Popes and Protestants

two heads

It says something about the state of Christianity in the United States when the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, is heralded as liberal.
My Facebook feed is filled with posts from all sorts of progressive Christians celebrating every step and comment of Pope Francis as he makes his way from American city to American city.

Comments and images like this:


I’m a progressive Christian, but I’m also a product of the Protestant Revolution. I affirm the positive messages the pope preaches, but as a progressive Christian, I can’t overlook the Roman Catholic Church’s positions against women serving as priests and against women controlling their own reproductive rights, including access to birth control and the right to terminate pregnancies.

As a Christian, I believe each of us, women and men, are made in God’s image spiritually, and that God calls each of us. I reject the Roman Catholic belief, the Fundamentalist Christian belief, and the Muslim belief that women are to be treated differently and afforded fewer rights than men.

Pope Francis seems a wonderful man, but no matter how progressive he may be, he leads a Church that still believes it alone holds access to salvation offered by God – that other Christians are going to Hell because we haven’t been baptized in the Roman Catholic Church, the church that claims it was created by God.

(Note: I’ve received a lot of comments concerning the previous sentence. So, I’ll change it to say “are second class Christians because we aren’t members of“)

Francis may say, ‘it’s not for him to judge,’ but for 1,500 years his organization has judged. And it will continue to judge long after he is gone.

In our current political and theological climate, this is what passes for liberal. Rather, some more progressive views of Pope Francis obscure the hard truths of the conservative Catholic Church.

Of course, Fundamentalist Christians and the far right already reject the Pope and the Catholic Church, so there’s little that Francis says that leads to much soul searching on the far right. With more similarities with the Catholic Church than differences, Fundamentalist Christians have already elevated their male pastors beyond the level of a ‘priesthood of the believer,’ while marginalizing women and the LGBT community and their rights.

But I suppose it’s true, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. In a theological landscape dominated by far right conservatives, any progressive position, no matter how uncharacteristic, is worth celebrating.

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14 Responses to Popes and Protestants

  1. Patricia says:

    “As a Christian, I believe each of us, women and men, are made in God’s image spiritually, and that God calls each of us.”

    I get what you are saying. I was raised Roman Catholic and have been a member of a United Church of Christ church for ten years now. I love this new Pope. I disagree with certain parts of Roman Catholic doctrine, especially around women’s ordination and lgbt issues.

    However, that being said, the quote at the top is something the RC Church believes as well.


    • jim says:

      Thanks for the comment . . .

      They believe God calls each of us?

      But not women into the priesthood.

      So where does that leave a woman who believes she’s been called?


      • Patricia says:

        Like I said, I disagree with the Roman Catholic Church on their women’s ordination stance. However, they do believe everybody is called by God, just called to different ministries. There are many, many people, and many priests and bishops specifically, who believe that the Church needs to open the door to women’s ordination, not just for the right’s of a woman who feels called, but for the sake of the Church! The Church needs the voices and wisdom of women. My 85-year-old catholic father told me this very thing almost forty years ago – I’ll never forget the conversation, when I (as a teenager) said it wasn’t fair to women that they couldn’t be ordained, and he said that HE felt cheated by the lack of women priests. There is a spiritual hole in the life of the Catholic Church because of this lack.


  2. mbridgham says:

    Jim, I’m with you all the way, especially on the subject of women and faith. I think it’s good to keep these things in perspective. I also am very happy to celebrate any step or even rhetoric from such an important church leader that re-directs the current flow of Christian practice and thought into a more compassionate and less dogmatic, affluent construct. How telling, deeping and lasting that impact time will tell.

    I also find it somewhat sad and a little disturbing that we progressive and even moderate Christians and Protestants have let our voice become so muted that you get letters that gasp in excitement at how liberal the Pope is, to exactly your point. We should be breathing that excitement about our faith all the time already, celebrating it over and against the exclusive from exactly our moderate and progressive perspective. I pray that the Pope’s stances will help strengthen our own voice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbridgham says:

      Need to edit that last bit 🙂 should have said “over and against the more, well, all the things I find distasteful and misguided about the far right conservative Christian worldview”. Or just “celebrating and championing our Progressive and/or moderate Christian perspective and voice.”


      • mbridgham says:

        In a word, yes. “Exactly your point” meaning as I understood you that in spite of the Pope’s words which tend in a positive direction, he is hardly the world leader of a progressive or liberal Church at this point in history – and we who might be excited by his words would do well to keep that in perspective. This same dichotomy between the more repressive doctrines and those embodied in the liberation theologians/clergy, social activists or the Thomas Mertons of the world, for example, also predates this Pope. My hope is only that he succeeds in breaking up the cement enough to let in some other possibilities for the future. And/or succeeds in giving us who are excited by his words more courage to champion our own views, which include things quite different from Roman Catholic practice and doctrine, at least in my case. And to do so in the face of a increasingly – at least seemingly so – conservative American Christianity.

        Liked by 1 person

    • jim says:

      Thanks for the comment.

      A surprising number of comments to this post on Facebook have missed my point.

      But I believe you’re right. More than anything, this is a motivator and opportunity for progressive voices to speak louder.

      And that includes pointing out when some people are marginalized by people of faith — isn’t that exactly what Jesus did?


  3. Alex says:

    There is one statement you make that I believe is flat wrong: “he leads a Church that still believes it alone holds access to salvation offered by God – that other Christians are going to Hell because we haven’t been baptized in the Roman Catholic Church.” Check it out

    Liked by 1 person

    • jim says:

      I’ve received a lot of comments to this on Facebook.

      You’re right, evidently. The church’s view of Baptism has changed, evidently.

      Reading the Church’s Catechism 846, Catechism 1035, Catechism 1577, I read it as conflicting positions on Baptism, but it doesn’t matter.

      I can be 100 percent wrong on Baptism, but the fact remains, the Roman Catholic Church considers non-Catholics, gays and women as second class citizens.


  4. John Schneider says:

    As a new Catholic, I have learned that the Church recognizes baptism in any mainline Christian denomination as a sacrament. Also, we take “Thou shall not kill” very literally, including unborn souls. There are many opportunities for women to serve in the Catholic Church Body of Christ. Please pray for God’s guidance so you can learn to see what He wants, which is not what “the world” desires. Try to announce to the world that God loves all people and wants them to come to Him through Jesus. Post articles that unite and spread the love of the Gospel instead of divisive posts. The photo is clever but totally inaccurate, as a true Christian sees everyone as unique, not boxed into a photo caption. Thank you, God bless you, keep your faith and use your excellent gifts for the glory of the Trinity.


  5. Beth Boyle. says:

    You are dead wrong, The Pope even said atheists can go to heaven. My what a bitter and nasty article this is and I am Presbyterian. Do you really think Pope Francis can completely change church dogma in just a few years. What he has done is remarkable.


    • jim says:

      Thanks for commenting.

      The pope has said many things that many of us can be happy with, but the fact of the matter remains, the position of the Roman Catholic Church remains unchanged in regards to women, LGBT people, and other Christians who aren’t Catholic.

      I’m not Catholic and never will be. Regardless of what individual popes, cardinals or priests may say (men, all them) the Church itself has published the official position: for example, Catechism 846, Catechism 1035, Catechism 1577.


  6. James Peck says:

    What I admire about Pope Francis is his pastoral sensibility, his apparently genuine interest in and concern for people, including vulnerable people. He is communicating that love is the guiding force for Christians. He seems more concerned about loving behavior than about right doctrine, as Benedict seemed to emphasize. I think many people are comparing Francis to Benedict, who was a brilliant theologian but just not personable. I also think Francis’ apparently genuine humility is appealing and attractive to many, many people, including me.

    Institutionally, he seems intent on breaking up the corruption and insularity of much of the Vatican and infusing the whole Roman Catholic Church with a higher level of accountability, transparency, and inclusion. The movement away from being controlled primarily by the Italian cardinals and bishops that began with John Paul II is continuing with Francis.

    Nonetheless, what Francis has changed is tone and emphasis, not substance. Benedict and company seemed intent on rooting out “unorthodoxy” within the RC Church. Francis seems more tolerant of the diversity of thought and practice in the RC Church. He is certainly inviting and encouraging more dialog within the RC Church. And he wants the Church to turn outward, to stop looking for ways to kick people out, to look for ways to bring people in. He may have long-range plans for more substantive changes. Theologically, he is quite conservative. But I do think he doesn’t want the RC Church to beat up on people.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jim says:

      Thanks for the comment . . . I layout first thing that I’m a product of the Protestant Revolution, and yet I’m defending my comments on other pages by quoting Catechisms. Which is more than ironic.

      I affirm what Francis is saying and doing, but I wonder if the politics of the RCC makes it difficult for him to effect lasting change in regards to doctrine.

      I also wonder if he had been a pope 1,000 years ago, if he’d find himself poisoned for his radically divergent views.


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