Bernardo M. Villegas
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published: Mar 31, 2017



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Neither Conservative Nor Liberal Pope

           Last March 13, the Holy Spirit through the instrumentality of the Cardinal electors gave us Pope Francis, former Archbishop of Buenos Aires Jorge Mario Bergoglio.   On Palm Sunday, as the "Sweet Christ on Earth," to quote St. Catherine of Sienna, the new Pope will be figuritively  riding on a  donkey in a glorious display of his God-given power to hold the keys to the Kingdom of Christ.  Then in no time at all, he will also share in the Passion and Death of Christ as he takes over the papacy during these very troubled times for the Catholic Church.  Because the Cardinals who elected him had the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can rest assured that Pope Francis will have both the spiritual and physical strength to meet the challenges of confirming us Catholics in the authentic doctrine of Christ and in managing effectively the almost impossible bureaucracy of the Church as a human organization as well as divine.  Let us intensify our prayer for the new Pope as well as for all the key officials who will be appointed to help him administer and manage the affairs of the Catholic Church all over the world.  Let me be bold enough to say that it is very possible that Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle will be called to go to the Vatican to head one of the important Congregations.

          Already, some journalists are labeling the new Pope "conservative."    Like Blessed John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the new Pope will be neither conservative nor liberal.  He will carry out the mandate of the Second Vatican Council, whose fiftieth anniversary we are celebrating in the ongoing Year of Faith.  Those who are rightly indignant about the scandalous sexual abuses of a few Catholic priests in different parts of the world or the unforgivable negligences of some bishops who covered up these abuses are expected to also be equally upset by such violations of the sixth and ninth commandments of God as homosexual acts, the use of artificial contraceptives like pills and condoms, and premarital and extramarital sexual relations.   I cannot help but notice that these critics of the Catholic Church who cry for blood against the sexual abuse perpetrators are the same ones who complain that Benedict XVI was not faithful to the spirit of renovation of the Second Vatican Council in his unwavering stand against gay marriages, the use of condoms and other artificial contraceptives, and other moral principles that proceed from the Theology of the Body of his immediate predecessor in the papacy. As reports on his actuations and pronouncements as Archbishop of Buenos Aires abundantly reflect, Pope Francis has been faithful to the teachings of Christ by strongly opposing abortion, same sex unions and artificial contraception.  Also, by the personal example of his life of simplicity and Christian poverty, he walks the talk of the preferential option for the poor and marginalized.

          It is obvious that these commentators labeling the new Pope as "conservative" have no clue whatsoever about the content of the Second Vatican Council.  As we can read in the most "modern" of the trail-blazing documents of the Council, i.e. Church in the Modern World ((Gaudium et Spes), there has been absolutely no change as regards moral principles affecting conjugal love.  Fidelity to the spirit of the Second Vatican Council would require any Pope who comes after it to adhere closely to statements such as the following (par 51):  "This council realizes that certain modern conditions often keep couples from arranging their married lives harmoniously and that they find themselves in circumstances where at least temporarily the size of their families should not be increased.  As a result, the faithful exercise of love and the full intimacy of their lives is hard to maintain.  But where the intimacy of married life is broken off, its faithfulness can sometimes be imperiled and its quality of fruitfulness ruined, for then the upbringing of the children and the courage to accept new ones are both endangered.

          "To these problems there are those who presume to offer dishonorable solutions indeed; they do not recoil even from taking of life.  But the Church issues the reminder that a true contradiction cannot exist between the divine laws pertaining to the transmission of life and those pertaining to authentic conjugal love.

          "For God, the Lord of life, has conferred on men the surpassing ministry of safeguarding life in a manner which is worthy of man.  Therefore from the moment of its conception, life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes.  The sexual characteristics of man and the human faculty of reproduction wonderfully exceed the dispositions of lower forms of life.  Hence, the acts themselves which are proper to conjugal love and which are exercised in accord with genuine human dignity must be honored with great reverence.  Hence when there is question of harmonizing conjugal love with the responsible transmission of life, the moral aspects of any procedure does not depend solely on sincere intentions or on an evaluation of motives, but must be determined by objective standards....Relying on these principles, sons of the Church may not undertake methods of birth control which are found blameworthy by the teaching authority of the Church in its unfolding of the divine law."

          Those who are hoping that a "less conservative" Pope will lift the ban against condoms, pills and other forms of artificial contraceptives are hoping against hope.  When it comes to sexual morality, as in the cases of sexual abuses by a small number of Catholic priests, it is a matter of black and white.  There are no shades of grey.  In these matters, Pope Francis will be neither conservative nor liberal.  He will be faithful to the teachings of the Church, strongly reinforced by the documents of the Second Vatican Council.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.