On the first Friday of Lent, Fred was outside grilling a big juicy steak on his grill. Meanwhile all of his neighbors were eating cold tuna fish for supper. This went on each Friday during Lent. On the last Friday of Lent the neighborhood men got together and decided that something just had to be done about Fred; he was just tempting them to eat meat each Friday of Lent and they couldn’t take it anymore. They decided to try and convert him to be Catholic. They went over and talked with him and were so happy that he decided to join all of his neighbors and become a Catholic. They took him to church and the priest sprinkled some water over him and told him “Your were born a Baptist, you were raised a Baptist, and now you are a Catholic.” The men of the neighborhood were so relieved, now their biggest Lent temptation was resolved. The next year’s Lent rolled around. The first Friday of Lent came and just at supper time when the neighborhood was setting down to their fish dinners came the wafting smell of steak cooking on a grill. The neighborhood men could not believe their noses! What was going on? They called each other up and decided to meet over in Fred’s yard to see if he had forgotten it was a Friday in Lent. The group arrived just in time to see Fred standing over his grill with a small pitcher of water. He was pouring small droplets over his steak on the grill and saying, You were born a cow, you were raised a cow, and now you are a fish!”
Today, conservative Catholic leaders aren’t concerned with a man named Fred but with a man named Francis Pope Francis isn’t Pope John Paul and he’s definitely not Pope Benedict. (These last two popes were the darlings of conservative Catholics, with each staunchly supporting the traditional teachings of Rome.) No, Pope Francis is making it very clear that when it comes to the Vatican – conservatism is out and liberalism is in. This was seen last month when Raymond Burke, the ultra-conservative American cardinal, was stripped of his position as the second-highest ranking Vatican official. and replaced with Walter Kasper, the ultra-liberal German cardinal. (Kasper was in charge of the recent synod of bishops that called for a radical change in the church when it comes to issues like abortion, divorce, homosexuality, etc.) This led to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, trans-gender) Magazine making Francis their person of the year and gay rights activist, Elton John, calling the Pope his new hero. All this has led to talk of a coming schism in the Catholic church between those on the right and those on the left. For instance, the Cardinal of Austria recently reminded his congregants that Francis may be the 266th Pope, but history also shows that 37 of them were false anti-popes. The Bishop of Providence, Rhode Island, said in an interview, “The recent synod was a turning point for conservatives. If there was a papal honeymoon before, believe me, for traditionalists, it is now over.” And the Catholic religious editor of the New York Times chimed in with, “Let us all remember one thing, there is still another pope living.” (He was talking of Benedict, who resigned the papacy, but has written in support of all those now sent into ecclesiastical exile by Francis.)
The bottom line? There’s an old adage in politics – keep your friends close and your enemies closer. But Pope Francis is sending his enemies so far away that they indeed may end up starting a Vatican of their very own.