As I’ve mentioned many times in the past, I earned an advanced degree in theology (one true Church variety) from the good nuns and who-knows-whether-they-were good-or-bad priests at Our Lady of Sorrows (yes, you read that right) grammar school in Hartford, Connecticut. I have on several occasions, opined on Church doctrine, and have on at least two occasions explicated the doctrine of Papal Infallibility. I last alluded to the doctrine, and my take on it here, when I took umbrage at Pope Benedict’s attempt to abolish Limbo, a post, by the way, that I enjoyed re-reading (warning: only other theologians with a Catholic grammar school theology agree will likely share my enthusiasm):
Now, some may say that I have no standing to dispute theology with the Pope. He is, after all, infallible. But as I said in yet another post (which for reasons good and true I pulled down) the Pope is only infallible while he is Pope. When Benedict is gone, some other Pope can bring Limbo back. Who knows, maybe God will inspire the Cardinals to pick me, and if He does, my first exercise in infallibility will be to arrange for Limbo’s return.
The post I removed, and I don’t remember why, explained my theory at greater length. It boiled down to this: Popes are only infallible while they are popes, once they’re gone, the next pope to come along, being every bit as infallible as the last one, can change whatever the last pope did, without in any way affecting the prior pope’s infallibility. Each pope is infallible in his own time; infallibility is a constant, while doctrine is, in the end, completely malleable. Go to hell for eating meat on Friday one day; eat beef on Friday to your heart’s content on another (Friday, that is).
The one thing even an advanced theologian like me would never have predicted was that a living pope would acknowledge this principle, even obliquely, but how wrong I was, and how disappointed I am in the present Pope, for having this to say about gay priests:
“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis told reporters, speaking in Italian but using the English word “gay.”
I’ll tell him who he is to judge. He’s the f***in’ Pope, that’s who he is. He’s god’s appointed, who speaks on behalf of god on matters of faith and morals. It’s his job to judge, and just because he and his predecessors usually get it wrong is no excuse for him to shirk his responsibilities.
But note, that implicit in this brazen act of popely cowardice is an acknowledgment of the temporal nature of papal infallibility. For, after all, his predecessors have all judged, viciously and without hesitation or mercy (Inquisition anyone?) and were their pronouncements eternal, they would be binding on Francis. But apparently he doesn’t see it that way. By refusing to judge he has turned his back on centuries of hypocritical judgments made by his hypocritical predecessors, thus vindicating my theory.
As Stephen Colbert would say, “I accept your apology”.
Oh, and by the way, if anyone out there thinks what Francis said signals anything other than a desire to put a lid on some inside the Vatican sex scandals, think again. On matters such as this, I am infallible, and I hereby pronounce that it ain’t happening, though it would be just like the Church to lighten up on gay men while continuing the total subjugation of women.
Addendum: Since drafting the above, I’ve remembered why I took down my first infallibility post, but I’m not telling.