The Norman Transcript

Opinion

June 9, 2014

The pope, politics and downgrading of dogma

NORMAN — Practitioners of purity push young people who embrace diversity and freedom to opt out of political structures.

“The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent.” — Pope Francis

I entered the Catholic seminary at 13. I have worked for Cesar Chavez’s farm worker movement and labor unions since I was 19. And I have run political campaigns for Democratic politicians and causes for 40 years.

Watching these institutions, my personal “trinity,” struggle to remain relevant has been hard. I love working in the labor movement. I continue making a living in politics. I had given up on the church.

Jesuits didn’t train me. But when I read Pope Francis’ description of Jesuitical thinking — “The Jesuit must be a person whose thought is incomplete, in the sense of open-ended thinking” — I saw at once the root of the disheartening condition of the institutions that have been so central to my life.

A failure to recognize the virtue of keeping “thought incomplete” explains more to me about the shortcomings of those institutions. “(T)hose who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists — they have a static and inward-directed view of things.”

Pope Francis has thoughtfully taken a different strategic approach. Without changing dogma, he simply downgraded it, putting it in its place.

“The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

With breathtaking speed, he is doing what other social institutions haven’t. He is making the Catholic Church relevant in a society where political parties and other intermediary institutions drift further into irrelevancy.

It is sad and a bit comedic to watch politicians spar over which party can find affirmation in popular Pope Francis’ words. Their talking points target their bases and yet miss the much bigger point: The pope’s appeal is the baselessness of his message.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion
  • Quite the resilient bunch

    The people of Moore are a resilient bunch. They’ve bounced back from tornadoes before, but the current renaissance may be the quickest yet. FEMA officials said it would take two years to see some sense of normalcy. That’s hardly the case....

    July 24, 2014

  • A fresh start for VA

    All of us have high hopes for the confirmation and success of Veterans Affairs Secretary nominee Robert McDonald. If confirmed — and most believe he’s a shoe-in — McDonald will take over a paralyzed system of health care that is not ...

    July 24, 2014

  • Call up National Guard

    We’re not sure it will help, but you have to hand it to Texas Gov. Rick Perry. He deployed up to 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to help secure his state’s border with Mexico this week....

    July 23, 2014

  • It’s only getting worse

    Conditions for children in Oklahoma were starting to look up for a few years, according to the annual Kids Count reports. Now we know it wasn’t getting better. The recession was impacting the rest of the country, dropping their scores....

    July 23, 2014

  • Noting a life well lived

    James Garner never intended to be a movie and television star. He just kind of lucked into it, he would tell those who asked. If you have the itch to act, get a good-paying job and spend your free time at your local community theater, he ...

    July 22, 2014

  • Recount that really matters

    Americans have been hearing a lot about Congressional elections, but there’s another one halfway around the globe that will matter far more....

    July 22, 2014

  • Runoffs get no respect

    The Aug. 26 Republican runoff election for the Cleveland County District 3 commissioner post is one of only 18 races on ballots around the state. Only two races are statewide — the Democrat contests for U.S. Senator nominee and state ...

    July 22, 2014

  • Change some lines

    Editor, The Transcript: Looking at how our elected Republican friends are reacting to the refugee children crossing the border and now being housed in Lawton, I have a suggestion. Let’s edit the Christian Bible in several places to reflect ...

    July 21, 2014

  • New health care system demonized

    To the Editor: In October 2013, soon after we were asked to take over management responsibilities at our family business, we were visited by the company’s health insurance agent. She explained that a decision needed to be made regarding ...

    July 21, 2014

  • Norman Forward builds momentum

    The quiet campaign to build momentum for a citywide public works project is beginning to attract some attention....

    July 20, 2014