SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- Pope Francis' visit to Rio on Monday, where three million people gathered on the sands of Copacabana to hear the new pontiff, was met with enthusiasm, curiosity and rapturous applause. Using language uncharacteristically candid, Pope Francis delivered a radical vision about the future governance of the Catholic Church -- a blueprint for progress and change that his predecessors would never have dared to consider. He called for young people to push the old guard from its comfort zone and take the "Church to the streets." But the most memorable moment came during a casual conversation with reporters when Francis declared, in disarmingly direct speech, that gays should not be judged. The statement elated many, confused others and led to outright dissent from the far-right faithful. The biggest shock, however, was Justice Antonin Scalia's enthusiastic agreement on Thursday: "Pope Francis is correct -- judging gays and their rights has just made the problem worse."
The Not-So-Frighteningly-New But Comfortably-Different-Yet-Familiar Catholic Church -- More Remake and Revival, Less Reboot and Re-imagining
At 76, Francis remains a mystery to many Catholics who admit they know only that he is not European and has degrees in chemistry and psychology. This academic background, they worry, could destroy Catholicism if Francis moves the Church toward embracing scientific reality. Catholics could find themselves confronted with pictures of a dark-skinned and brown-eyed Jesus, the biological nature of homosexuality, acknowledging that sex -- not a calendar -- leads to pregnancy, and having to call demonic possession by its less popular medical name, schizophrenia.
Many conservative Catholics find their new Pope more unsettling each day.
"The role of leading two billion Catholics, one of the most powerful positions in Christendom, has been given to a poor Argentine. That's like pulling a Mexican out of the Rio Grande and naming him CEO of Ford," snapped Arizona legislator John Shillelagh-McPaddy.
Still, within the papacy's long history, Francis has emerged as a true pioneer in many regards. To begin with, he's the first Jesuit pope.
Francis, in that fashion, is boldly striving to infuse the Church with his order's doctrine of ministration, which focuses heavily on education, social justice and aiding the poor and downtrodden. Not only do his ideals and principles of leadership signal stark departures from those of the Church's past stewards, his exhortations to followers carry intimations of revolution.
He told a crowd of 30,000 young Argentine Catholics to "make a mess" in their dioceses, "stir things up" and fight the complacency of a clerical elite that has closed in the Church for centuries.
"Don't forget to disturb complacency, but please don't water down the faith!" Francis urged.
Francis clearly wants revolution and change. He seeks to "reach out and touch today's youth" in a positive way, using frank dialog and modern context instead of the more traditional tactics for touching youth, which involve "candy, gifts and a lot of emotional manipulation."
However, when asked about the possibility of women priests, he echoed the Church's stance, saying his position was equally "definitive."
"The Church has spoken and says no … that door is closed," the Pope told reporters.
"The Pope called for revolution, but let's not go crazy," said Ernie Boesertraum, a Church spokesman.
"There's a large divide between meaningful revolution and all-out anarchy," he explained. "Womanish decision making got us expelled from Paradise, cost John the Baptist his head. I shudder to think what would happen if we allowed them to make decisions about their baby vessels. If production in those factories halts, society could be in real peril. Muslims, Jews and whatever Scientologists are could catch up or surpass us."
Because most cultures in the world foster a similar aversion to advancing the status of women, the Church does not consider this a polarizing issue. Homosexuality and the acceptance of gay clergy, however, are divisive challenges that Francis addressed with extraordinary ease on Monday.
"If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person?" Francis said. "The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this point beautifully... It says, these persons must never be marginalized and they must be integrated into society."
The catechism also explicitly deplores homosexuals who act on their desires: "Under no circumstances can they be approved. Homosexual persons are called to chastity."
When pressed by reporters for his views on the accompanying message, Francis replied: "You know perfectly the position of the church."
"The Pope's beliefs are consistent with Church teachings, if you consider all the things he didn't say," Boesertraum clarified. "The Pope said it's not our problem to judge gays, not that we should support what they do behind closed doors or in public restrooms in parks. The catechism takes the same approach with pedophiles. As long as they don't disturb any altar boys, the Church has nothing ill to say on the matter. It's not for mortals to judge. God will send these people to Hell without us tattling."
Judges Weigh In on Role of Judging
The U.S. Supreme Court's landmark ruling on same-sex marriage in June, which struck down the most controversial section of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), delivered a huge blow to anti-gay conservatives -- among them, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
In his dissenting opinion, Scalia blasted the majority's decision. Legalizing gay marriage, he argued, discriminates against people who are opposed to it. In that same vein, he also cried foul on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 for overturning segregationist Jim Crow Laws. Scalia deemed those decisions equivalently aberrant because they discriminate against racists who don't wants blacks treated as equal citizens.
Gays, by and large, are more educated, have better jobs, buy more expensive things and contribute more money to the tax system because they can't marry, conservatives claim.
"By granting them access to the benefits enjoyed by married heterosexual couples, the government may have no choice but to start taxing large corporations," worried Scalia, whose rulings consistently point to a deep concern about the progress of the nation's convalescing economy.
"There's no way our country can flourish if we start making the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes."
Yet, contradictory as it may seem, Scalia noted in a meeting Thursday morning that he fully supports Pope Francis' approach toward dealing with the issues of gay rights:
"The new Pope appears to have set himself on history making course for the Catholic Church, and his statements about gays this week follow suit. His primary message was not to judge gays. Having just been tasked with doing that very thing, I must say that I couldn't agree more with Pope Francis. As a result of the Supreme Court being dragged into the debate of gay rights, and then being forced to render a legal decision that sets a precedent for generations to come, nothing is more detrimental, in my opinion, than judging gays. Now, because of my so-called colleagues -- and let me tell you, I wouldn't want to be tried for a crime with these morons on the jury, pretending to be my 'peers' -- gay marriage is consuming the nation, with additional states supporting it every day. Soon, we'll be a childless wasteland full of nothing but haute couture, sex-for-pleasure-not-procreation couplings, dwindling population levels and eventually cannibalism, like some dystopia dreamt up by Anthony Burgess. The end of the world now seems assured to me, a matter of time and not circumstance. And I believe that had we not been put into the position of judging gays, they still wouldn't have any rights and our future would be a little bit brighter than it is today."
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