Frankie the Pope has been a lot in the news recently, I think he deserves being mentioned. Partly because he is the leader of 1.2 billion religious people, partly because he spoke on things that look trivial to us.
First, he had the biggest mass ever in Manila, with six million people in attendance. That’s impressive by any standard. Six million is a huge number, it’s like one in ten able Filipinos was there. It’s more than come to Olympic Games or World Cup. However imperfect, these people came out to celebrate God and His message, and the attendance shows that people still know what their priorities are. It would have been better if they were chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa there but it’s probably as good as it gets in this day and age.
So, during this mass, one little girl came up to the Pope and asked a question about drugs and prostitution. Why does God allow these things happen to children? The Pope was visibly moved by her sincerity and went for a hug. Overwhelmed by emotion he couldn’t talk about anything but crying, he even ditched his prepared English speech and reverted to his native Spanish. He asked everyone to learn to weep for abused children.
That was obviously a non-answer but it had its own advantages, too.
On the plus side, it showed people not to burden themselves with questions about God but display humility and compassion. God’s divinity is not in question, he implied, and so we should worry about what we should do rather than worry about how God might not be doing His part. It’s a good advice, generally, but the execution was clearly below the par.
Lots of media outlets omitted Pope’s real answer:
She is the only one who has put forward a question for which there is no answer and she was not even able to express it in words but rather in tears.
Understandably, it doesn’t look for the Pope to admit that he has no idea why God makes children suffer. I’m sure there’s a perfectly good explanation why God allows such ignorance to be spread in the name of religion, but it all settles in one word – karma. Well, plus reincarnation, but it’s mostly karma. No one suffers undeservedly, that’s not how God’s creation works
How does it really work, though? Factually, no one suffers AT ALL – it’s all just interactions of material elements, spirit souls are made of different substance and cannot be touched by matter. All the suffering and all the pleasure is only an illusion. Having said that, why do WE have to be subjected to the law of karma? It’s one thing for material elements to move according to the laws of material nature, it’s quite another thing to force our polluted consciousness to do so.
OTOH, it gives us the opportunity to leave this world without worrying about who will occupy our next bodies, the ones we were supposed to acquire according to our mentality. I mean if the law of karma works then whatever we think or want must eventually manifest itself one way or another. We might occasionally think of Kṛṣṇa but we still have enough thoughts to earn us a new body, right? Devotees, however, will not live through that karma, which is great, but what happens to it? The law isn’t supposed to be broken, every action must have consequences.
One way to look at it is to say that our body itself does not produce the next one, only our mind does, therefore when this body dies it doesn’t mean another one must be born somewhere else, meaning there’s no physical, empirical connection between this life and next. If we go back to Godhead the material world isn’t losing anything.
This can be counteracted by reminding that mind is also a material element and therefore thoughts have consequences just like actions do. Our thoughts never go in complete vain, we remember them, they affect us, they influence our future decisions. If thoughts are spoken they affect other people, too, and even if they are not, our behavior might display what’s on our minds even better. There’s no disconnect between gross physical and subtle mental reality. What happens to that mental reality after we go back to Godhead? Who inherits our thoughts?
I don’t know the answer when the question is put this way and, perhaps, it’s time to use Pope’s trick and say that I shouldn’t confuse myself and resort to chanting.
The Pope recommended crying, as I said, but crying for what? For things that are not worth lamenting, as Kṛṣṇa said in Bhagavad Gītā. These unfortunate children are sort of unwanted progeny Arjuna was worrying about in the first chapter and Kṛṣṇa immediately cut him short, the first words He spoke were about “impurities” and “degrading impotence” not befitting his status (BG 2).
This compassion is totally misguided and is born of ignorance, not of knowledge and not of love, more like of unhealthy obsession with acquiring material happiness and satisfying material desires.
How can this leader of the biggest church in the world be so spiritually blind?
It’s one thing for a new bhakta to complain that Kṛṣṇa consciousness doesn’t make him happy, that he doesn’t get enough money or enough sex, but this is supposed to be a temporary stage that passes as one matures in his service and his understanding of his position. Pope should know better but he doesn’t.
He somehow recommends cultivating the very same thing that brought us into material hell in the first place. I know it’s not how they explain his words in Catholic church but the effect is the same – more attachment to material happiness. In Christianity they all suffer for the original sin, the poisoned apple, but what do they do now? Ask for more poison?
They are totally delusional.
Another thing the Pope said on the way back was something about contraception. Catholics are against it but the Pope asked them not to breed like rabbits anyway. He was talking about a woman who had seven children, multiple cesarean sections, and was pregnant again. Pope was seen as judgmental and some people pointed that this woman was simply following the doctrine – breed and multiply.
In a bigger picture, the Pope was talking about causes of poverty and he rightly said that it’s not the number of children that causes it but our crazy economic system. I wish he expounded more on it, and maybe he has, but the media picked up only “breed like rabbits” line.
Officially, Catholics recommend following natural ways to avoid getting pregnant – something about monitoring women’s menstrual cycles, regularly taking their basal temperature and so on. The idea is to avoid sex when women are very likely to conceive. How’s that different from contraception, though? They are still interfering with “God’s plan”, in their speak, just in a slightly different way.
Our answer to “do not breed like rabbits” is overall reduction of sexual activity as the goal of family life, or any human life, for that matter. I had an impression that Christians were aware that overindulgence in sex is harmful to one’s spiritual progress and I wouldn’t have thought of them as “breeding like rabbits” but that is my personal experience, I’ve never met a Catholic mother of seven, the Pope has.
The Pope also commented on freedom of speech issue but I think I’d better cover it separately because it’s a big topic in itself.