Pope Francis And His Global Reach

MS. DIANE REHM

10:06:53
Thanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Pope Francis has been head of the Roman Catholic Church for just nine months, but he's already demonstrated a willingness to raise questions on important economic, social, and cultural issues. Joining me in the studio to talk about the pope, his message, and his approach to ongoing challenges within the church: E.J. Dionne of the Brookings Institution, John Hass of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and Maureen Fiedler, host of Public Radio's Interfaith Voices.

MS. DIANE REHM

10:07:35
I invite you, as always, to be part of the program. Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to drshow@wamu.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And welcome to all of you.

MS. MAUREEN FIEDLER

10:07:57
Great to be back.

MR. E.J. DIONNE JR.

10:07:58
Good to be here.

MR. JOHN HAAS

10:07:58
(unintelligible), Diane.

REHM

10:07:59
Good to see you all. E.J., you wrote recently that this pope seems to have revolutionized the world's view of the Roman Catholic Church. How so?

DIONNE

10:08:17
Well, first of all, it's been a while since the pope was looked upon as someone cool. I can't tell you the number of times I have heard the word cool...

REHM

10:08:26
Cool.

DIONNE

10:08:26
...applied to Pope Francis. And I always feel obligated these days, whenever I talk about him, to quote what I see as his powerful attack on political pundits, people who do my kind of work. He said, if one has the answers to all the questions, that is proof that God is not with him. So all of us have to be very wary about anything we say here, but I think there are several things.

DIONNE

10:08:54
One, it is astonishing simply when someone who says they're Christian actually behaves like a Christian. And I think, when you look at Pope Francis and what he's done, right off the bat washing the feet for the Good Friday service, not in a church, but at a prison, at a juvenile detention center. There were two women in the group. There were Muslims in the group. This was sending a very powerful message right off the bat.

DIONNE

10:09:23
The way in which he has interacted with people, these stories that he goes out at night to be with homeless people, I'm not sure those stories have been confirmed, but the fact that we believe them tells us a lot about what we think of him. But then, in terms of the emphasis, he has not fundamentally changed church doctrine on anything.

FIEDLER

10:09:46
That's right. Mm hmm.

DIONNE

10:09:47
And yet he has said that his priorities are quite different. He has lifted up social justice and concern for the poor and been very explicit in saying that issues like abortion and gay marriage are not as important to him, in fact, that he noted he'd been criticized for not talking about them enough. I think this is a pope who wants to end culture wars, and that's a very big deal in the Catholic Church.

REHM

10:10:15
John Haas, how do you see it? Has he really changed anything? Or is the appearance simply there?

HAAS

10:10:26
Well, he's not changed anything with regard to received Catholic teaching, but the perception's been absolutely remarkable. You know, people don't read anymore. You know, Pope Benedict was a great scholar. John Paul II had two earned doctorates. They wrote volumes, but people don't read. This is an age of the image, right? And this pope has really mastered the power of imagery, embracing the disfigured man, going out into the streets, had just sent very, very strong messages that could not have been sent out through the printed word, for example.

REHM

10:11:06
So do you believe it's because of where he comes from, from South America?

HAAS

10:11:14
I think that's a large part. I used to work in Mexico and spent a lot of time down there, and it's a whole different approach then, let's say, the German and the Polish approach just to life in general. For example, I mean, Pope Benedict would never in Bavaria have encountered beggars in the street or Marias, the single women with their babies in their arms begging in the streets. Pope Francis did all the time. I mean, that was part of his life. So there's kind of a cultural difference between these men that they carry with them into the papacy itself.

REHM

10:11:47
And, Maureen, how do you see it?

FIEDLER

10:11:49
Well, I think what Pope Francis has done really is rebranded Catholicism by changing the whole emphasis from an emphasis on sexuality and reproductive issues to an emphasis on social justice. And I, too, I agree with John. I think the Latin American experience has a lot to do with it just because poverty is so much more prevalent there and much more central to that experience. And in that sense, I think he represents more than just Latin America but the vision of the global South when it comes to the needs of the poor of the world and his emphasis on economic inequality.

REHM

10:12:29
John, of course, one thing he does extraordinarily well is to communicate.

HAAS

10:12:39
Yes, he does. And as I say, it's often nonverbal communication. In fact, sometimes, when he's communicating verbally, he gets into a little bit of trouble and actually has to backtrack a little bit. But the power of the imagery is unsurpassed, I think.

REHM

10:12:55
You actually met with him in September. Give us your impressions.

HAAS

10:13:01
Well, you know, I've often stayed in what's called the Vatican Hotel, which is inside the Vatican. And if you're there on official business, you're put up there. And so everybody knows, I think, that when he became pope, he refused to move into the Apostolic Palace...

REHM

10:13:15
Right.

HAAS

10:13:15
...and stayed instead in this hotel. So I was kind of curious what it was going to be like when I showed up there. And I have to say, I was just a tad irritated that he was there because, you know, it's a quiet place. You could call it a dead place. You walk in, and there's just nobody there. It's just so quiet. But, when I arrived, there were barricades, OK, around the hotel now, even though it's inside the Vatican.

HAAS

10:13:37
There were two Vatican police standing by the barricades. You got past them. There were two Swiss guards standing by the door. Well, he is pope now, you know, but he's living there. We were sitting at breakfast. He came in for breakfast, and there was a table of bishops off to my right. They all went to stand up, and he just dismissed them with his hand and told them to sit down and went and had his breakfast with three laymen.

HAAS

10:14:03
When he was getting up to leave, the only ceremony was that one of the waiters opened the door for them as they walked out. So he has been meeting with people right there in the hotel in little side sitting rooms and so forth. So when we were going to see him, I thought we'd just see him in the hotel. I saw him as a member of the directive counsel of the Pontifical Academy for Life, and that's why we were received by him.

HAAS

10:14:25
There were just eight of us. But we were actually taken to the Apostolic Palace. And I'm walking through these grand Renaissance rooms, and I'm thinking, well, he might want to be in the streets of Buenos Aires, but he's now pope, you know. We went through three different throne rooms. But by the time we got into the room to meet with him, I didn't know what to say, you know, so I whipped out a picture of my family, a Christmas picture.

HAAS

10:14:51
We have nine children, 24 grandchildren, and I held up the picture of all 35 of us. And I spoke to him in Spanish. He doesn't speak English. He looked at the picture, and he goes, oh, que poco -- oh, how few. So he has a good sense of humor. But then he stopped, placed his hands on the picture and prayed earnestly for all of family. I was very, very moved by that.

REHM

10:15:11
So what was his attitude like with the eight with whom he met?

HAAS

10:15:20
Well, initially, he was gracious, and, if you will -- if you can make small talk with the pope, that's what we did, you know. We talked about family and so forth.

REHM

10:15:27
But then you had to get down to business.

HAAS

10:15:29
We got down to business, and he became very sober. This is the Pontifical Academy for Life, which is concerned about the life issues, about abortion, euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide. And he became sober. He looked down at the floor. He spoke slowly, choosing his words, and he said to us, realize that you are fighting against the current. Your entire lives, you will have to fight against the current.

HAAS

10:15:55
And he said, there's a death penalty abroad in the world today, and it's not reserved for criminals. It's also affecting the weak, the suffering, the dying and unborn children, and then he went on. And he said, just remember, for every step forward you're able to take for the culture of life, the culture of death will take a step forward as well. So he was very sober in his words to us on that occasion.

REHM

10:16:22
So, in effect, as people hear him talk about, we must move away from the issues that we've hammered over and over again, nothing has changed. E.J.

DIONNE

10:16:39
Right. But I think it's a mistake to view this, first, as primarily about PR or to say nothing has changed 'cause I think a great deal has changed. In terms of the church's position on life and abortion, I am reminded when I listen to Francis of Cardinal Bernardin, who was a leader of the American Church and was seen in broad sense as a progressive within the church -- and he used to talk about a seamless garment.

DIONNE

10:17:11
And what he meant was that the life issues have to be seen in a larger context that includes opposition to the death penalty, care for the poor, a very sober and careful view, war as a last resort, a sober view of war, and we've gone through a period over the last 20 years in which all those other issues seem to take second place to a couple of issues, notably abortion, the Right to Life, stem cell research and gay marriage.

DIONNE

10:17:42
And I think that the pope is shifting the Church back to where it had always been where abortion is seen as being of a piece with its concern for the poor, and obviously he has talked about the poor more than abortion. But one other thing, I think he is a person of the word. No one has given more interviews to newspapers and magazines, and I've heard some people suggest that this is a very shrewd move on his part.

DIONNE

10:18:10
It gets around Vatican bureaucracy. It gets around approval processes where he can go directly to a variety of publicans, both religious and secular, to say that there is something new here. He has criticized, in one of those interviews, those who look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal security. This is very new, and this is substantive.

FIEDLER

10:18:35
Yes.

REHM

10:18:35
E.J. Dionne. And when we come back, we'll talk more about the pope and the Vatican. Stay with us.

REHM

10:20:00
In this hour, we're talking about Pope Francis. Though he has been pope for just nine months, there seems to be a great deal of interest not only in what he's doing but how he is affecting the thinking about the Roman Catholic Church not only in Rome itself but around the world. Here are three very quick brief emails, number one from Scott in Ada, Mich.: "This pope exemplifies what religion should really be about."

REHM

10:20:47
Number two from Katherine in Spring Field, Va.: "The pope had the homeless people in for breakfast. What happened afterwards? Are the people like this better off in the long run, or are they still homeless?" And finally from Bill: "The pope will impress me when he changes the anti-female practices of his male chauvinistic organization and allows women to become priests and priests to marry." Maureen, I'm going to start with you.

FIEDLER

10:21:33
Yes. Although I really love the kind of image that Pope Francis is putting forth generally, you know, his simpler lifestyle, his emphasis on social justice, I think the Achilles Heel of his papacy could be his views about women. Now, he has said he would like to see more women in leadership roles in the church. And people who want to spin a totally positive image stress that.

FIEDLER

10:22:00
But he has also said a couple of times that he's opposed to the ordination of women. And almost every major leadership role in the church is tied to ordination. One goes with the other. And -- but more than that, it's the language that he uses to talk about women. Now, it's positive language. It's warm language. But it's stereotypical language. Let me quote something here from this recent exhortation. He talks about women's "sensitivity, intuition, distinctive skill sets, which they more than men tend to possess." He talks about feminine genius and that women are socialized into these roles.

FIEDLER

10:22:44
Well, I know plenty of men that are sensitive and that have intuition. And the ironic thing is Francis himself is sensitive and has intuition. But it's almost as though we're two different creatures. He doesn't talk about women's intellect, their organizing abilities, their political savvy -- all those kinds of things that are normally associated with men. And so I think that one Jesuit I heard said he is -- this is to put it mildly -- not conversant with contemporary feminist vocabulary.

REHM

10:23:20
Interesting. John Haas.

HAAS

10:23:22
Well, that may be true, and I'm not sure I can disagree with that because the Catholic tradition has remarkable women of profound intellect. You've got Hildegard of Bingen. We have women who have been declared doctors of the church, for example. So when I read this Apostolic Exhortation, I was struck by that as well, you know. I've been married 46 years, and sensitivity is sometimes not the word I'd use for my wife.

HAAS

10:23:48
I mean, organizing ability, you know, taking things in control.

REHM

10:23:52
You're going to hear from her, John Haas.

HAAS

10:23:55
Well, I hear from her all the time anyway. So I thought that was a bit stereotypical, too, in his language. I think, if I may, the biggest issue is -- and he says in his Apostolic Exhortation that it ought not to be a question of power and dominance. And Maureen's right that, in the church right now, it does tend to be tied to that. But it doesn't have to be because there is a history of women abbesses who have jurisdiction over large tracts of land and appointed pastors of congregations and so forth. So I don't think it has to be like that in terms of an all-male priesthood.

REHM

10:24:32
E.J.

DIONNE

10:24:33
I think that, for especially in the American church and to more broadly in the western church, this is going to be a real issue for a lot of women. I mean, when you look at women who have drifted -- Catholic women who basically have deep affection for the church but have drifted away over the last 10, 15, 20 years, I think the role of women in the church and the problems -- the fact that they do not have a variety of forms of formal authority -- is a real problem for these women.

DIONNE

10:25:05
And I think he is going to have to address that more than he has. He could, by the way, without changing anything, name women to the College of Cardinals. And he's supposed to name some new cardinals come February. That would be...

REHM

10:25:18
But don't you have to be a priest to be a cardinal?

DIONNE

10:25:20
Nope.

FIEDLER

10:25:21
No.

DIONNE

10:25:21
No.

REHM

10:25:22
That I did not know.

DIONNE

10:25:24
And so this would be a powerful action. And there are plenty of powerful women in the church whom I could think of who would make excellent members of the College of Cardinals. But I think is going to be a problem. I think the other thing we have to just put on the table is the pedophilia scandal, which has just done extraordinary damage in the church, has really given lots of people -- again, people who have deep affection for the church just grave doubts about the leadership, how it operates.

DIONNE

10:25:51
He's spoken out some about that, but I think there is just still a great deal of anger at the way the hierarchy...

REHM

10:25:59
You're saying he hasn't spoken out enough.

DIONNE

10:26:02
He has spoken some. He has named -- he has made suggestions. But I think that's something the church still needs to reassure people on and to be sort of more open about the fact that many of the decisions made were made to protect the church as an institution, which is antithetical to the way Francis talks about the church.

REHM

10:26:18
Maureen.

FIEDLER

10:26:22
Well, there's kind of a new development on that this week that Cardinal O'Malley of Boston announced, which is a commission to advise them on the sex abuse scandal.

DIONNE

10:26:29
Yes.

FIEDLER

10:26:32
And it's a commission that's going to include not just clergy but laypeople and men and women and so forth. And so that is a step in the right direction. But I would think a lot of people in the United States who are deeply concerned about that scandal would have wished that this could have gotten more front burner attention earlier on, I think.

FIEDLER

10:26:51
And let me say, just on the women question, the other place that women could be appointed that does not require ordination is to head a major office in the curia. And part of his job is supposed to be to reform the curia. It's possible that a woman could head one of those offices.

REHM

10:27:08
Explain the curia.

FIEDLER

10:27:10
Oh, yeah, the curia is -- I guess you'd roughly call it the Vatican bureaucracy. It's equivalent to the president's cabinet and the federal departments here in the United States.

REHM

10:27:20
All right. Let's talk about the Vatican for a moment because the pope seems to be very concerned about financials within the Vatican. What's he doing there, John Haas?

HAAS

10:27:38
Well, you know, it's interesting. You know, he's declared that we need to have a poor church to serve the poor. But this is a savvy man and manager as well. A lot of people may not realize it, but he's gone to McKinsey & Company, one of the major business consulting firms in the world, to review their communications approach. I mean, there are many, many Vatican communications offices. I mean, the press office, (unintelligible) Romano, Vatican Radio, the publishing house.

HAAS

10:28:06
And then there's a Swiss business and consulting firm called KPMG. And he's also engaged them to come in and review their finances. So, you know, he's good at imagery. He's good at reaching out, touching the poor, but he's also a savvy manager as well and realizes they need help to update this bureaucracy. I remember when they were still on typewriters in the Vatican long after computers had come into play. So they were...

REHM

10:28:35
E.J.

DIONNE

10:28:36
There's some real reform efforts going on around the Vatican Bank, and I want to say, why should the Vatican have a bank in the first place, which is a real question given the faith where Jesus threw the moneychangers out of the temple? But this -- and this effort, it should be said, started under Pope Benedict. And they have made real efforts partly pushed by the International Community because, with new concern about both terrorism and corruption and the problems of the financial meltdown, there's a lot of more pressure for transparency.

DIONNE

10:29:13
And as far as I can tell -- I actually met with the new head of the Vatican Bank about a month ago. And, at least from everything I hear, it's quite impressive as to how they are trying to clean it up. The argument to have a bank in the first place is that the Vatican -- some of the beholdings are for religious orders. They've shut down private accounts, which could be the source of corruption, so that was a big step. The Vatican also tries to...

REHM

10:29:40
What kind of private accounts?

DIONNE

10:29:43
They were just -- you didn't have to be -- you know, have a close tie to the church to open an account at the bank. And this caused some real trouble. Those are gone.

REHM

10:29:53
What about payments to families where pedophilia has occurred?

DIONNE

10:30:00
Well, that's a different issue. That's...

REHM

10:30:01
Did that not come from the Vatican?

DIONNE

10:30:04
No. That comes from the local diocese which is why some dioceses are in real financial straits.

REHM

10:30:09
Yeah, yeah, I got you.

DIONNE

10:30:10
Because -- but they -- you know, they -- the other case they make for it -- and I hope they revisit it all the way down to the point of considering do they really need a bank. But when the Vatican is trying to get money to Catholics in countries where Catholics are oppressed, having its own financial institution -- its defenders argue -- is helpful to that task. But I think this is one area where some progress started getting made under Benedict. And I think Francis is pushing it along. And it's really important to a pope who has said what he has said about having a poor church.

REHM

10:30:46
What about the question regarding the three men, the homeless men he brought in to enjoy his birthday breakfast with? What happens to them? Do they go back out on the street? I mean, is it a PR gesture? We realize it comes from his heart, but then what, John Haas?

HAAS

10:31:14
Well, I don't think it's just a PR gesture. I mean, I think it's heartfelt, as you said.

REHM

10:31:19
Absolutely.

HAAS

10:31:19
He wants to reach out to these men. It's an act of teaching as well. And if you read his most recent Apostolic Exhortation, which is more than 250 pages, which is very long, he rails against the laissez-faire capitalism that allows some to enrich themselves and others to be greatly impoverished. And he talks about the growing chasm between the very rich and the poor. So he's trying to help these people also by pricking the consciences of those that are engaged in formulating public policy and running banks and financial institutions to say, we need reform here. And we need it fast, and it's critical.

REHM

10:32:02
What about the organization of the Vatican itself? Hasn't there been some criticism of the pope's statements, actions coming from within the Vatican saying perhaps he's going a little too far, Maureen?

FIEDLER

10:32:22
Yes, definitely. Some of his statements, particularly those who say we've been too obsessed by things like abortion and same-sex marriage and birth control and so forth, and we need to shift to social justice. And the conservatives in the church -- now the really ultra-conservatives -- if you look at the polls, like, here in the United States, even people who call themselves conservative Catholics like this pope. But the ultra-conservatives whom are really quite a small percentage...

REHM

10:32:53
But within the Vatican.

FIEDLER

10:32:55
Some of them within the Vatican, right, have definitely been critical of that whole shift in emphasis. They would like to see more emphasis on doctrine, more on the way that Benedict the XVI did it, and shift away from what Francis is doing. I don't think they're going to prevail.

REHM

10:33:13
But do those grumbles get heard out loud, John?

HAAS

10:33:19
Well, yes. I mean, sometimes they find their way into the media. But I would just like to say, though, that the church has been concerned about social justice issues for a long time. Pope Leo XIII in 1891 issued the first called social encyclical or dealing with economic matters in which he criticized in the strongest kind of language, laissez-faire capitalism on the one hand and socialism on the other. And up until -- now there have probably been, I don't know, 10, 12 major social encyclicals addressing social justice issues. So this isn't a new theme by any means.

REHM

10:33:52
And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." E.J.

DIONNE

10:33:58
Well, you have had some conservative leaders in the church explicitly say that they are uncomfortable. Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia essentially said -- and I wish I had the quote in front of me -- that he's going to have to give a little something to Catholic conservatives. The Bishop of...

REHM

10:34:14
What does that mean? What does that mean?

DIONNE

10:34:15
Well, in other words, that they are made uneasy by when he says the church is too obsessed with abortion, when he doctrinally suggests that he is not primarily interested in disciplinarian solutions, when he says that his one dogmatic certainty is God is in every person's life. That's a very universalistic kind of theology. But...

REHM

10:34:38
OK. But why are they concerned that it's saying he has to give them a little bit...

DIONNE

10:34:44
Well, I think they want more emphasis where the emphasis used to be. And in terms of the rubber hitting the road about real changes, I think we saw one recently when he changed the makeup of the congregation for Bishops. And that's a very important body...

REHM

10:35:01
OK. Explain that.

DIONNE

10:35:02
...because the congregation for bishops -- bishops around the world are appointed through the Vatican with consultation with the local churches, but they're appointed through the Vatican. So the leadership of the American church became, I think it's fair to say, significantly more conservative over the last 15 years because of the appointments from Rome. The -- one of the things Francis did is he moved Cardinal Raymond Burke, a leader of the conservative side of the American church. And I know these terms are imperfect, but I think it's fair to say...

FIEDLER

10:35:38
Yeah, they're all relative.

DIONNE

10:35:39
...and I think he would say himself that he's a leader of that wing.

DIONNE

10:35:42
He was moved out and replaced by Cardinal Donald Wuerl here of D.C. Now that's not a move from the right to the far left. Cardinal Wuerl is not a leftist. He's a moderate. But it does suggest that we may be getting different kinds of bishops. And I think there's a consensus -- I've read even on conservative websites that are sympathetic to Burke that they accept that this will mean we're going to get new kinds of bishops.

REHM

10:36:06
John Haas.

HAAS

10:36:07
Well, I think we just have to wait and see. I'm not convinced of that. The -- as I say, Cardinal Wuerl is hardly a liberal. And, in fact, he's one of the best teaching bishops we have in terms of articulating church doctrine. I don't think this necessarily means -- there's certainly a significant difference in style, let's say, between a Cardinal Burke and a Cardinal Wuerl, between a Cardinal Burke and a Pope Francis. There's no question about that. But I don't think there'll be substantive changes.

REHM

10:36:35
I think it's pretty clear there will be. And one of us will be right, and we'll meet a year from now...

FIEDLER

10:36:41
Well, we'll see. I think this -- it's all in the eye of the beholder. What liberal, moderate, and conservative mean, in the context of the Catholic Church, is quite a bit different than what they mean in U.S. secular society.

REHM

10:36:53
But isn't that where this pope is so remarkably imprecise in how he communicates and therefore, as you say, it's open to the eye of the beholder?

FIEDLER

10:37:13
That's right, but this pope loves being imprecise, I think. He doesn't like to give speeches. He likes to hold conversations.

REHM

10:37:22
All right. And that was the voice of Maureen Fiedler. She is host of public radio's Interfaith Voices. She's also a Sister of Loretto. Short break here. Your calls when we come back.

REHM

10:40:01
And welcome back. As we talk about Pope Francis, the nine months he has been pope, what he has accomplished, what he has said, and what lies ahead. We have three guests in the studio. John Haas is president of The National Catholic Bioethics Center. Maureen Fiedler is host of public radio's Interfaith Voices and a Sister of Loretto. E.J. Dionne is senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of "Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent." And let's go first to Mattie in St. Louis. You're on the air.

MATTIE

10:41:00
Hello? You can hear me?

REHM

10:41:00
Sure can.

MATTIE

10:41:02
OK. You've all pretty much touched on my topic. I'm looking at this from a cynical point of view. I'm wondering if -- well, apparently, there are lots and lots of people that believe in the world's mythical religions. And I'm wondering if they see -- if they're looking at this from the long-term point of view and seeing that they'll be losing financial backing from the consumers, if you will, the congregation. And the pope's plan, or perhaps maybe the Church's plan, is to make him more accessible to be more like a normal person so that more people will follow.

REHM

10:41:42
All right. Thanks for your call. E.J.

DIONNE

10:41:45
What -- you know, it's sort of -- it's as if Francis has stamped a "New and Improved" sign on the Catholic Church, from what the gentleman suggested. He points to something very important, though, that I think Francis is very aware of, which is that, particularly in the West and particularly among young people in the United States, one should say, there has really been a rise of secular feeling -- a detachment from religious institutions. And Francis addresses that, I think, in a certain sense the best possible way, which is he has been very open to nonbelievers.

DIONNE

10:42:24
He has been very open to dialogue with nonbelievers, as Cardinal Martini, a famous archbishop in Milan was in Italy. And, in that sense, I think he's also modeling the behavior of Pope John XXIII, whom we have not mentioned yet, whom Francis is moving quickly to sainthood, which I think is an important message...

REHM

10:42:46
Interesting.

DIONNE

10:42:47
...to those who are not Catholic, to the secular world, to say we Catholics want to engage not in condemnation but in dialogue. We have fundamental disagreements. We would argue that the faith is rationally defensible as well as attractive. A god of love is an attractive figure. But we want to have that conversation. So I think he wants to address the caller's cynicism, and I'm glad he brought it up.

REHM

10:43:19
All right. Here's an email from Rich in Winamac, Ind. He says, "A practicing Catholic, I find the pope's attitude refreshing. The religious right, in my opinion, has been the religious incorrect for their ranting about abortion and gay marriage. The pope, on the other hand, remains against both but feels that this is not his place to judge. Amen. I feel his philosophy is inspiring. He seems to have the world listening to what he has to say, even though it may be unpopular with them." What about this gay issue, Maureen?

FIEDLER

10:44:11
Yes. I have been absolutely intrigued at the attitudes of a lot of my friends who are gay and lesbian or who work on this issue in the Catholic Church. And they're very positive toward this pope, even knowing that he hasn't changed basic teachings on this. And I think it has to do with what he emphasizes. We forget sometimes what the rhetoric used to be. It used to be, oh, you're intrinsically disordered.

FIEDLER

10:44:35
That's the actual official phrase for someone who is gay or lesbian. Well, he doesn't use that language. Now, he says, well, if you're gay, who am I to judge? And he's been very positive in his rhetoric toward people in that community. And when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he didn't support gay marriage, but he did support civil unions which, for an Archbishop, is a fair step.

REHM

10:45:03
John Haas.

HAAS

10:45:05
Well, you know, you can't be against something and not make some kind of judgment, as the email submitter suggested. You know, he still is making judgments about certain kinds of actions without judging people. The reaction to that comment of the pope really has surprised me generally because all he said is what Jesus said. Do not judge lest ye be judged. I mean, that's all he's saying. He still has a very strong position on the question of institutionalizing so-called gay marriage.

HAAS

10:45:35
He said, when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, at stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, deprived of the human development given by a father and mother. So, as far as his ever having addressed this specific issue, that's still on record. And he hasn't changed that. But with regard to judging persons, he's saying, judge not, lest ye be judged. And even the Holy City never, even the old language, didn't talk about it in, frankly, I don't think, the language that Maureen suggests.

FIEDLER

10:46:11
Yes, they did.

HAAS

10:46:11
Pope Ratzinger issued a document called "Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons." They stressed the persons. They didn't talk about pastoral care of homosexuals. And, in that document, it was stated that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered, not the human beings. But homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. And that's what the Church is concerned about, about activity that can ultimately be harmful to the people engaging in them.

REHM

10:46:38
OK.

DIONNE

10:46:39
John just said something really interesting. He said, he's saying what Jesus said. And I think one of the aspects of Pope Francis that's attracting people is he is reminding people that this is the Christian Church. This is the Church of Jesus Christ and that Jesus Christ was a figure who came to Earth and rallied the marginalized, the outcasts. Who did he hang around with during his ministry? Who did he speak up for during his ministry? And I think that people who are gay and lesbian are fully aware that the pope has not changed the Church's position.

DIONNE

10:47:16
But I think they have a very good sense of when someone talks about these issues in a way that reflects understanding and openness and love as against condemnation and hatred. And I think that what the magazine the -- the newspaper, the gay newspaper, "The Advocate," named Francis as the Person of the Year. They know fully well he hasn't changed the Church's view on gay marriage. But they're hearing something very different. And, I think, on these issues, tonalities really, really matter.

REHM

10:47:52
John.

HAAS

10:47:52
If I could return to Jesus for a minute, that he was gracious, he was accepting, he was loving with a woman caught in adultery. And he said to those who were about to stone her to death, you know, let the one who is without sin cast the first stone. And, of course, they all dropped their stones and disappeared into the crowd. But then Jesus turned to the woman and say, who is condemning you? I don't condemn you either. But go and sin no more.

HAAS

10:48:17
And that's why the Church puts its emphasis on human acts, not on the condemnation of the person but on certain kinds of acts, which really ultimately are not in their best interests.

REHM

10:48:26
All right. Let's go to Joyce in Houston, Texas. You're on the air.

JOYCE

10:48:33
What a great opening because, as a woman who was on a Church board at 16 in the Catholic Church -- and my mother at 84 has been in the same parish since 1948 -- we both agree that the pope has figured out some of the things that he needs to do. However, he needs to listen to the women. I'm now an Episcopalian because I love the flip where the ministers, who are actually doing hands-on work, are the people listened to and paid attention to.

JOYCE

10:49:07
If every Catholic doesn't have a ministry that's hands-on, that's Biblically and Jesus-led, I think we're not going to see the progress because the women are looking to the pope to emphasize the fact that it's the women who are really -- that PR campaign -- you got to target it to us.

REHM

10:49:29
John Haas, what do you say to that?

HAAS

10:49:33
You know, there's all this discussion about the ordination of women to the Priesthood doesn't have to do, in my mind, with power, with functionality. It has to do with something that we hold to in the Catholic Church called sacraments, where we believe that the physical things of this world impart to us actual supernatural realities. And, in the case of the priesthood, it's not because women aren't as smart as, can't function as well as, aren't as sensitive as, and so-on-and-so-forth, men. It's the fact that we believe that a priest is configured to Jesus Christ himself.

HAAS

10:50:08
And, if I may, just to say, the pope says, the reservation of the priesthood to males as a sign of Christ, the spouse, who gives himself in the Eucharist is not a question open to discussion, but it's a sacramental manifestation of Jesus in our midst. Jesus is the bridegroom. The priest is the bridegroom over against the bride, which is the mystical body of Christ, which is the Church is the bride, Jesus is the bridegroom. So it has to do far more with mystical symbolism than it does with capacities to lead or direct.

REHM

10:50:41
Maureen.

FIEDLER

10:50:42
Well, this is another way of saying that because Jesus is male, the priest must be male. Those arguments have been answered so often by every major theologian in Catholicism, but I'll just say what the answers are. Jesus -- imaging Jesus is not a question of gender. Imaging Jesus is a question of how he behaved and how he acted toward other people. To make the maleness of Jesus a controlling element in imaging him is to confuse his maleness, which is incidental, with his humanity, which, it seems to me, is fundamental. And the spousal imagery is just that. It's imagery.

REHM

10:51:22
This is clearly an issue we are not going to resolve today. But the question becomes whether this particular pope, in your view, E.J. Dionne, is changing the thinking about the role of women in the Church.

DIONNE

10:51:44
I think what he is suggesting -- by the way, he is acting that those of us -- and I'm with Sister on this -- I think in the long run the Catholic Church will someday have women priests. It's a matter of time. And with the Church, it could take a long time. And because the Church has changed in other ways. I mean, we act as if everything that we believe now is identical to what Christians said in 300 or 1000 or 1500. The Church has made great advances, in particular in its attitude toward democracy, equality and religious toleration, which is why Vatican II was so important.

DIONNE

10:52:18
But I've always been struck by something that Father Tom Reese said. I agree fundamentally with the caller that the -- this pope and the Church needs a serious mission to women to persuade them that it does believe in equality. Father Tom Reese, Jesuit priest in town, once said, you know, we talk a lot about priests and Bishops.

DIONNE

10:52:37
But, actually, the most important creators of Catholics, by which he meant teaching, are the mothers. And we are losing the mothers, Father Tom said. And I think that's very much on the minds of all Catholic leaders who are sensitive to what's going on in the Church.

FIEDLER

10:52:53
And that's the next generation.

REHM

10:52:55
And you're listing to "The Diane Rehm Show." Here's a comment from Judy K. who couldn't stay on the line. She says, "The Evangelical right wing in Texas looks down on anyone who wants to take part in the Affordable Care Act." She's tired of a Church that bullies based on politics and ignores the social welfare of its congregation. However, she loves the new pope. Isn't that interesting that she feels political pressure coming from within her Church against something that President Obama has put forward?

DIONNE

10:53:43
Well, you know, the pope has been very interesting in attacking ideologies in general. But, in terms of on these basic economic questions, he specifically called for universal healthcare. And he attacked. And we -- I think we haven't talked enough about the social justice side, where he explicitly attacked trickle-down economics as a system that expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.

DIONNE

10:54:09
And he went on from there. Now, I think you're already seeing a Francis affect in the way American Bishops are talking about these issues. I watched the interview on "Meet the Press" with Cardinal Dolan. And Cardinal Dolan reiterated the Church's view on the contraception requirement. But his whole affect, I think, was quite different than it would have been a year ago...

REHM

10:54:33
How so?

DIONNE

10:54:33
...where he said, we want to work with the president for universal healthcare. The Catholic Church has always been for universal healthcare, which is true going back to the 1919.

FIEDLER

10:54:43
This is true. Yeah.

DIONNE

10:54:45
But the emphasis -- the emphasis, I think, in this interview was much more (word?) to use an old Catholic term, and much more open to saying, we really, really want this, as opposed to putting all the emphasis on contraception.

REHM

10:54:56
What about the issue of contraception, which you just raised? How do you see that, John?

HAAS

10:55:03
You know, there's something apart from the Affordable Care Act that's embedded in it that is called the Health and Human Services Mandate. I wish they hadn't brought that into the Affordable Care Act. I don't think it was necessary. But this mandates that all employers will provide coverage for contraception, sterilizations and certain abortifacient drugs.

REHM

10:55:23
And where do you see the pope on that issue?

HAAS

10:55:26
I see him probably in locked arms with the U.S. Bishops, that this is a violation of our consciences and has to be opposed.

REHM

10:55:34
He has not spoken out on that?

HAAS

10:55:36
No, no. This is a very domestic issue -- U.S. issue. But he...

REHM

10:55:42
But are the Bishops getting their directives from the Vatican?

HAAS

10:55:47
No, that's not the way it works. I mean...

DIONNE

10:55:50
Signals.

HAAS

10:55:51
Yeah, they get certain signals. But, I mean, if we're talking about the social justice issues, one of the things that was remarkable about the pope was he addressed these immigrants coming from Africa into Italy. And he said -- this is social justice again -- migrants present a particular challenge for me since I'm the pastor of a Church without frontiers, a Church which considers herself mother to all.

HAAS

10:56:12
But then he goes on, back to the issues that the U.S. Bishops are facing now, among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us. Now these efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of that. So he embeds that in his concern for social justice.

REHM

10:56:36
OK. Last comment, Maureen.

FIEDLER

10:56:38
All right. I want to say something about contraception and the contraception mandate. When I listen to the American Bishops, I wonder who they're representing, quite frankly, because, if you look at the polls, most lay Catholics use contraception at the same rate as anybody else of any other faith tradition or no faith tradition. A lot of them would love it, I would think, if their employers covered that in their healthcare.

REHM

10:56:59
So we are nine months into his papacy. We shall return to this conversation, I'm sure. Maureen Fiedler, John Haas, E.J. Dionne, thank you so much.

GROUP

10:57:13
Thank you so much.

REHM

10:57:14
And Merry Christmas.

GROUP

10:57:16
Merry Christmas to you, too, Diane.

REHM

10:57:17
And to all of you, thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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