A new beginning, or the same old, same old?
A new leader for the Catholic Church was elected March 13, renaming Argentinian Jorge Mario Bergoglio to Pope Francis.
Pope Francis is the first non-European Pope, which reflects the growing Catholic demographic of the Catholic community
Dr. Benjamin Fiore is a religious studies professor at the University of Regina, a Jesuit, and the President of Campion College. Fiore was hoping for a non-European Pope, and his hopes came true.
“I was really hoping for someone from Latin America…because it would give a different face to the church, and it would also recognize the presence of Catholics in parts of the world that hadn’t had the focus previously.”
With an estimated 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in the world, the job of the Pope is to be leader of spirituality and theology. Fiore thinks that Francis’ previous Jesuit training will help him in this matter.
“His preparation for being a Jesuit involved a lot of academic work, in secular areas as well as in theology,” Fiore said. “So he knows the intellectual life, and I think that’s a very good quality.”
In the last half century, many issues have came into conflict with the Vatican and the its official teaching, including a controversial stance on gay marriage, decline in followers, sexual abuse scandals, and the role of women in the Church.
Leah Keiser, executive director of UR Pride, believes that the election of a new Pope means nothing for the LBGTQ community.
“[In the Catholic Church,] there is a huge role for women. I hope [Francis] pushes forward on that by offering them greater positions of authority and decision making, which could well be done. It’s already being practiced. It isn’t advertised as much, but right here in Regina, there are women in the Bishop’s office who run various committees and agencies.” – Pope Francis
“It’s another Pope eschewing some pretty homo-negative values, and I think that’s been the case across the board,” Keiser said.
Keiser went on to say that the University used to have a Queer and Christian support group on campus, but right now UR Pride does not have the resources to fund something like that.
Another issue facing the church is the role of women in Catholicism. Although many people are calling for women to be ordained as priests, the Vatican has dismissed the idea.
Fiore explains why this may be the case.
“[In the Catholic Church,] there is a huge role for women,” he said. “I hope [Francis] pushes forward on that by offering them greater positions of authority and decision making, which could well be done. It’s already being practiced. It isn’t advertised as much, but right here in Regina, there are women in the Bishop’s office who run various committees and agencies.”
Amanda Koback, a fourth-year education student and a Catholic, echoed these views.
“Women already have a role in the Church as nuns, and I do not feel that they will be ordained as Priests. I feel that the role of women as nuns is already an important role as they assist the male clergy in their duties. To some, this may seem like an anti-feminist statement. However, I feel the Church does not see the Roman Catholic hierarchy as a division of sexes, but an order of authority. Through their assistance to the male clergy, the nuns undoubtedly play a role in helping the Church run smoothly.
“Also, speaking to having only males as Priests, Bishops, etcetera, when Jesus was choosing his 12 disciples, he had the ability and freedom to choose anyone, men or women. As Jesus was instructed by the Lord, he chose men and, in honouring Jesus and his decisions, the Roman Catholic Church continues to ordain men.”
Pope Francis was elected after the surprise retirement of Pope Benedict XVI. When Benedict was elected, many felt he was too old for the job. Benedict was 78. Francis begins at 77.
Photo courtesy of Casa Rosada