THE BLOG

Pope Francis: A Man of Few and Simple Words

06/12/2014 08:02 pm ET | Updated Aug 12, 2014

I'm not a big fan of Church doctrines and dogma. It can be any religion. Doesn't matter. I think most doctrines and dogma are silly, misguided, sometimes just plain bad. They were invented mainly to keep members in line with the hierarchy of the institution. The softer reason for them is "unity". The harder one, "control".

Pope Francis made reference to this when he said, "Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal 'security,' those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists -- they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies."

Absolutely brilliant.

I've been thinking about Jesus of Nazareth (the Jewish version, not the Christian one) and Scripture a lot lately. All those times that Jesus set aside the Torah and opted to respond to human need. There seems to have been a pattern within Jesus' thoughts and actions when it came to following the Law or giving his love and compassion to human beings. The pattern is that love and compassion always won out.

In the third chapter of Mark and the sixth chapter of Luke, Jesus was quoted as having said... "The law was made for man, not man for the law, the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath".

There is sometimes a tendency to view Scripture as infallible, inerrant because supposedly it is the "Word of God", rather than the human interpretation or experience of God's wisdom (my preference). When this happens, the danger is that we may be tempted to view Scripture as God and ultimate Truth, rather than something pointing to God and ultimate Truth. In other words, we start to worship, idolize Scripture... and that is precisely what Jesus was critical of. That is what I view as dangerous within Christianity.

In the words of one of my favorite authors, Fr. Joseph F. Girzone, "Where there is a human need the law must bend. It is God's children who are sacred to God, not laws. Laws are to protect or assist God's children. If a law does not do that, it should be re-evaluated, and, perhaps, abrogated."

"One cannot help but think of religious laws and customs today that may have had meaning at one time but are a hindrance to the healthy practice of spirituality in our times. This is not to say that morality should change, but there are many religious laws that have nothing to do with the moral law. They are merely arbitrary ordinances that could be changed. Often people's attachment to traditions and customs resist changing them even though they may cause of occasion untold damage to many good people. When religious leaders see the damage done, one would think as good shepherds concerned for the sheep they would be the first to recognize the need for change. It is difficult to understand their obsessive attachment to customs and practices when they more often give rise to scandal than inspire goodness. It might do well for the religious leaders of all the denominations to re-evaluate practices that are totally out of sync with the mind and spirit of Jesus, and which many good people no longer observe because they know they are foreign to the mind of Jesus."

One can twist Scripture to support any thought process, any speech, or any action in which one might choose to engage. Some are obviously twisted and un-Jesus-like. My litmus test is always simply, "What would Jesus say and do?"... based on what we know of Jesus' personality and teachings. I've always believed the best indicator of this is his Sermon on the Mount, specifically his eight Beatitudes.

So you can imagine how pleased I was to hear Pope Francis on Monday refer to the Beatitudes as the "identity card" and "life plan" for Christians. He said, "Few words, simple words, but practical for all. Because Christianity is a practical religion: it is not just to be imagined, it is to be practiced."

Here they are:

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.
  • Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.
  • Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Sounds like a good enough plan to me. All that other stuff? .... Eh (shrug)