Even before the election of Pope Francis, many people were speculating that he needed to make drastic changes to the Church. That he needs to start to conform to this generations values and ideas. That he needs to steer the Church out of the old way of thinking and into the modern way. Well, sorry to be a wet blanket, but that’s just not going to happen. The Catholic Church is not going to change its teaching on any of the stuff the secular media would like the Church to change it’s views on (contraception, female “ordination,” homosexuality, abortion, etc.) with the new pope. Nor will it ever change.
What those people don’t seem to realize is that the Church is not like a political party, organizational club, governmental entity or some other group, who changes their beliefs depending on what the thinking is at the time is. What they don’t seem to understand is that church teachings on all of these big moral issues are unchangeable. Just like 2 +2 = 4, the Truth of the teaching of Jesus Christ never changes! [Jesus said] “I came to bring truth to the world. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true” (John 18:37).
In some ways, I can understand the thinking of some, because they see some Christian faith traditions accepting things that seem contradictory to Jesus’ teachings. But, because of the influence that secular media has in everybody’s life, people start to feel they can water down and change the true teachings of Christ to conform to the individuals way of thinking. This is what is known as “moral relativism.” Moral relativism is the view that when it comes to questions of morality, there are no absolutes and no objective right or wrong; moral rules are merely personal preferences and/or the result of one’s cultural, sexual or ethnic orientation.
As with regards to the pope, he is part of the magisterium (along with the bishops in union with him), and is the guardian of Jesus’ teaching, not its author and arbiter (Catechism, no. 85-87). The magisterium is preserved by the Holy Spirit from formally teaching anything on faith and morals that was not at least implicitly taught by Christ and the apostles (cf. Catechism, no. 67). The magisterium cannot formally teach anything that contradicts the truths revealed by Christ.
For Catholics, there is an important difference between the teachings that we must believe, which are infallible and unchangeable (doctrine), and the rules that we must obey but which are changeable (disciplines). Disciplines are rules established by the Church to help the believer walk the straight and narrow path; which includes things like celibacy and not eating meat on Fridays during Lent and fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
As Catholics, we are called to live counter-cultural lives. We believe in a God who lived among us, died for us, and showed us the way to live. Catholics are called, yes, to engage with the society around them, but not to adapt ourselves to the popular sentiments of our time. Instead, Catholics are called to live in service to our God. This includes loving our neighbor as ourselves. Until next time, God bless.