachable und saintly morals there. However, it is just the contrary. There are only obscenities, abominations, and sources of scandal; and one cannot read the lifes of the popes without detesting their cruelty and perfidy.

    One sees there their immense ambition to augment their temporal power, their sordid avarice in transfering great wealth unjustly and dishonestly to their families in order to enrich their nephews, mistresses, or bast-ards.

    Those who reflect insufficiently find it peculiar that people suffer the oppression of this kind of sovereign with docility and patience, that they do not open their eyes to the vices and excesses of the clergymen who degrade them, and that they endure from a head that is shorn what they wold not suffer from a head crowned with laurels. This phenomenon appears less strange to those who know the power of superst-ition upon idiots and of fanaticism on the human mind. They know that religion is an old machine that will never wear out and that has always been used to insure the fidelity of people and put a brake on the restlessness of human reason. They knew that error can blind the most penetrating men and that there is nothing more triumphant than the policy of those who put heaven and hell, God and the devil into play in order to attain their designs. Even the true religion itself, the purest source of all our good, is most deplorably abused and often becomes the origin and principle of all our misfortunes.

    The author (Machiavelli) most judiciously notes what contributed to the elevation of the Holy See. Hee attributes it principally to the able conduct of Alexander VI, a pontiff who pushed cruelty to the extreme and who knew no justice but perfidy. One could not thus confuse the product of the ambition of this pontiff with the work of Divinity. Heaven could not have played any direct part in the elevation of this temporal greatness, which is only the work of a very vicious and depraved man. One could thus do no better than to distinguish carefully among clergy men betweeen the mark of God when they announce the divine orders and the corrupt man when they are thinking only of satisfying their passions.

    The eulogy of Leo X concludes this chapter, but his eulogy doesn’t carry much wight since Machiavelli was the contemporary of this pope. Any praise by a subject to his master or by an author to a prince appears, what ever one may say, as very close to flattery. Our life can only be judged by posterity, which judges without passions or interest. Machiavelli should have been the last to make an attempt at flattery, for he was not a competent judge of true merit, not even knowing what virtue was; and I don’t know if it is better to have been praised than blamed by him. I leave this question for the reader to judge.

    http://www.confessingchurch.worpdress.com

    March 17, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • .

      How many times are you going to post this crap? Get a real life.

      March 17, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • lol??

      lol??
      And no, I didn't demonize you. It was your own DIY project...BBBBBBWWwwwaaaaahahahaha

      March 17, 2013 at 6:00 am ......................

      March 17, 2013 at 11:41 am |
  7. Bostontola

    Some of the people of faith have expressed pity on the atheists today, arguing that atheists have a blind spot regarding god. But doesn't it have to be true that all people outside their religion have a blind spot regarding the true god? That means that the true god is quite inefficient at getting humans to gain its eternal benefits.

    Do atheists and followers of the wrong gods have a blind spot, or are god worshipers brainwashed? When children are told there is a god by the most trusted people in their lives they will believe.

    March 17, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • lol??

      lol??
      And no, I didn't demonize you. It was your own DIY project...BBBBBBWWwwwaaaaahahahaha

      March 17, 2013 at 6:00 am .........

      March 17, 2013 at 11:28 am |
  8. Over 40,000 denominations of insanity

    Some Lutherans think that the Pope has Anti-Christ characteristics.

    In the U.S. recently we learned of the head of Lutheran CMS chastising a minister of that church for participating in a joint service for the victims of the Newtown school shooting.

    One sect calls homosexuality an abomination while the next one in the same denomination is already performing gay marriage.

    One sect, the Westboro Baptist Church believes Americans are being killed at war because America is too kind to "fags".

    One sect believes that Jesus and Satan were brothers and that Christ will return to Jerusalem AND Jackson County, Missouri.

    One sect believes women to be subservient, while another sect in the same denomination promotes equality between the sexes.

    Some believe that celibacy is appropriate for certain people, or for certain positions. It's ridiculous. Celibacy is unnatural and will continue to cause problems for the religious institutions that employ it.

    Many of the people from these same institutions advocate against abortion, but don't understand the realistic benefit of the morning after pill or even basic contraception; their unrealistic wishful thinking is causing the death of many at the hands of disease.

    Conflicted right from the very beginning, Christianity continues to splinter and create divisions and more extremism as it goes.

    =================================================
    Has anything improved with Christianity since 200+ years ago?

    Thomas Jefferson, POTUS #3 (from Notes on the State of Virginia):

    Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

    James Madison, POTUS #4, chief architect of the U.S. Constitution & the Bill of Rights (from A Memorial and Remonstrance delivered to the Virginia General Assembly in 1785):

    During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

    John Adams, POTUS #2 (in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, 09/03/1816):

    I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved – the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history.

    Ben Franklin (from a letter to The London Packet, 3 June 1772):

    If we look back into history for the character of present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practised it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England, blamed persecution in the Roman church, but practised it against the Puritans: these found it wrong in the Bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here and in New England.

    Thomas Paine (from The Age of Reason):

    All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

    March 17, 2013 at 11:23 am |

    • ..

      March 17, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • lol??

      lol??
      And no, I didn't demonize you. It was your own DIY project...BBBBBBWWwwwaaaaahahahaha

      March 17, 2013 at 6:00 am ,,

      March 17, 2013 at 11:25 am |
  9. Rainer Braendlein

    Frederic the Great, glorious King of Pruzzia, against the Roman Catholic Church

    (Antimachiavel, Chapter 11, by Frederic the Great, King of Pruzzia, Promoter of Enlightenment)

    (the book “Antimachiavel” refers to Machiavelli’s book “The Prince”, and is a refutation of “The Prince”)

    I have always found it very strange that these who call themselves successors of the apostles, I mean some poor men – preachers of humility and repentance – should possess great wealth, wallow in luxery, and fill posts more proper to satisfy the vanity of the age and the ostentation of the great than to occupy men who must meditate on the nothingness of human life and on the quest for salvation. However, the clergy of the Roman church is extremly rich. Bishops hold the rank of sovereign princes, and the temporal and spiritual power of the first bishop of Christendom renders him somehow the arbiter of kings(“arbiter of kings” means that the pope was higher than the Emperor, and thus the actual temporal ruler of the whole world) and the fourth person of the Divinity (“person of Divinity” means that the pope really presumes to be on a level with God).

    (Catholic) Clergymen and theologians separate the attributes of the body from those of the soul more scrupulously than anyone else, but their arguments might better be applied to the subject of their ambition. You, they could be told, whose ministry is restricted to the spiritual realm, how can you have so grossly confused it with the temporal? You who so subtly employ the distinguo when it comes to the mind, which you do not understand at all, and to matter, which you understand very little, how does it come that you reject these distinctions when it comes to your interest? It is because these gentlemen worry very little about the unintelligible jargon that they spout out and very much about the great revenues that they take in. It is because their fashion of reasoning must conform to orthodoxy and their fashion of action to their passions; and that the tangible objects of nature are as dominant over their intellect as the real happiness of this life is over the ideal happiness of the next world.

    The astonishing power of clergymen as well as everything which regards their temporal government is the subject of this chapter.

    Machiavelli finds that ecclesiastical princes are very happy because they have to fear neither the rebellion of their subjects nor the ambition of their neighbours (neighbouring princes). The respectable and impressive name of the Divinity shelters them from whatever could oppose their interest and greatness. The princes who attack them would fear the fate of T-itans (T-itans were thrown into the Tartarus, a kind of abyss, by the Greek god Zeus; the Catholic equivalent of Zeus is the pope) and the people who disobey them that of the sacrilegious. The pious policy of this kind of sovereign aims at persuading the world of what Despreaux expresses so well in the verse:

    “He who loves not Cotin loves neither God nor king.”

    What is strange is that these princes find enough credulous dupes who adhere blindly to whatever they want them to believe. It is certain, however, that no country swarms with more beggars than one run by priests. There one can see a touching picture of all human miseries, not of those poor attrackted by the alms of sovereigns, or of those insects who attach themselves to the reach, but of starving beggars deprived of necessities by the “charity” of their bishops so as to prevent them from becoming corrupted by affluence.

    It is undoubtly upon the laws of Sparta where money was prohibited that the principles of these ecclesiastical governments are founded, with the difference that the prelates reserve for themselves the use of the wealth of which they most devoutly despoil their subjects. Blessed, they say, are the poor, for they shall inherit the kingdom of heaven! And since they want everybody to be saved, they make sure that everyone is poor. Oh, ecclesiastical piety, is there anything that escapes your wise foresight?

    Nothing should be more edifying than the story of the heads of the church or vicars of Jesus Christ. One expects to find examples of irreproachable und saintly morals there. However, it is just the contrary. There are only obscenities, abominations, and sources of scandal; and one cannot read the lifes of the popes without detesting their cruelty and perfidy.

    One sees there their immense ambition to augment their temporal power, their sordid avarice in transfering great wealth unjustly and dishonestly to their families in order to enrich their nephews, mistresses, or bast-ards.

    Those who reflect insufficiently find it peculiar that people suffer the oppression of this kind of sovereign with docility and patience, that they do not open their eyes to the vices and excesses of the clergymen who degrade them, and that they endure from a head that is shorn what they wold not suffer from a head crowned with laurels. This phenomenon appears less strange to those who know the power of superst-ition upon idiots and of fanaticism on the human mind. They know that religion is an old machine that will never wear out and that has always been used to insure the fidelity of people and put a brake on the restlessness of human reason. They knew that error can blind the most penetrating men and that there is nothing more triumphant than the policy of those who put heaven and hell, God and the devil into play in order to attain their designs. Even the true religion itself, the purest source of all our good, is most deplorably abused and often becomes the origin and principle of all our misfortunes.

    The author (Machiavelli) most judiciously notes what contributed to the elevation of the Holy See. Hee attributes it principally to the able conduct of Alexander VI, a pontiff who pushed cruelty to the extreme and who knew no justice but perfidy. One could not thus confuse the product of the ambition of this pontiff with the work of Divinity. Heaven could not have played any direct part in the elevation of this temporal greatness, which is only the work of a very vicious and depraved man. One could thus do no better than to distinguish carefully among clergy men betweeen the mark of God when they announce the divine orders and the corrupt man when they are thinking only of satisfying their passions.

    The eulogy of Leo X concludes this chapter, but his eulogy doesn’t carry much wight since Machiavelli was the contemporary of this pope. Any praise by a subject to his master or by an author to a prince appears, what ever one may say, as very close to flattery. Our life can only be judged by posterity, which judges without passions or interest. Machiavelli should have been the last to make an attempt at flattery, for he was not a competent judge of true merit, not even knowing what virtue was; and I don’t know if it is better to have been praised than blamed by him. I leave this question for the reader to judge.

    http://www.confessingchurch.worpdress.com

    March 17, 2013 at 11:18 am |
    • JesusChrist Son of God Son of Mary Brother to the Holy Ghost

      Can you summarize this in one sentence please? I've got fish on the cooktop.

      March 17, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      A certain issue needs a minimum of words to be explained. This bulk of senctences is the minimum, thus nobody can sum it up in one senctence.

      My advice: Don't get fooled by the false glamour of the RCC but realize what she really is: a nasty wormhole of greed for honor, power and riches.

      March 17, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • JesusChrist Son of God Son of Mary Brother to the Holy Ghost

      Well put. Now I can feed the sheeple my fishmcnuggets.

      March 17, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • lol??

      lol??
      And no, I didn't demonize you. It was your own DIY project...BBBBBBWWwwwaaaaahahahaha

      March 17, 2013 at 6:00 am ............................................

      March 17, 2013 at 11:42 am |
  10. Bostontola

    Argumentum ad populum.

    March 17, 2013 at 11:15 am |
  11. Seyedibar

    His 4 greatest challenges:
    1) fishing diamonds and rubies out of the golden toilet when they fall off the flush handle.
    2) chaperoning the padre/altarboy Sadie Hawkins dance.
    3) convincing people in the 21st century to believe hysterical bronze age myths.
    4) keeping his hat from tipping over.

    March 17, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • JesusChrist Son of God Son of Mary Brother to the Holy Ghost

      There is some great material here this morning. I'll be damned to hell for not being in church and sitting here and reading this.

      March 17, 2013 at 11:16 am |
  12. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    Regarding alternatives to Creation: (Matthew) "Is that really any more likely than a supernatural being not subject to the same physical laws we are?" Yes it is more likely, though the likelihood isn't really quantifiable, because any hypothesis that uses only things for which there is evidence is more likely to be true than one that uses the "we don't know, so God did it" escape hatch. Hypotheses that depend entirely on evidence at least have the potential for being reliable.

    Regarding "random", the origin and development of life, for example, is certainly not random. You can call it constrained randomness. It is mutability responding to environmental challenges. Observation and modelling of the process has developed to the point where you might have to invoke something supernatural, God for instance, to explain why it's not happening were it not happening.

    March 17, 2013 at 11:07 am |
  13. palintwit

    I see that Palin was flapping her gums at CPAC and now she's getting all kinds of press again. I really do wish that woman would just drop dead already. What filth.

    March 17, 2013 at 11:07 am |
  14. FYI

    Of course, Christianity, by design, demands ignorance. Both naiveté and willful ignorance is at the core of a faith that is contrary to the development of knowledge through reason and rationality. It clearly teaches people people not to trust in reason, and to only accept – without question – the dogmas of the church. Faith is elevated above reason in every church to one degree or another and there have been countless lives wasted in the world’s convents and monasteries. These lives are spent in poverty, reading the bible and praying for whatever. However, this subservience to Christ only amounts to an staggeringly immense loss of much human potential. The fact that billions of people are convinced that all the answers they need lie in the bible and thus they have no incentive at all to look beyond it. The religious withdraw from the world while the reasoned seek to improve it. This withdrawal from the world, coupled by the teaching that the earth was created solely for the benefit of the believer has contributed to widespread ecological disaster. This belief makes it easy to justify the destruction and wanton depletion of our natural resources because; after all, Jesus is coming soon and will give us a new earth.

    March 17, 2013 at 11:03 am |
  15. Jim C

    Who does the Pope confess to for his past sins? He asked his followers to pray for him on the day he was elected Pope, but did not ask his followers to hear his "confession?" It would be better for them to hear his confession on his complicity with Argentina's military government and their "dirty war" than to pray some meaningless prayer. Far better to hear a public confession on what he did to Father Yorio and Father Jalics in May of 1976. He should come clean on this to his 1.2 billion Catholic followers and maybe step down as Pope, if he has any shame or humility.

    March 17, 2013 at 11:02 am |
  16. Stacy

    Wouldn't you guys be more at home on the "unbelief" blog? It's becoming quite the Sunday morning ritual of atheists to hijack any discussion that may actually relate to the subject of the featured subject. Thus, you are left mostly alone to cheer on each other as you chant "fantasy and fable and fanatics" as if any intelligent person who is a believer has not considered that possibilty. If you really want to win over the "lost", you may need to offer a stronger platform. You could start with your version of where we came from? You discount the possiblity of a super being–an architect–with the power to set in force the laws of nature that would lead to what we know as the universe. Crazy stuff! So, what do you have other than the predictable "crimes of the church", "meddling Christians", "who needs God?" slogons? As sarcastic as that may read, I would make for more interesting discussion. However, there is obviously a major difference between a "discussion" and a "blog"...which sounds like a word for something you throw on the side of a window to see if it sticks.

    March 17, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • JesusChrist Son of God Son of Mary Brother to the Holy Ghost

      It is free will, god's way. Are you saying god is wrong?

      March 17, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      Speaking for myself, I utilize faith. I have faith that my perspectives are poignant; I think it's better for believers to have read my opinion than not. And I treat people the way that I judge they deserve to be treated, and I most often determine that by that individual's writing; if the poster is arrogant, then I reply in a manner that puts that arrogance between the two of us, and so I force him to deal with that issue. And I think this method is more commonly used by atheists than believers, here, and I don't think you'd disagree.

      Does that answer your questions?

      March 17, 2013 at 10:57 am |
    • Bostontola

      Actually, its the Beief blog, not the Faith blog. I believe there is no god.

      March 17, 2013 at 11:04 am |
    • JesusChrist Son of God Son of Mary Brother to the Holy Ghost

      Bostontola, well put.

      March 17, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • JMEF

      Believe what you want, I am a deist, just maintain the separation between state and church. That is all , carry on.

      March 17, 2013 at 11:13 am |
    • lol??

      lol??
      And no, I didn't demonize you. It was your own DIY project...BBBBBBWWwwwaaaaahahahaha

      March 17, 2013 at 6:00 am .........

      March 17, 2013 at 11:26 am |
  17. Rainer Braendlein

    The chief of the adulterous church

    The above article labours under the misapprehension that the pope still had any temporal power. The pope has power only inside the Roman Catholic Church, there he is even God, but outside the RCC his power is about zero.

    Imagine Francis would call Obamba, and command him he should stop gay marriage in the United Sodoms, sorry I meant United States. Obamba would answer: Dear Francis, I appreciate you as a great spiritual leader but concerning the affairs of the US you should not meddle in, kiss my a-ss; if you don't stop meddling in we will send some missiles to Vatikan-state.

    Also when the pope would call Mrs. Angy Merkel, and command her that she should forbid abortion she would merely burp, and tell him that Germany doesn't belong to his realm, and he should fry his own fish.

    Today the pope is mererly allowed to tell his atti-tudes through speeches but he cannot enforce his will by violence. The pope has not more power than the German Ferderal President who is also an idiotic clown who always speaks about freedom but doesn't take care of the happiness of the German people, he is just a ridiculous fake.

    The role of the pope is that one of an evil clown which helps the current temporal leaders to keep the fiction they had any fear of God. Together with the temporal rulers the pope sucks the commen herd, us naive people who don't realize what is going on.

    Of course, the role of the pope as an evil religious clown more and more comes to and end. Less and less the temporal rulers see any need to keep the fiction they would be pious in any way. The Beast is about to show its true face, and the common herd will submit to the Antichrist who degrades them to stupid animals who are allowed to labour in his factories, and to hang around in front of the idiot box the rest of their sad life.

    March 17, 2013 at 10:47 am |
  18. Rainer Braendlein

    FYI and Bootyfunk are not able to distinguish between Christianity and Catholicism. They lump together two totally different things, even opposite things.

    Christianity means heaven, and Catholicism means hell.

    March 17, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • midwest rail

      According to you. I highly doubt Catholics are worried about being labeled "non-Christian" by a crackpot on the internet.

      March 17, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Rainman
      A distinction without a difference.
      Some argue that the catholics are not christian, but catholicism is a christian religion. Moot point.

      March 17, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      I say it plainly and clearly: The Roman Catholic Church is no Chrisitian Church but has forsaken her Lord Jesus Christ, and committed adultery. The RCC established a kind of marriage with the sinful world or with Satan.

      The only Christian remain inside the RCC is the Holy Sacramental Baptism which is even valid. A Catholic who wants to become a real Christian doesn't have to be baptized again but can simply refer to his infant baptism. However, as soon a Catholic wants to live a righteous life through the power of Jesus' sacrifice and the baptism, he has to forsake the RCC, the popes unholy rat-hole-

      March 17, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • midwest rail

      See previous reply.

      March 17, 2013 at 10:58 am |
    • Pete

      I think they are spamming the boards just like you are thinking you're actually going to change someones mind. This is an entertainment site so keep your spam where it belongs on your own blogs!

      March 17, 2013 at 11:04 am |
    • Collector

      Rainer
      I collect WWII memorabilia and am wondering if you still have some of your old SS insignia, badges and buckles, I will pay a premium rate?

      March 17, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      No True Scotsman’ Fallacy
      Explanation

      The no true scotsman fallacy is a way of reinterpreting evidence in order to prevent the refutation of one’s position. Proposed counter-examples to a theory are dismissed as irrelevant solely because they are counter-examples, but purportedly because they are not what the theory is about.
      Example

      The No True Scotsman fallacy involves discounting evidence that would refute a proposition, concluding that it hasn’t been falsified when in fact it has.

      If Angus, a Glaswegian, who puts sugar on his porridge, is proposed as a counter-example to the claim “No Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge”, the ‘No true Scotsman’ fallacy would run as follows:

      (1) Angus puts sugar on his porridge.
      (2) No (true) Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.
      Therefore:
      (3) Angus is not a (true) Scotsman.
      Therefore:
      (4) Angus is not a counter-example to the claim that no Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.

      This fallacy is a form of circular argument, with an existing belief being assumed to be true in order to dismiss any apparent counter-examples to it. The existing belief thus becomes unfalsifiable.

      Real-World Examples:

      An argument similar to this is often arises when people attempt to define religious groups. In some Christian groups, for example, there is an idea that faith is permanent, that once one becomes a Christian one cannot fall away. Apparent counter-examples to this idea, people who appear to have faith but subsequently lose it, are written off using the ‘No True Scotsman’ fallacy: they didn’t really have faith, they weren’t true Christians. The claim that faith cannot be lost is thus preserved from refutation. Given such an approach, this claim is unfalsifiable, there is no possible refutation of it.

      March 17, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
  19. Daniel Maddigan

    He has only one job. Expose and prosecute the child molesting priests. As it stands now this is a criminal organization protecting it's members from prosecution. It looks like their strategy is to delay and ignore the crimes until the current generation victims are dead. This must not be allowed. If this pope does nothing the entire church should be brought to the World Court for prosecution.

    March 17, 2013 at 10:39 am |
  20. Matthew Kilburn

    Rejecting the existence of a higher power – in this case, God – requires you to believe that all of creation was random, spontaneous, and unguided by any amount of intelligence. Is that really any more likely than a supernatural being not subject to the same physical laws we are?

    I don't think so. And its curious (or not) that the Atheists never actually try to advance this view, preferring instead to zero in on the unproven nature of God.

    March 17, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      MK
      "Is that really any more likely than a supernatural being not subject to the same physical laws we are?"
      Yes
      This god of yours would have had to create itself out of nothing as well, which is impossible.

      March 17, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Daniel Maddigan

      So where did the supernatural being come from?

      March 17, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      I don't "advance that view" because it's not a view I must deal with. I state what I do know, which is that I don't know and nobody knows "why the universe exists." I suspect that no human will ever know the answer to that question. Perhaps that question is irrelevant. But to try to feel better by saying a big, invisible sky wizard did it with magic spellz and cares about little ole me is just flat ridiculous. We don't know why we're here, so let's keep up honest inquiry, critical reasoning, and free thought.

      March 17, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • Stacy

      That's exactly what Matthew offered.

      March 17, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      "We don't know" does not equal "random chance."

      March 17, 2013 at 10:59 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Advertisement
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.