Last week when Francis I became Pope, my Facebook feed was alight with people celebrating and excited over the news. My reaction was one of indifference and cynicism. Meet the new Pope, same as the old Pope, I thought. Francis I is opposed to contraception, to legal abortion and has said that same sex marriage is satanic.
But seeing my Catholic friends joy was disquieting. When Pope Benedict XVI became pope, I had already stopped going to church for over a year. I was busy with school and didn’t have much time to reflect on it. This time it’s different. I spend a lot of time on social media, so I was able to read all about the misguided Catholics who were hoping for reform, the outraged feminist and LGBT activists at the selection of Francis I, and most troubling my friends and family rejoicing at the news.
For the most part, I’m really glad that I have left the Catholic Church and I’m proud to be a Unitarian Universalist. While there were things about Catholicism that made me feel happy and spiritually fulfilled, the hierarchy wasn’t one of them. Perhaps it’s because my parent’s house didn’t have a picture of John Paul II framed adoringly. Maybe it’s because my parents always loudly disagreed with the idea of the Pope – and questioned how it’s possible for any one person to be closer to God or holier than another. I just don’t get what there is to celebrate.
I suppose I might feel a little left out. But more than that, even if I accept that my friends can accept or ignore the church’s teachings on contraception, abortion or gay rights, I don’t understand how people could just brush aside child abuse.
I don’t know what to do with this feeling. There’s no nice way to ask my friends why they are celebrating an institution that covers up for people who rape children. Our norms around religion dictate that it’s not polite to ask someone why they believe what they believe. I can understand that my friends don’t need to justify the private intricacies of their consciences to me. But when their support for the Church infringes on my rights, and the rights of others, when it causes death and pain – there is still no frame for the conversation.