simon copland 420x470So we have a new pope. The pick of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now known as Pope Francis I, has caused outrage in some quarters. His election continues a conservative trend in the Church – he is anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-contraceptive, anti-euthanasia, and has been accused of being an accomplice in the torture of two priests in the infamous ‘Dirty War’ in Argentina.

This leaves one real question: who cares?

In the collective fight against conservatism there are a number of clearly identifiable enemies. Close to the top of that list is the Catholic Church. Not necessarily Catholics as individuals – there are many progressive Catholics and Catholic organisations working for great causes. But the Catholic Church and Vatican have never, and will never, be our friends.

So when the election of a new Pope comes around, we shouldn’t expect anything less than for the Catholic Church to pick someone in the conservative tradition. Hoping for and demanding a progressive Pope is, and always will be (at least for the time being), a futile exercise.

Of course, I hear you say, the Pope is a really influential person so we should demand someone with progressive ideals. In many ways I agree, but in fighting for a progressive Pope, what we are doing is deflecting from the main fight with the Catholic Church. The church is an inherently conservative institution. The mere fact that the Pope is still chosen by a Conclave of old conservatives is a good testament to that.

And so in asking for these old conservatives to give us a ‘nice Pope’, we are buying into the idea that under current circumstances they can and somehow will change their mind, and ‘accept’ us. And whilst I am all for fighting for acceptance in this world, in this instance it is rather pointless. Hoping for acceptance from this group means hoping for acceptance from an inherently conservative institution. We are so obsessed with acceptance that we even want it from horrible people, and horrible institutions. We are not demanding change, but hoping to find ways to enter the ‘normal’ world – a world based on conservative traditions.

The reality is, though, that I don’t think we should want to be accepted by the Vatican. Acceptance by the Vatican means acceptance into a conservative world – something that seems rather compromising if we really want to change the world. Instead of vying for their acceptance, therefore, we should be fighting against them; fighting against their conservative ideals, campaigning against their influence, and reducing the influence of the Pope. We need to get rid of the institutions we hate rather than finding ways to be accepted by them.

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