Hands up, who wants to be the Pope?

It looks like a lot of you want to be the Pope, given how my social media feeds exploded last week with the views of every Tom, Dick and Harry regarding his comments on the death penalty. Most of you appear to be men, by the way, and a number of you think you can do a better job.

I get it; it’s a serious debate with potentially serious consequences. But leave it to the academics, those who are really qualified, to thrash it out in private and then wait for them to report back. Sure, inform yourself and share your thoughts judiciously, but a 2000-year old church doesn’t have the kind of problems that get solved in two weeks just because, well, the internet.

So stop appointing yourself Pope of the Church of How I Want Things To Be. Stop posting links to half-baked, knee-jerk articles that try to prove your conservative or liberal point, which themselves have been quickly knocked up over the last week by the average guy trying to prove his own particular point.

Stop the tit-for-tat mudslinging, point-scoring denigration of your fellow Catholics, even if you are convinced you’re right! Stop the name-calling, heretic-labelling, shit-stirring polarisation. Stop the high-handed combative belligerence and displays of cocky one-upmanship over how well-informed or orthodox you are.

Stop setting yourself up as the model moral Catholic, the superior “I’m-right-because-my-brand-of-Catholicism-is-right” judge of other Catholics who, for whatever reason, don’t hold your view. Stop assuming that those who oppose your view are the enemy, destined for hell. Who made you Pope?

Stop assuming that Christ is unwittingly asleep in the boat – and that adding your bleating to the cacophony around us is going to quell the storm one little bit.

Oh you of little faith, have you nothing better to do?

How’s that humble and contrite heart getting on? How’s that daily prayer life and rosary, that weekly confession and Adoration, that complete attention at Mass?

How’s that sacrificial love of neighbour, all those occasions this week when you’ve laid down your life for your spouse, your co-workers, your parish, your community? How much time have you spent today helping the poor, caring for the sick and visiting those in prison?

How’s that total rejection of the lust of the eyes and flesh, and the pride of life, coming along? How often have you beaten your breast this morning, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

Indeed.

Now I’m not one to avoid contentious issues or to knock debate on the head, but when I see the clamorous and juvenile way my fellow Catholics have gone about discussing the Pope’s proclamation over the last few days, I understand something of Moses’ despair of the Israelites.

Even if you are convinced you’re right, what is the problem with displaying charitable and courteous behaviour toward your fellow Catholics? What point are you trying to prove by bashing them over the head with your facts and opinions? Why can’t you keep your thoughts to yourself and ponder on them until it seems right to quietly share them with others? (Edit – I appreciate there is some irony here).

Unveiling the Truth should be done gradually, with patience and love, taking into account the slowest and weakest. As Christ says, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” By this love, this sacrificial love, everyone will know you are my disciples – not by whether you have soundly proven your point about the death penalty.

And remember, even if you are right, even if you speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, you are a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if you have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge… but do not have love, you are nothing.  St Paul, btw.

So let’s all take a deep breath, pull back from the edge and let the smart guys get on with it. Trust that the gates of Hell will not prevail. In the meantime, we (men in particular) have enough to get on with as priests of our own parishes and bishops of our own domestic churches.

Therefore, in a literal and metaphorical sense, go home! Move along! There’s nothing more to see here.

Your energies are meant to be directed elsewhere, where they are really required, as husband, father, priest, son, brother. Take heed of these wise words: “A good Catholic home is the one supreme need of the hour. And a good Catholic family life alone makes up a good Catholic home. The home is the source and maintainer of the Catholic way of life”.

Go home, men, and attend to your pressing needs there!

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