Kal Kallaugher opens today's discussion.
We'll return to the conversation after this extended disclaimer:
I have several times here quoted with approval a professor who said you could no more be an "ex-Catholic" than you could be "ex-Irish" or "ex-Italian."
Roman Catholicism is a culture as well as a set of beliefs, and not only is it impossible to become ex-Catholic, but it's not likely that your entire family will join you in purging that pervasive factor from their lives and identities, which makes it a dicey topic to discuss in public. Or at all.
And when it comes to the re-examination of family issues at the Vatican, I have the additional conflict of having sorted through divorce with people who are still dear to me but who did not have the same response to it that I did.
But being a divorced Catholic (or a gay Catholic, for that matter) shouldn't disqualify you from the conversation any more than having never been in a sexual relationship should.
Except when you allow it to.
One problem all self-help groups run into is members who insist that their pain was greater than anyone else's and that their pattern of recovery is the only one that works.
Another is "certified experts" who offer advice that makes it clear they have not experienced what the group is trying to deal with.
Not all of the 1.2 billion Roman Catholics and recovering Roman Catholics trying to have this conversation are in a place to do so fairly and honestly.
With that in mind ...
When the first draft of the statement emerged, it was greeted with joy, as in this Joe Heller first-response cartoon.
Got to admit, my response at that stage was "yeah, right." And then I got mad at myself for being so cynical.
And then I reminded myself that sometimes cynical is the right response. And then I got mad at myself for that.
But John Cole had it right: The Pope's initial statement may have pleased some, but it certainly didn't go over well with everyone.
And it wasn't just that they found it disconcerting and upsetting. As Kal suggests above, they dug in.
The idea that the Pope's authority is such that everybody in the College of Cardinals is going to have to swallow hard and go along is as naively unrealistic as thinking that the election, and then overwhelming re-election, of Barack Obama was going to negate the conservative opposition to his announced plans.
The machinations of the Borgias (either the dignified Jeremy Irons version with lots of conversation or the more entertaining Eurotrash version with lots of tits) may not be the most accurate representation of the average Vatican administration, but do not deceive yourself into thinking that any pope at any point in history has enjoyed a college of yes-men.
And remember that the whole "Papal infallibility" thingie is not only loaded with conditions and disclaimers that make it irrelevant in discussions like this one, but was either "clarified" or "backpedaled", depending on your POV, by Vatican II.
And, in any case, as Adam Zyglis noted, even Francis at his most accepting and generous was really only offering an opportunity to be forgiven, which isn't necessarily what divorced or gay Catholics are looking for.
Which reminds me of a relevant anecdote:
During one of our periods of being reconciled to the Church, we had a son making his First Communion, which also necessarily included his First Confession, since one, even at eight or nine years old, must approach the sacrament with a clean soul.
As the culminating activity in their instruction, the little kids in the class were each given a lighted candle and the lights were turned down while the parish's youth director led them through an examination of conscience.
He would describe a sin, like being jealous of another kid, or calling someone a mean name, or telling a lie, and the idea was that, when you realized you had done one of these things, you would blow your candle out to show that you had separated yourself from the light of God.
As he gently went through his list, the candles went out, a few at a time, until, at the end, only little Katie's candle was left, because, as she explained, "I didn't do any of those things."
At which point a bolt of lightening burst through the ceiling of the Church and reduced her to a spot of ash.
So much for Hope and Change, Vatican style.
This is not the moment of zen you were looking for:
You might expect me to append "Vatican Rag" at this point, but I've never much liked that song. Lehrer was not Catholic and doesn't have the insider perspective that distinguishes satire from mockery.
You want insightful, satirical blasphemy, you have to go to Recovering Catholic Owen Dunne. (Who has just re-launched a sequel to his classic webcomic here.)