The Catholic Church’s has been probably the most powerful entity in the world throughout history. During the Middle Ages its great domain was primarily due to a combination of fear, belief, wealth and people’s illiteracy.
In 1500 the Roman Catholic Church was all powerful in western Europe. There was no legal alternative. Anybody who was deemed to go against the Church was labelled a heretic, tortured and burnt at the stake, it could not tolerate any deviance from its teachings as any appearance of ‘going soft’ might have been interpreted as a sign of weakness and the almighty Church could not afford to look “weak”.
And many of us catholics ask ourselves: “Did Jesus want a super powerful church taking advantage of people’s ignorance and illiteracy?“
But the XX Century brought an extensive anti-clericalism, Catholic properties were confiscated in several countries and things like legal contraception, divorce, and abortion provided dramatic evidence that the Church was loosing strength. Sometime during the 1930s, philosopher Jean Paul Sartre said: “Truth is, all men are prophets or else God does not exist“.
Pope Pius II leadership of the Catholic Church during World War II still remains the subject of controversy due to allegations of public silence and inaction from the Vatican regarding the slave labor, mass murder, and other human rights abuses commited by the Nazis against the Jewish people.
Would Jesus have remained silent while millions of jews were slaughtered?
Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez, commonly known as Diego Rivera, was an iconic Mexican painter. His large wall works in fresco helped establish the Mexican Mural Movement in Mexican art. Between 1922 and 1953, Rivera painted murals in Mexico City, Chapingo, Cuernavaca, San Francisco, Detroit, and New York City among other cities. Rivera is also famous for his marriage with fellow Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
In one of his most famous mural paintings called “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda” inside the legendary “Hotel del Prado”, Rivera included the phrase: “Dios no existe” (God does not exist) in a parchment held by one of the historical characters in the mural, Ignacio Ramírez, author of the same phrase in 1839.
In June 1948, Archbishop of Mexico, Luis Maria Martinez, was going to proceed with the blessing of the building but he refused, unless the offensive and heretical sentence was deleted from the painting. Rivera responded: “If you don’t bless it, you can curse it“.
As Rivera left the premises, a group of people broke in and scraped the last portion of the sentence, leaving only the word “God”, they also scraped the self-portrait of Rivera included in the painting.
Later that night, prominent members of the intelectual community of Mexico City including painters, writers and journalists such as Rivera himself, David Alfaro Siqueiros, José Clemente Orozco, Dr. Atl, Gabriel Fernández Ledezma, Leopoldo Méndez, Juan O’Gorman, Frida Kahlo, José Revueltas among others, went back to Hotel del Prado and using a pencil, restored the phrase amidst cries of “Viva la libertad de expresión” (Long live freedom of expression). Thirty seven years later, Hotel del Prado was completely reduced to rubble in the earthquake of 1985.
In 1966, John Lennon declared that Christianity was in decline and that the Beatles had become more popular than Jesus Christ. The comment drew no controversy when originally published in the United Kingdom, but angry reactions flared up in Christian communities elsewhere.
Lennon had originally made the remark in March 1966 during an interview with Maureen Cleave for the London Evening Standard, which drew no public reaction. But when Datebook, an American teen magazine, quoted Lennon’s comments in August, five months later, extensive protests broke out in the Southern United States.
Many radio stations around the world stopped playing Beatles songs, their records were publicly burned, press conferences were cancelled, and threats were made.
Despite the fact that years later many rock&roll bands publicly declared to worship the devil and to “have sympathy for him”, John Lennon’s statement was considered more offensive.
The question at this point is:
“Would Jesus have respected freedom of expression and thought?“
Catholic Church sexual abuse cases accusations began to receive wide publicity in the late 1980s.
Many relate to cases in which a figure was accused of abuse for decades; such allegations were frequently made by adults or older youths years after the abuse occurred.
Cases have also been brought against members of the Catholic hierarchy who covered up sex abuse allegations, moving allegedly abusive priests to other parishes, where abuse many times continued.
Karol Wojtyła / John Paul II
From 2001 to 2010 the Holy See, the ecclesiastical jurisdiction and central governing body of the Catholic Church in Rome, considered sex abuse allegations concerning about 3,000 priests dating back up to fifty years.
Victims of clerical sex abuse claim that Pope John Paul II should not had been canonized, because of his abject failure to bring to justice sexually abusive priests and the bishops who covered up their crimes during his tenure as Pontiff.
Jesus Christ once said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)
Would Jesus have allowed these criminals to remain part of his church and keep commiting horrendous actions against innoncent people?
But Pope Francis is doing things differently.
For example, he met with Fidel Castro in Havana. The Vatican described the meeting at Castro’s residence as “informal”, with an exchange of books and discussion about big issues facing humanity, including Francis’ recent encyclical on the environment and the global economic system.
Pope Francis’ visit to the United states was aimed to turn the attention of the mightiest nation on Earth away from ideological battles and toward a world that according to Francis “desperately needs help”.
He visited New York and Philadelphia; but the speech he gave at the US Congress in Washington DC was simply epic.
Members of the US Congress were brought to tears as Francis delivered an emotional address imploring them to confront contentious issues including the global refugee crisis and climate change.
FACTS ABOUT JORGE BERGOGLIO / POPE FRANCIS
- He is the first Jesuit in history to become Pope.
- Pope Francis refused to wear expensive ermine-lined capes other popes wore.
- Rather than blessing the people in St. Peter’s Square on his election, he asked the people to bless him.
- He does not ride in a bullet-proof Mercedes limousine, but on a bus with other cardinals instead.
- He uses a Ford Focus around Rome and drives himself around the Vatican in a 1984 Renault.
- He refers to himself as “Bishop of Rome” rather than as “Supreme Pontiff.”
He is the first pope to use the word “gay” rather than “homosexuals” or “those suffering from same-sex attraction.”
- He refused to live in the Apostolic Palace, instead living in a guest home and dining in the cafeteria.
- Francis has consistently used a more familiar, direct and casual way of speaking, versus the highly formal and circumlocutory tone used by previous popes; even reaching out to atheists.
- Francis sends personal hand-written letters and makes personal phone calls rather than having his secretary send formal messages on his behalf.
- On Holy Thursday, Francis washed the feet of laity (in fact, prisoners, women and Muslims) , versus previous popes who would only wash the feet of priests. This is important because his act directly violates liturgical rules that state that only men may have their feet washed on Holy Thursday.
- Francis says daily Mass in a public place, for janitors and secretaries and security guards, versus other popes who only invited wealthy and influential people to daily Mass in their private chapel.
So, when we look at Francis’ lifestyle we ask ourselves: “Is this what Jesus would’ve done?”
For many experts, Pope Francis’s upcoming trip to Mexico is arguably the most important national tour of his papacy.
The papal visit aims to reinvigorate the world’s second largest Catholic Church and increase its social and political influence. In a country where some 100,000 have lost their lives in the decade-long drug war, narco-violence will figure as one of the salient themes during the week-long papal visit.
The Pope declared: “I would like to be an instrument of peace in Mexico,” but said that he won’t be able to do it alone. Then he added: “Mexico has an idiosyncrasy, a way of being that is the result of a very long journey, of a history that was slowly forged, with both joy and sorrow, success and failure”.
Francis will visit Chiapas, where 400,000 illegal immigrants cross the border every year with the hope of getting to the United States and achieve “The American Dream”. Then Michoacán, where thousands of crime related deaths are registered every year. And finally, Ciudad Juarez, with the highest rate of femicides in the country and once considered the world’s most violent city.
If Jesus might be born into today’s world, he could be a refugee, an immigrant or a victim of organized crime, maybe living in an occupied nation, a slum, or a war zone.
Our final question is: What would Jesus say about the world today and what do you think he would do to sort it out?
The most logical answer we can come up with is: He would do what Francis is doing. And that would reflect his new way of leadership of the Catholic Church.
By Alejandro Azcárate for The Yucatán Times
The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of The Yucatan Times.
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