Iím a Catholic, and Iím Embarrassed by the VaticanÖ Again

By Rosemary Westwood
May 29, 2015

Pope Francis delivers his blessing during his weekly general audience, in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Wednesday, April 15, 2015.

I donít lack reasons to be embarrassed: shiny forehead, very loud voice, a sometimes uptight nature.

Some days, I even have the bonus of being Catholic. Itís a bit like being an American ó youíre an easy butt of jokes.

The Vatican canít go long without sparking controversy, and the pope (any pope) canít go long without inflaming the global public.

Such was the case this week. After Ireland legalized same-sex marriage in a historic referendum, a senior Vatican official said: ďI think that you cannot just talk of a defeat for Christian principles but of a defeat for humanity.Ē

How ridiculous, and (perhaps inevitably) aggrandizing. A defeat for humanity is worsening climate change. A defeat for humanity is nuclear war. Even if you donít support same-sex marriage (I do), allowing it doesnít come with such dire consequences.

Thatís far from my first, or likely last, embarrassment.

Last month, Pope Francis defended womenís rights, while completely ignoring the deeply ingrained patriarchy of the church. Heís also warned Catholics they donít need to ďbreed like rabbits.Ē Thanks for the tip.

And thatís not to mention the churchís horrific sexual abuse scandal or the corruption and infighting revealed in the document dump known as Vatileaks.

The Vatican can seem like itís aging out of relevance, obsessed with old rules over modern reality. It seems like an echo from another century.

Thatís why Pope Francisí election felt liberating. Heís humble, focused more on poverty than abortion.

He is a bit like President Barack Obama. Both leaders came in on the winds of change and replaced staunch right-wing leaders.

Since both took office, their supporters have suffered disappointments. Yes, Pope Francisís gay-friendly, pro-environment stance gives me hope. Yes, Obama passed universal health care. But change hasnít been dramatic or instant under either leader. Both also have many opponents within their own ranks. Obama doesnít speak for all Americans. The Vatican doesnít speak for all Catholics.

Take Diarmuid Martin. The Archbishop of Dublin saw Irelandís referendum as a criticism of Catholicism, not of humanity.

ďWe have to stop and have a reality check, not move into denial of the realities,Ē he told media.

Theyíre not a ringing endorsement of equality ó Martin does not want the churchís definition of marriage changed ó but his words are, at least, not embarrassing.








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