John Allen has a piece of blatant pro-divorce propaganda today and he trashes the heroic and pious example of the victorious Egyptian Copts in the process.
As Pope Francis gears up for a showdown over divorce and remarriage at October’s Synod of Bishops, marking the latest chapter in a polarizing debate that’s left some Catholics delighted and others disenchanted, he can take consolation that he’s not the pope in the hottest water over the issue.
If you’re delighted then you’re not Catholic. Only liberals get disenchanted. That’s because they’re so easily enchanted. Faithful Catholics are just furious at the hijacking of our Church.
The world’s other major Christian leader who holds the same title, Pope Tawadros II of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, is also facing stiff blowback related to a divorce debate. Unlike Francis, however, some members of his own flock don’t just want him to change course, but they actually want him fired.
“He’s one of the worst spiritual leaders we’ve had in recent times,” said Wael Eskander, a well-known commentator on Coptic affairs, applauding recent calls from Coptic activists for Tawadros to be removed and sent packing to the monastery where he lived prior to being named a bishop.
“He’s playing a game he will lose in the end,” Eskander said.
Pope Tawadros is highly popular. The Egyptian Copts endured a living nightmare after Obama’s pro-Islamist pressure helped topple their long-time president, leaving them ethnic cleansing and scores of churches burned. Who are these ‘some members,’ and who cares what this ‘well-known’ Eskander thinks?’
Copts form the vast majority of Egypt’s eight to ten million Christians, and while most observers regard the idea of removing their pope as a long-shot, they say the uprising reflects real discontent over the extent to which Church authorities try to assert control over the private lives of their followers.
“People don’t like him very much, because he has a violent temper and he’s seen as aggressive,” said Mina Thabet, a Coptic researcher on human rights. “There’s a real problem between the pope and the people.”
I don’t believe that statement for a minute. The only people who don’t like Egypt’s Tawadros are displaced Muslim Brotherhood. But this isn’t really about Copts. It’s about Francis and his brazen and heretical divorce coup. Not that Francis believes in divorce, no. He just thinks separation is mandatory in a host of vague and commonplace circumstances, streamlined annulments are in order, and Eucharistic sacrilege is ‘mercy.’
When it comes to the substance of the divorce question, Francis and Tawadros are drawing fire from opposite sides.
The Catholic leader is generally seen as a moderate, with conservatives alarmed that he might relax his Church’s rules banning communion to anyone who divorces and remarries outside the Catholic Church. Tawadros is seen as a hard-liner, staunchly opposed to allowing Copts to dissolve their marriages under virtually any circumstances.
Francis is not seen as a moderate. He’s seen as seven steps to the left of Catholic. If someone like John Allen calls you a hard-liner, it just means you’re nice.
In 2011, a movement was founded called “Coptic 38” to campaign to go back to the earlier, more permissive rules. When he took office three years ago, Tawadros rejected that suggestion out of hand.
Despite the criticism, Tawadros appears to have the backing of other Coptic leaders.
On June 25, a traditional Church body called a “millet council” in Alexandria rejected calls for the pope’s removal, calling the selection of the Coptic leader a “divine choice” that cannot be undone.
Certainly the generally conservative ethos of the Church’s leadership suggests Tawadros won’t find much resistance for keeping reformers at bay.
So much for that unpopular Coptic Pope on the brink of removal.
There’s little indication any such putsch against Tawadros is in the cards, yet there are signs his stance is driving a few Copts away. Estimates provided by Peter Ramses El-Naggar, a lawyer who’s part of the “38” movement, are that since 2008 some 1,200 Copts have converted to Islam, which permits divorce, and that 4,000 more have tried to pursue a civil divorce or joined another Christian denomination.
In a country of over 70 million Muslims, Tawadros is such a bad Pope that Copts jump ship at the rate of over 150 per year! (I’m sure none of them are simply caving under pressure.)
Aside from the coincidence that another pope is wrestling with the same problem, Francis may want to take note of the Egyptian debate for another reason. If he relaxes the Catholic position on divorce and remarriage, it could create ecumenical tensions with churches such as the Coptic Orthodox currently struggling to hold the line.
Isn’t that the opposite of a Catholic stand? How in the world can a Pope ‘relax a Catholic position on divorce and remarriage?’ A Pope like Francis might lie about it, but he can’t actually do it. We aren’t the Protestants here.
No matter what happens to Tawadros, the turmoil illustrates a hard truth which, by now, must be clear to his fellow pope in Rome too: When it comes to divorce and remarriage, somebody’s going to be unhappy no matter what you do.
If faithless sinners aren’t unhappy with the Pope then he’s not doing his job. If, on the other hand, he’s pleasing faithless sinners left and right then, unlike Pope Tawadros II, he actually should be removed.
If a good pope can be threatened off the throne, a bad one can be taken down. The Church can’t just let the world impose its own popes. It’s becoming painfully clear that it just doesn’t work.
Church teaching isn’t going to change, and it isn’t going to hibernate until the world somehow becomes more virtuous. It’s going to sit there, Francis or no Francis, demanding action and assent regardless.