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Will the Pope's Interview Lead Dolan and Other Catholic Theocons to Change a Wee Bit?

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) September 24, 2013: On September 19, 2013, the Jesuit-sponsored magazine AMERICA and 15 other Jesuit-sponsored magazines around the world published a wide-ranging interview with Pope Francis, himself a Jesuit by training.

In the interview, among other things, Pope Francis says, "We [Roman Catholics] cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods. . . . The dogmatic and moral teachings of the [Roman Catholic] church are not all equivalent. The church's pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently" -- as certain U.S. Roman Catholic bishops have insisted on the church's doctrines (teachings) related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods."

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Because certain U.S. Roman Catholic bishops have worked with extraordinary zeal to remind American Catholics and non-Catholic Americans as well of the church's teachings regarding abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods, the news media in the United States publicized Pope Francis's statements.

In a follow-up article in the NEW YORK TIMES titled "Dolan Calls Pope's Tone on Sexual Morality a "Breath of Fresh Air'" (dated September 22, 2013), Lisa W. Foderaro reports that the usually combative Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York expressed a surprisingly positive view of the pope's published interview, calling it the "magnificent interview."

Of course it still remains to be seen if the characteristically combative Cardinal Dolan will change his tune a wee bit about insisting on the church's teachings related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods. Nevertheless, his statements in Foderaro's article suggest that he may change a wee bit in the near future.

In my estimate, certain U.S. Roman Catholic bishops have been obsessed with insisting on their church's teachings related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods, because their Roman Catholic religious faith is a toxic form of religious faith, not a healthy form of religious faith. By definition, toxic religious faith encumbers and restricts one's religious freedom. By contrast, healthy religious faith does not.

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Toxic forms of religious faith have been explored in two relevant books: (1) Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton's TOXIC FAITH: UNDERSTANDING AND OVERCOMING RELIGIOUS ADDICTION (1991) and (2) Leo Booth's WHEN GOD BECOMES A DRUG: BREAKING THE CHAINS OF RELIGIOUS ADDICTION & ABUSE (1991).

Because certain U.S. Roman Catholic bishops have appeared obsessed with insisting on their church's teachings related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods, their toxic religious faith in the imagined effectiveness of insisting on those teachings probably severely limits their ability to respond positively to Pope Francis's point -- even a wee bit.

Therefore, even though Cardinal Dolan's positive words about the pope's "magnificent interview" sound promising, it would be a mighty challenge for the combative Cardinal Dolan to change a wee bit from his customary insistence of his church's teachings related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods. Stay tuned.

As readers of OpEdNews will recall, the pope's interview inspired Rob Kall to imagine possible future developments in his article "This Pope Could Save the Catholic Church, and Maybe America" (dated September 20, 2013).

I would add that the pope could save the Roman Catholic Church from toxic forms of religious faith in insisting on certain selected church teachings, thereby neglecting other church teachings.

The pope's straightforward criticism of obsessing about the church's teachings related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods could prompt conservative American Catholics to change their views a wee bit regarding these issues. By changing their views a wee bit regarding these issues, they may move toward a more nuanced view of American political parties and candidates. In short, they may stop being theocons -- in which case happy days could be here again for the Democratic party.

Roman Catholics famously believe in miracles. It will be a miracle if the American Catholic theocons change a wee bit. Stay tuned.

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www.d.umn.edu/~tfarrell
Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; Ph.D.in higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)
 

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