The papacy being what it is, it finds it very difficult to admit mistakes. The fact that Pope Francis did so is significant.
For years I have been proposing that Pope Francis burn the Doctrine of Discovery in St. Peter’s square with live television recording it. Maybe he will go on to do that. But his statement is the next best thing.
And if he wants to keep the original documents under glass in the Vatican museum that’s okay too—just as they have the papal condemnation of the Magna Carta under glass in the British museum. He can burn a xeroxed copy of the Doctrine of Discovery instead on live television cameras in St. Peter’s Square.
But a lot more papal mistakes need admitting and confessing. One reader wrote, “Can they decanonize Junipero Serra?” And I would add, decanonize Pope John Paul II and Jose Maria Escriva? The latter being founder of the fascist movement Opus Dei so well represented on today’s dark Supreme Court and other places of deep influence such as the media and finance?
Popes find it very hard to admit the mistakes of their forefathers. As one observer, an ex-Franciscan priest put it to me, “Remember Cardinal Ottaviani: ‘The church has never been in error. It has proceeded from truth to truth.’ Same bullshit!”
I haven’t heard Ottaviani’s name invoked in many decades, but his voice of dissent was very loud at Vatican II and, sad to say, much of the previous two papacies carried on his mindset for 34 years.
So Pope Francis finally turning his back on the Discovery Doctrine points to other issues facing institutionalized Christianity today. After all, it took the papacy 500 years to admit they were wrong about Galileo and that came with a pledge under Pope John Paul II that they had learned a lesson about science and religion.
Yet for fifty years since that pledge, the Vatican and many other Christian churches have ignored science’s teachings about the diversity of sexual expression among humans. Homosexual and trans people are facing as much ignorance and oppression as before science spoke up in 1973.
How much longer must we wait for religion to get it right this time around? Must we wait the 600 years it took to say No to the Doctrine of Discovery?
No wonder 75% of 18 to 30 year olds identify as “spiritual but not religious.”
See Matthew Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Post-denominational Priest, pp. 92, 250f., 265-67, 297f, 379, 435.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: Seat of papal authority: “Ex Cathedra” – the chair of St. Peter, St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome. Wikimedia Commons
Queries for Contemplation
What does “spiritual but not religious” mean to you? Are you willing to wait patiently for 600 years to recognize the rights and dignity of gay, lesbian and trans people to be recognized by religions of the world? Or do you think science has something to teach religion about the diversity of sexual expression and gender identity?
Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest (Revised/Updated Edition)
Matthew Fox’s stirring autobiography, Confessions, reveals his personal, intellectual, and spiritual journey from altar boy, to Dominican priest, to his eventual break with the Vatican. Five new chapters in this revised and updated edition bring added perspective in light of the author’s continued journey, and his reflections on the current changes taking place in church, society and the environment.
“The unfolding story of this irrepressible spiritual revolutionary enlivens the mind and emboldens the heart — must reading for anyone interested in courage, creativity, and the future of religion.”
—Joanna Macy, author of World as Lover, World as Self