If you think conservatives are having a tough time dealing with the actions and words of President Donald Trump, just imagine what it’s like to be a Roman Catholic having to contend with what Pope Francis says and does. It’s especially burdensome for Catholics since what Francis “decrees” carries the burden of “sin” for the faithful.

Conservatives are concerned that the political ramifications emanating out of Washington are leading to what could be the loss of our country as we know it.

It’s a similar situation with the Vatican.

As the words of the Pope are announced in headlines and filter down to the people, the results are that many Catholics feel the rug is being pulled out from underneath them. The rules are being changed arbitrarily and they are in the process of losing their Church and their beliefs.

Pope Francis has a way of spouting off on topics that surprise many, and the ramifications aren’t addressed to the satisfaction of average Catholics as well as many in the priesthood. For example: refugees; the poor; the environment; divorce, remarriage and communion; and yes, capital punishment.

Francis has long said he thinks capital punishment should be abolished but Catholic teaching (and prior popes) has long held to the teaching that it can be permitted in some cases. It’s possible, but should be rare.

Well, strike that. Pope Francis last week announced, without prior warning, that he has changed the Catechism of the Church and that capital punishment now is to be considered “inadmissible” under all circumstances.

He elaborated that the basic reason is because execution violates the dignity of the individual, but also because we have “more effective systems of detention,” whatever that means. According to the Pope, it matters not the heinousness of the crime or the number of victims, just that the “dignity of the criminal” is honored.

No wonder this man is driving Catholics crazy. Does this mean any Catholic who wants to remain in good standing in the Church must be opposed to capital punishment? Is he allowed to disagree in principle and if he does, is that considered sinful? If so, how does he deal with this in Confession and in the reception of the Holy Eucharist during Mass?

It’s interesting to note the Pew Research Center survey in April and May showed 54 percent of Americans favor the death penalty and 39 percent are opposed.

Among American Catholics, 53 percent are in favor and 42 percent opposed.

That’s a pretty slim margin and presents a difficult dilemma for the Church. The Pope wasn’t speaking “ex cathedra” – meaning what he says is the “law” – but nevertheless, he did order the Catechism (the general rulebook of Catholic beliefs) be changed. That means it will be used to instruct people worldwide in Catholic teachings.

The United States permits executions in 31 states with a governor-mandate moratorium in four of those. The rest do not permit it.

Worldwide, the countries that permit state executions are China, Iran, South Africa, Iraq and Pakistan. We are Number Eight on that list.

It’s interesting that the Pope, who has declared on many occasions that “Islam is a religion of peace,” has declared no objections to the fact that Islamic countries allow state executions. He had focused his scorn on us, the United States, as though we are crazed with death. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that he has no use for President Trump (having once said he is not a Christian) and wants to belittle anything to do with what we do.

While the Pope is opposed to capital punishment, he essentially said nothing when Ireland recently voted to legalize abortion. It seems to me that abortion destroys the “human dignity” of the fetus – but that went unremarked.

The Pope has made comments in Amoris Laetitia that it might be OK with the Church for Catholics to divorce, remarry outside of the church and still receive Communion during Mass. This would be a violation of centuries-long Church tradition. The Pope was questioned about his comment but has said nothing. A letter was sent to him questioning this, and for several years has gone ignored.

What’s a poor Catholic to do? How does he deal with a pope who seems to live in his own world – doing what he pleases, saying what he pleases and quite frankly, everything else be d***!

He might think that this latest Vatican pronouncement is an intentional means of diverting attention from the worldwide scandals of sexual misconduct by clergy of every level – including cardinals. It’s alleged Pope Francis knew of much of this for years and did nothing, but now faces the reality that the truth is coming out. It’s disgusting.

I’ll be honest with you. I am a Catholic and I have seen much of the misadventures over the last decades since Vatican II, which drastically changed and watered down almost everything in our worship.

I long ago reached my own conclusion: “They can take my Church away from me but they cannot take my religion away.”

I can live with that and I don’t need the approval of the Pope.

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