Pope Francis: A New View of Religion…A New Hope?
A Calling for a New Mythology
By: J. Marlando
As a person who has not opened a church door in over forty years, I am excited by the election of the new pope with hope that he might at long last make positive and humanistic changes in the very heart of organized religion. I am well aware that the Catholic Church’s sexual scandals have been destructive to church image but the numbers are really quite low when one considers that there are over 400,000 priests worldwide, not counting bishops. There is simply bound to be some bad apples at the bottom of a barrel that big. Nevertheless, in my own vision the Catholic Church, as the founder of Christianity, needs many more changes than those obvious ones that have been hitting the news over the past few years. What I would like to see is the deconstruction of the old icons and a new mythology constructed for our times and the betterment of the entire world. I am thinking (I should say hoping) that the newly elected pope will be intrinsic in creating the positive changes the world needs to become a happier, safer and more loving place to live in. I must warn you, however. If you are a traditional thinker you may find some of the information and ideas below upsetting. Otherwise read on.
A New View of Religion…A New Hope?
Religion, by and large, has lost its grip on the people with the exception of fanatical fervor of extremists in every land. The fundamentalist Muslim is still marching to the beat of an ancient warrior god; Catholics are still claiming the Pope is infallible; the Mormons say that God speaks directly to their president and Protestants, in general, are still preaching fire and brimstone. The tricksters of all religions are still leaning heavily on the old god/king’s paganism that promises God rewards the obedience and punishes the disobedience. This datum has been the cornerstone of religion’s power-over-the-people since the advent of civilization itself.
We actually know very little about the origins of Christianity. We do know that Jesus never intended to start his own religion although that is typically ignored by Christians. It does seem, however, that there was a small sect of followers who might have formed the first “Jesus sect” calling themselves the Nazarenes shortly after Jesus’s deathbut this remains historic speculation.
In any case, the Catholic Church was first to form organized Chirstianity and all of Protestanism is a derivative of that early Church of Rome if they like to admit it or not and this includes the Mormon separatists.
Actually the early Catholic Church was centered in Constantinople where the Christian emperor was given the duel title of priest and king just as the pagan emperors of Rome were titled. The Roman church, however, has always been political and about power and wealth. Indeed, the word “catholic” means “universal.” Anyway, as early as the fourth century, St. Jerome was already accusing the church of turning “the house of God, into a treasure chamber.” And, the wealth, greed and pomposity of the Papacy grew rapidly once made into Rome’s official religion. There was in fact the creation of the Papal States turning the Pope into a feudal lord giving his office a wealth of real financial value. That is, the church had dominance over around twenty cities included in the count of Papal States and so, as E.R. Chamberlin tells us, “…the bishop of Rome held not only the keys to heaven but also the keys of more than a score of cities, each with its revenues…”
Business and expanding wealth has been a quiet but steady occupation of the Vatican throughout the centuries. The inquisition: for example, is a blatant example of this. That is the church’s demand that anyone not accepting Catholic dogma and doctrine were to be named heretics and made to face torture and death. The Inquisitions, incidentally, began with Pope Lucius III in the year 1184.
Again the business of wealth took precedence: Everyone found guilty of heresy—not following the faith—were tortured, imprisoned and/or murdered. The scholar Russell Hope Robbins penned the church’s method for weeding out heretics:
Presumption of guilt not innocents
Gossip or hearsay accusations acceptable
Accusers and precise accusations not revealed to the accused
No right to a lawyer
No right to defense witnesses
Torture to obtain confessions allowed
Every accused must reveal the names of other heretics
All property confiscated
While these rules-of-thumb sound a lot like a Nazi guide for “handling” Jewish folks, this was the basic guide for the Catholic Inquisitors. When the key line to pay attention to on the above list, however, is the last line: All property will be confiscated. The Vatican had created a new way of adding to its wealth—by simply taking the property that they wanted.
By the time of Pope Gregory VII in office 1157-1199, it became protocol to greet the Pope by kissing him on the foot. If that isn’t the ultimate in pomposity I do not know what is.
Before going any further, however, I wish to remind the reader that corruption in religion is not exclusively Roman Catholic. Certainly the history of Judaism is packed with tales of human slaughters while the fundamentalist of Islam are still declaring jihads the Puritans did there witch hunts killing men, women and children; the Mormons have their Mountain Meadow Massacre and the list of atrocities committed in the name of righteousness goes on and on.
When we recall, however, that Christianity claims to be based on the teachings of Jesus we see no historic or present demonstration of this with the exception of few small pockets of individuals. The churches themselves are by and large as self-serving as any other bureaucracy. Indeed, it is not too farfetched to say that religion pays far more attention to the ethics of self-centered business than it ever does to its own Jesus-based moralities. In fact, while so much of our world is populated with hungry, impoverished people, religions continue to build their glass cathedrals, temples, churches and mosques while over a half of billion children lack adequate shelter, nearly that many live without access to safe water and over 250 million have no access to health services. Shamefully enough the homeless and hungry population keeps growing even in America where, so to speak, they are left suffering on the steps of church and state.
One major problem I see is in the church’s mythology: That is, at the center of Christian religiosity is suffering and death everything is wrapped around the reasons Jesus is said to have died for us as opposed to why he lived for us. We need to create a positive mythology based on love, kindness, compassion and good Samarian-ship.
Pope Francis seems to be a great hope for the rekindling of Catholic faithful and perhaps changing the face of Christianity itself. If such changes should take place perhaps other religions will become more open minded and hearted too? As Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergolio it is said that he is a man with “great compassion for the poor, a “champion of the least fortunate” and “defender of social justice.” There is nothing the world needs more than to become more chartable and mindful. After all, these qualities alone can erase the differences between Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, Judaic and Islamic ideologies and quite suddenly all the hate and self-centeredness in these religions would simply go away.
As I have attempted to point out, with few exceptions, religions have not lived up to their basic principles—while there have been sincere individuals who have done their best to live their religious ideals, the religious bureaucracies themselves have made the business of finances their calling opposed to the business of humaneness and human caring. This is not my own skepticism talking. This is the story of religions less appealing history. One needs only to think about the Crusades, the Inquisition, the brutalities of the witch hunts and all the other torturing and murders down through the ages, not to mention the racism and sexism that has prevailed in the name of religion.
What we need is a new mythology, a mythology of unconditional love and absolute forgiveness, a mythology that will stir the hearts and minds of people toward tolerance and kindness to all. Is Pope Francis the person who will open the doors and windows of religion to these ends…we will have to wait and see.
Chamberlin, R. E. * The Bad Popes *Barnes & Noble
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