A Modern Church
The last few weeks have been quite interesting. Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger)
announced his resignation as pope after serving in that role for nearly eight years. The last
pope to resign (typically they serve until death) was 600 years ago.
The normal hiatus between popes was shortened; the papal conclave began less than
two weeks after Benedict’s final day as pope. As might be expected, there was much
speculation concerning his successor. Benedict is recognized as a “conservative” among
Catholic theologians. Would his successor also be a conservative? Would the next pope
come from the United States or Canada?
Then the white smoke that indicates the College of Cardinals has chosen a pope was
seen and the name of the new pope was announced. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio wasn’t
one of the names mentioned in the media as a “frontrunner” in the balloting for pope. An
archbishop from Argentina, Bergoglio is likewise a conservative (from a Catholic
viewpoint ) in his religious convictions. Almost immediately there were those who
expressed the hope that the new pope (who adopted the name Francis) would “bring the
Catholic Church into the 21st century.” In their view, Pope Francis could make the Roman
Catholic Church relevant again by leading it in the direction that western society has taken
with regard to social and moral issues. The Catholic Church has opposed abortion, women
in the priesthood and homosexuality.
The pressure being brought against the Roman Catholic Church to conform to current
social values is the result of postmodernism, the view that truth is relative rather than
absolute. Postmodernism accepts the premise that truth is subjective, not objective. As
such, moral truth can change over time; what was morally wrong in the past may, in time,
become morally acceptable.
Many churches have accepted postmodernism to some extent. Some denominations,
for example, who taught against divorce in decades past now accept divorced individuals
into their fellowship with little or no question. Western society is slowly being trained by
various forces to accept homosexuality as a morally acceptable lifestyle. As public
perception of homosexuality has changed, so has the 4 teaching of some churches. Whereas
homosexual practices were roundly condemned as sinful by these groups in the past, they
have become more and more “accepting” of those who openly practice homosexuality.
Some churches even welcome homosexuals as religious leaders in their local
Of course, God’s Word is truth (John 17:17) and it does not change. God’s law regarding
divorce and remarriage remains the same today as it was in the days of the beginning of the
gospel. Homosexual practices were condemned by the apostle Paul and they continue to be
immoral today (Romans 1:26_27; 1 Corinthians 6:9_10).
With that historical context, it is understandable that many people would expect the
Roman Catholic Church to follow suit and drop their objections to abortion, homosexuality,
divorce, etc. Although it is impossible for us to know the future, it would appear that Pope
Francis will not gratify their desire.