Religion, politics and education
"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his (her) point of view," — Harper Lee, writer (b. 1926)
Religion, politics and education are all hot button topics, considered meaty by some, forbidden by others because one can easily step out of bounds if trying to push the agenda.
I’ll tread lightly as I share my thoughts about Pope Francis and his incredibly forward thinking on where the Catholic Church should head.
I’ll do a little skating when it comes to politics and then add a couple of tidbits on education and of course, a little common sense sprinkled in just to keep the conversation going.
Pope Francis is my new favorite pope. Truth be told, I did not have a favorite pope until Francis came along. The first thing he has going for him is my middle name is Francis, named after my grandfather, and never have I been able to root for a Francis before.
Francis does not talk like any pope in history. “Who am I to judge?” and “I am a sinner” distinguishes him from his predecessors and is an amazing turn that I believe will not only save the church, but will move it forward.
I could never understand the appeal of a religion that was not 100 percent based on love. This pope suggests that hate and fear have no place in his church which appears to be going back to basics with a message of Jesus and what Jesus symbolizes, at least to me — a pure love.
He touches on the role of women and calls them “essential” and more important than the bishops. He is unclear on what their exact role should be, but leaves it open to discussion and investigation.
And that is just the start of his refocus.
He greets huge crowds weekly at the Vatican and his first trip outside his country was to Rio de Janeiro where he spoke to millions about the need for his bishops to get out of church and go to the streets.
Pope Francis talks about the frustration that parishioners have; they want pastors, not bureaucrats.
He failed to touch on one subject that has concerned me, and that is the past sexual abuse and how it will be handled in the future. One can only hope that his frank manner will spill over and his tolerance, while abundant, will give way to a zero tolerance for the abuse that has plagued the church for centuries. No more moving priests around as an answer to this age-old problem dogging the church.
Most telling to me was his frankness. Though not completely radical, the shift and the balance he seeks is mind-blowing and promises complete inclusivity. As a non-religious person, married to a practicing Catholic, I will say my most enjoyable visits to church have been when I feel included and I see gays, multi-races and children accepted and embraced. That usually means I don’t hear any of the guilt and fear that I grew up thinking was a big part of my Catholic friends' upbringing.
When walking El Camino in Spain with my wife several years ago, going into churches was part of the walk. There was one particular church where the priest brought us “pilgrims” up on the dais and asked us to read a passage in our native language. He was no more than 5-foot-2 in stature, but to me, he was a big man with a bigger heart. I thought then that is what the Church needs: men and women who are ruled by love and inclusive by nature.
His hitting on some tough topics impressed me and tells me that Pope Francis is the change he is talking about. He spoke about guiding, through the pulpit, a message of peace on earth, while reaching out to immigrants and black Catholics.
His “Who am I to judge?” when talking about a gay priest was expanded when he added, “When God looks at a gay person, does he condemn this person? We must always consider the person.”
His interview in “America" magazine went further when he said that the church must not continue to be obsessed with issues related to gay marriage or contraceptives. He challenged the church to create a "new balance" and issued a warning that if the church does not change, it will “fall like a house of cards”.
This shift is not completely radical as he reiterated many of the church’s age-old tenets, while showing his human side. In addition to being a “sinner,” he likes classic movies, is an avid reader, an opera buff and a Mozart fan.
He says he wants the Catholic Church to be a “house for all, not a small chapel for a few” and this is a fast track to fixing some of the challenges that have plagued the church for decades, siphoning support and stripping practicing Catholics of faith in the organized part of religion that has, to now, defined the church.
POLITICS – 'Stupid is as stupid does'
I have never been able to wrap myself around gun issues. Though they have died down since the Sandy Hook massacre, I was reminded of it last month when I was reading an article about some of the bills that Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed and the vetoes that stood.
The central issue was on background checks and I could not see anything in the legislation that would be burdensome, but the governor cited those who create violent crimes with guns are either mentally ill or criminals and this bill focused on law-abiding citizens, thus missing the target.
Personally, I don’t get it. What harm can be done by performing background checks and adding some “due diligence” to the mix? Currently you can sell firearms through private channels and stores. From what I can see, getting a weapon is not as tightly regulated as buying a bottle of beer.
That said, I think all citizens have a right to a gun unless they fit a profile that would prohibit it such as mental illness or criminal history.
However, I see no harm in a little more regulation and registration.
Closing down the government Oct. 1 made no sense to me. Politically, it seemed like a no-win for the Republicans and a downright indictment on the Tea Party that will surely backfire. It might rev up the zealots but the fringe will fall away as support fizzles.
I think if the American people had their way and Congress and the Senate stopped getting paychecks during a shutdown, we would at least feel better about it and feel like our leaders were not above the laws they are enacting. That goes for their health care, Social Security and every law they pass. If they had to personally live the consequences, perhaps we would not have the contempt we have for them today.
Finally, another bill that got vetoed was the extension of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). That came at a price tag of $700,000 a day in lost federal funding and seemed like another example of partisan politics. This caused pain for 70,000 Maine citizens and was supported by 68 percent of the populace, yet failed to be overridden by the legislators we have elected to serve our interests.
I am sure there is more to it than my mind comprehends, but what is clear to me is that we have a problem in Washington and a problem in Augusta. I don’t put all the blame on the governor; he has his ideology and is clear. I do fault him for having a hard time with compromise, seeing the other side, and not being a consolidator. However, our other elected officials also find themselves constantly embroiled in partisan politics. Overriding vetoes that don’t make sense is their responsibility.
Shame on the lot of them that put politics above the people.
Turn the Page. Peace out.