I had a Catholic girl tell me I was going to burn in hell because my mom and dad had both been married and divorced before they married each other and had me. She called me a child of sin. What a judgy little bitch. When I tattled on her, Mom basically told me the girl was full of shit, only phrased more gently for my second-grade ears. Other than that, the Catholic people I have known have been generous and warm and compassionate.
Still, I didn't used to like their church. I was never one of those anti-Catholic people who enjoy the company of hate mongers in white hoods. If people wanted to be Catholic that was their business. But I didn't like the news coming out of the Church. Abuse. Of power, of authority, for sex, for money, which was used for the Church's hierarchical sickness instead of for treating actual sick people.
For most of my young adulthood I was more on the side of Sinead O'Connor than The Catholic Church. I was one of the fans who still bought her records and defended her actions on Saturday Night Live all those years ago when she held up a picture of one of the old popes and ripped it to pieces on national TV in protest of the Church's silence over accusations of sexual abuse.
People called O'Connor crazy. They called her actions blasphemous. But I thought she was on the right side. The side that wants to see the Church help people and, you know, not fuck little alter boys.
But this new pope, Pope Francis, wow. The news coming from the Church today is so much better than it was with the old popes. It's all about, you know, helping people. Feeding the hungry, serving the poor, mending the sick and broken. The stuff Jesus was all about:
Matthew 19:16-24 New International Version (NIV)
The Rich and the Kingdom of God
16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
18 “Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’[a] and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]”
20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth...
I'm no pope expert or anything, but it seems to me that Pope Francis is way more Christ-like than the other popes I've seen. Take, for example, this brief article from Reuters, Pope to raffle gifts given to him to raise money for the poor.
Don't it just make you want to pump your fist in the air and shout out, "Yes!" to see this powerful man using his status for good. It's a rare thing of beautify in this cruel world.
Just as I used to be judgmental toward the Catholic church, I have a hard time not getting too judgy with rich people. Not all people who have acquired wealth are selfish or greedy, especially when they share it with those who are less fortunate. I know that my distrust of wealth is more psychological than spiritual: it has to do with my daddy issues, having been raised by an accountant who too often assigned more value to money than to people. But come on! I'm not perfect. Even Jesus himself is pretty judgy when it comes to people who cling to their material possessions. Look what he said to his disciples:
Matthew 19:16-24 New International Version (NIV), continued:
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Christ and the Rich Young Ruler by Heinrich Hoffman
When I read that passage I always remember the time when I was an angsty adolesent in the middle of some stupid argument with my dad over whether or not it's ethical to eat fish. My dad grew up on the south end of St. Joe where it smelled horrible, but the slaughterhouse paid a living wage. His dad was happy to get off the farm and work for wages. Dad worked briefly at the slaughterhouse before he went to business college to get his accounting certificate so he could wear a nice white shirt to work and not worry about coming home with blood on it.
Here's about how close to working at a slaughterhouse I ever came: I used to make dinner for Mom and Dad and me when I still lived at home, and sometimes some blood would splatter onto my hand when I attempted to dump the ground beef from its styrofoam bed into a pot on the stove. I'd rush over to the sink and scrub my hand in hot water and soap for about five minutes. I'd shrivel up and die if I had to kill animals for a living.
My point is, when Dad and I got into a fight when I said I wanted to stop eating meat, he was coming from a weird place inside his mind. I bet he felt trapped between the old ways--his father's ways of proudly working at a slaughterhouse--and the new ways--his punk-ass kid mouthing off about not eating anything that has a face, or some shit like that.
"Jesus was a fishman!" My dad shouted. His face was getting red and you could see how fast his heartbeat was by how fast the artery in his temple was beating.
"Jesus was not a fisherman, Dad. He was a teacher. He was the Fisher of Men," I said in the most snotty "no duh" accent of a 1980's-era, white, suburban, middle-class teenage girl.
"My point is, Jesus ate fish. If fish was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for you!" Dad shouted.
I rolled my eyes and ran to my room shouting, "Jesus is a Pinko Commie!"
My remark was in reference to another time when my dad and I got into a shouting match over money and he called me a "Pinko Commie!" "Jesus is a Pinko Commie!" is what I had wanted to say then, but I wasn't brave enough yet to say it. So when I finally got up the nerve to say it during this argument over fish, I'm sure Dad didn't understand me, but it made perfect sense to me.