As head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis is facing an array of challenges, challenges that have been largely divisive within the Catholic Church. Most notably, the Catholic Church is losing its once firm footing in traditionally Catholic regions, such as North America and Europe. In addition, divisive issues, such as gay marriage and women’s ordinance, continue to challenge the Church, its beliefs, and its influence.
Compared to popes before him, Pope Francis seems extremely adept in reaching out to Catholics near and far with his extensive social media use. To me, Pope Francis seems to successfully connect to a far-reaching audience, including younger generations, with his openness to trying new interfaces, such as Facebook. Although this facet of Pope Francis illustrates his openness to change, other issues, such as gay marriage and women’s ordination, seem to be less acceptable and worthy of change within the Church.
To me, a follower of Christ can also be a leader within the church, regardless of sex. The ban on women’s ordination has been repeatedly “refuted,” meaning that this remains to be a hotly debated issue. According to the article, 63% of US Catholics support the ordination of women, so why does this continue to so divisive? The traditional and modern views are vastly separate; however, by keeping women from acting as leaders, the decisions are mostly left to the men, which creates a one-sided view not representative of the church. Other Christian groups have moved forward with this decision, allowing the ordinance of women. The Catholic Church, conversely, has lost support by not facing this significant decision, resulting in a large discrepancy between the roles of men and women in the church.
In the last 100 years, the number of Catholics worldwide has continued to grow. However, as stated earlier, previously dominant areas of Catholics, such as Europe, have seen significant declines in Catholic membership. Although I am unsure as to why this is happening, perhaps people have found other faiths that better resonate with their values, I do not believe this is an appreciably negative result. If the Catholic faith is indeed spreading to more corners of the world, such as Latin America, surely this would make up for or even strengthen the Catholic church on a global level, instead of having Catholics concentrated in fewer countries with higher numbers. In the article, it is stated repeatedly of the “waning influence” of the church due to the declining numbers in previously well-concentrated Catholic regions. However, I have a difficult time understanding this “waning influence” if Catholic membership is continuing to see a growth worldwide.
A possible solution to address the diminishing influence that leaders in the Catholic church are seeing would be to become more progressive in their views, rather than adding to the divisiveness and taking firmer stances against issues. Unfortunately, I will admit that the sex scandals have contributed to the declining influence of the church on moral issues. I cannot blame the people that choose to seek moral and Christian guidance elsewhere, as the sex scandals stripped many peoples’ respect of the church, as well as their strongholds in their faith. I would think that by becoming more open with other issues, such as gay marriage, especially since the outward allowance of the sex scandals in addition to the attempted cover ups by the church, would form a more cohesive following among varied believers, gay and straight. This acceptance of gay marriage and gays in general, I think, would promote the church further in a progressive light, as well as admit to the flaws in the church. In a way, we are all flawed, including the church and its views. However, the acceptance of these flaws, on both an individual and church level, would only enforce the followers’ beliefs in the church, and perhaps promote the church to additional non-Catholics.
In the US, according to this article, many Catholics disagree more often than not with the church policy positions. This does not come as a surprise to me. Many progressive Catholics, as opposed to the traditional Catholics, are not as firm on certain issues, such as abortion. The Catholic Church’s teachings firmly reject abortion, in discordance with the three quarters of Catholics that do support it “in certain circumstances.” As stated earlier, if the Catholic Church took a more fluid, less harsh and binding view of these divisive issues, perhaps the “waning influence” would instead increase, as more people would find agreement with the Church’s beliefs.
In summary, the Catholic Church is facing and will continue to face a plethora of challenges. However, my belief is that the church’s staunch stance, on multiple issues, turns followers away rather than towards, which has contributed to its diminishing clout worldwide. Until the Catholic Church is more accepting of varied beliefs and followers, the Catholic Church will continue to see a decline in its influence worldwide.