Compassion & Intolerance

During his brief reign as pontiff, Pope Francis has been widely praised for his humility, his compassion and his condemnation of social injustice.  Committed to rising above the ongoing scandals and controversies that have plagued his Church, he has promised to consider changes that will eliminate corruption, end abuse and make Catholicism more inclusive.

One wonders, however, if his words of compassion will lead to significant reforms, especially for those long persecuted by the Church.  After all, religions are governed by dogma, not by a commitment to human rights.  They have always been more divisive than inclusive, fostering discrimination, intolerance and conflict throughout human history.  Threatened by science, which challenges their simplistic beliefs, religions have long attempted to derail its progress.

There is a limit to the understanding and compassion offered by religious leaders.  While they might respect those who do not share their faith, they are obliged to defend its basic tenets and, in doing so, must convince the faithful that theirs is the one true religion.  To have compassion for women, gays, atheists and non-Christians does not erase the intolerance that is both inscribed in Church doctrine and ingrained in its parishioners.  Pope Francis has spoken of the tyranny of capitalism; he might also consider the tyranny of religion.