The pope walked back an earlier statement on God “willing” a plurality of religions, saying that God only “permits” many religions.
Opinion: That’s a humorous backtrack. From my reading of Catholic theology, the term “permits” is usually used in the context of God “permitting” evil to exist for some Greater Good.
So what’s going on here?
What is the Pope really saying?
To me, it seems the Pope means well. He is trying to bring everyone together and to perhaps encourage more non-Catholics to enter into the Catholic fold.
So he initially says things that sound great to people who don’t realize there is a whole backdrop of firm Catholic dogma and doctrine that even he can’t really deviate from (at least, not without a lot of political maneuvering and fancy words to make things appear continuous from the ancient and medieval teachings).
After the Pope’s initial warm and fuzzy statements, the theological heavies come in and make him take back or “correct” his words.
This story reminds me of how a non-Catholic acquaintance of mine once indicated that he approved of the Pope’s saying he could “not judge” gay people.
What my acquaintance probably didn’t understand, however, is how shrewd Catholics can be. They are quite clever at speaking in a certain way so as to make things sound more inclusive than they really are.
If we look in the Catholic catechism, homosexual acts are clearly defined as “disordered.” And any Pope must uphold that teaching. Simple as that.
The Pope’s saying he cannot judge is a kind of word game that many clergy employ—from their perspective with sincere good intentions. It harkens back to the idea of loving the sinner, not the sin.
So the Pope doesn’t judge the person but rather the (Catholic) sin of homosexual sexual activity.
The strategy is sort of like how caring parents and teachers say to kids “your behavior is unacceptable” instead of saying “you are unacceptable.”
Now the situation with non-Christian religions is a bit different. But still, the Pope often seems to initially put a nice gloss on things to make Catholicism appear more open-minded and welcoming than it really is.
Actually, that’s not quite right. Catholicism is welcoming. But you have to play by its rules, allow its theological backbone to govern your belief.
That’s the purported Catholic ideal, at any rate. What happens in actual practice, I think, is far more flexible and politically nuanced.