Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Origins of Evil

Cover painting: Giotto, Kiss of Judas 
The myth of Satan as a separate entity has figured prominently in Christian thought, literature, and art over many centuries. However what is even more surprising is that many Christian people today still believe that Satan, Devil or fallen angel is a separate entity responsible for unleashing all evil upon the world. 

 Several months ago a well-known U.S. University student group unsuccessfully planned a "black mass" which was quickly identified as a ‘satanic ritual’ by several conservative church officials.  Almost four months later this prompted an equally conservative Catholic on-line newspaper  to examine and inform readers what the Church actually teaches about the Devil.  

It appears that the official definition of Satan as contained in the Roman Catholic Catechism (1994) has done little to guide people to a more positive understanding of the Devil.  The current teaching still leads many of its believers to stick to the image of the devil as a creature sporting two horns, evil eyes, a hairy tail and brandishing a heavy pitch-fork.  Many Christians still cling to the notion of Satan as an invisible force which is constantly on the warpath looking for innocent victims whom he will lead on a path from which there is no return and redemption.  But is this true?  And why does it cause so many Christians to regard this ‘adversary’ or ‘prince of darkness’ as an entity separate from humankind?

In the Hebrew Bible, as in mainstream Judaism to this day, Satan never appears as Western Christendom has come to know him, as the leader of an “evil empire,” an army of hostile spirits who make war on God and humankind alike.  As he first appears in the Hebrew Bible, Satan is not necessarily evil, much less opposed to God.  On the contrary, he appears in the book of Numbers and in Job as one of God’s obedient servants – a messenger, or angel sent by God for the specific purpose of blocking or obstructing human plans and desires.  As one scholar put it “If the path is bad, an obstruction is good.” 

Demonizing people is an attempt to take away their God created humanness and substituting them for grotesque animals or figures.  In that way we can feel justified in saying that they are beyond God’s redemption.
Elaine Pagels author of ‘The Origin of Satan’(1995)  concludes her scholarly book with:
 “Today not a few self proclaimed Christian individuals carry with them a cosmic vision involving forces of good contending against forces of evil.  This fatal and dualistic approach would suggest that future conflict is not only possible but necessary if we are to rid ourselves of all evil.   
Many Christians, from the first century through to Francis of Assisi in the thirteenth century and Martin Luther King, Jr., in the twentieth, have believed that they stood on God's side without demonizing their opponents. Their religious vision inspired them to oppose policies and powers they regarded as evil, often risking their well-being and their lives, while praying for the reconciliation—not the damnation—of those who opposed them.
For the most part, however, Christians have taught—and acted upon—the belief that their enemies are evil and beyond redemption.  The struggle within Christian tradition is between the profoundly human view that "otherness" is evil and the words of Jesus that reconciliation is divine.”

It seems all too easy to condemn and demonize others for the evil in the world while forgetting to first look within ourselves.  When we are ready to look within we might actually discover the real truth and answer to the question who Satan really is.  

To begin with we are all probably familiar with the response to the question: “where did Satan decide to hide so that no one would ever find him? And, the surprising answer is “in the hearts of human kind – the only place where no one will ever look for him.”
For those who can accept this answer it is perhaps only a small step to recognize that Satan represents nothing more than the human ego. Here’s how one wise author describes Satan and his story
  •    I am that little voice within you that makes you doubt, including doubting   my existence.
  •      I am depression, anger, jealousy, worry, fear, false pride, and selfish         behaviour.
  •      I thrive on neediness and disappointment, negativity and cynicism. etc.

For those who still believe in Satan as a separate entity remember, be it the Devil, Lucifer or fallen angel, take heed from the words of 60’s comedian Flip Wilson who used to say “the devil made me do it!”  If indeed the devil, as a separate entity, is the agent behind our evil actions, than it can be argued that ultimately we cannot be held responsible for any of our sins.  More importantly this attitude tends to distance us from the place and source where all evil takes root.

Led by the Spirit, the very first action Jesus took before he began his public mission was to enter the desert to be tempted by the devil.  Here Jesus clearly rejected some of the typical ego temptations we are all faced with everyday.  Without darkness would we recognize light?   Without pain would we recognize peace?   Without an ego would we recognize God?  While we depend on God’s gift of the ego he also gave us the freedom to recognize how overpowering and self serving it can become.  For that reason the ego acts as our adversary to help us overcome evil.

We may now thank God for the ‘obstacle’ he has presented to us. For only when we stop fearing to look inside will we stop projecting blame on others and then will we become his Kingdom people.  

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Sufism - as an end to sectarian violence

In response to the growing Middle East crisis, especially that promoted by the Islamic group ISIS,  a Muslim body on Sunday (Sept. 8) urged India’s Prime Minister to promote Sufism as a counter to terrorism.

While some the Western countries are urging a military solution perhaps a more peaceful means such as the one suggested above by the Muslim group in India should be considered. It maybe the only bridge that could lead to mutual trust and understanding between the major Islamic sects in the Middle East and bring an end to the growing religious extremism.
Sufism is an Islamic Mystical tradition which is above barriers of religion, caste, creed or region. It teaches love and humanity and non-violence while terrorism teaches hate and violence.

Today’s headlines are filled with the politics of Islam, but there is another side to the world's fastest-growing religion. Sufism is the poetry and mysticism of Islam. This mystical movement from the early ninth century rejects worship motivated by the desire for heavenly reward or the fear of punishment, insisting rather on the love of God as the only valid form of adoration. Sufism has made significant contributions to Islamic civilization in music and philosophy, dance and literature. The Sufi poet Rumi is the bestselling poet in America. But in recent centuries Sufism has been a target for some extremist Islamic movements as well as many modernists. The ‘Garden of Truth’ (2007) presents the beliefs and vision of the mystical heart of Islam, along with a history of Sufi saints and schools of thought.

In a world threatened by religious wars, depleting natural resources, a crumbling ecosystem, and alienation and isolation, what has happened to our humanity? Who are we and what are we doing here? The Sufi path offers a journey toward truth, to a knowledge that transcends our mundane concerns, selfish desires, and fears. In Sufism we find a wisdom that brings peace and a relationship with God that nurtures the best in us and in others.
Noted scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr helps you learn the secret wisdom tradition of Islam and enter what the ancient mystics call the "garden of truth." Here, liberate your mind, experience peace, discover your purpose, fall in love with the Divine, and find your true, best self.

Many Christians will be surprised to discover the similarities between the two religions contained in the following quotes from the great Suffi master Rumi: 

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” 

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” 

 “Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.” 
― Rumi

 “What you seek is seeking you.” 
― Rumi

“Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.” 
― Rumi

  “You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life?” 
― Rumi

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” 
― Rumi

 “Forget safety.
Live where you fear to live.
Destroy your reputation.
Be notorious.” 
― Rumi

 “Knock, And He'll open the door
Vanish, And He'll make you shine like the sun
Fall, And He'll raise you to the heavens
Become nothing, And He'll turn you into everything.” 
― Rumi

“Don't be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.” 
― Rumi

I want to know the joy 
of how you whisper 
― Rumi

 “Ignore those that make you fearful and sad, that degrade you back towards disease and death.” 
― Rumi

 “My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that, and I intend to end up there.” 
― Rumi

 “In your light I learn how to love. In your beauty, how to make poems. You dance inside my chest where no-one sees you, but sometimes I do, and that sight becomes this art.” 
― Rumi

 “silence is the language of god, 
all else is poor translation.” 
― Rumi

“Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” 
― Rumi

 “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” 
― Rumi

 “Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure.” 
― Rumi

 “Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love.” 
― Rumi

“I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think.” 
― Rumi

 “Everything in the universe is within you. Ask all from yourself.” 
― Rumi

 “Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.” 
― Rumi

Wednesday, 10 September 2014


The origins of the 1994 Rwandan genocide are complex and the ethnic divisions in Rwanda between the Hutus and Tutsis are long-standing. Tribal polarization exploded after the assassination of President Juvénal Habyarimana, who was a Hum, and in a period of one hundred days, more than 800,000 people were systematically and violently murdered.

In the midst of this killing, Father Ubald, a Catholic priest whose Tutsi father had been murdered in the 1962 overthrow of the Rwandan government and who had been himself threatened by fellow seminarians in the 1980's, was forced to flee first to his bishop's residence and then to the Congo in return for a promise by the Hutus not to harm the people of his parish. As soon as he left, the Hutu members of his large parish betrayed this promise and brutally hacked to death approximately 45,000 Tutsi members of his parish. More than 80 members of his immediate and extended family, including his mother, were exterminated within the first two weeks of the massacre.

Before fleeing, Father Ubald promised his bishop that he would return to bring healing to his people. The massacre finally ended when the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) regained power, but grief-stricken survivors were left bewildered by the intensity of the evil that had been unleashed in their country. Survivors of all ethnic groups experienced profound guilt: guilt for killing, guilt for surviving, guilt for not doing enough to prevent or mitigate the conflicts. Many sought revenge, but as has been said, "There is no revenge so complete as forgiveness."

Father Ubald spent many months in prayer and his tears filled a river before he made his way to Lourdes, France. It was there, as he meditated on the Stations of the Cross, that he heard God tell him to release his sorrows and "pick up his cross." God filled his heart with a forgiveness that can only come from God. Subsequently, he met with and forgave the mayor of his town, who was the man who ordered the murder of Father Ubald's own mother. Father Ubald took responsibility for that man's children, treating them as his own and even paying for their schooling.

Father Ubald is a man who radiates the purity of God's grace and preaches on forgiveness and reconciliation. He also holds healing masses, using his gifts to heal and renew others. He performs healing masses in Rwanda, Europe, and the United States. He is building a centre in Rwanda, called The Secret of Peace, which will minister to the people of Rwanda and the surrounding areas of the Congo and Burundi, countries that have seen so much war, poverty,and trauma. He works tirelessly toward the goal of forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace for the people of Rwanda and throughout the world."
From:  Mary C. Neal, MD, ‘To Heaven and Back (2011).

Monday, 1 September 2014

Following the example of St. Thomas More

Sometime before noon on 6 October 1536 in Vilvoorde, Belgium  a deeply devout English born Christian and priest  was executed. Iron chains were fastened to the top of the stake; and a noose of rope passed through it at neck height. Kindling and faggots were piled up in a pyramid around the stake. The victim was brought from the castle, with a small retinue of guards and friars. After refusing a final opportunity to recant, he was securely bound to the stake, by his feet, and by the iron chains around his calves and chest; the noose was placed round his neck. He had then a brief period in which to pray. History records that he cried, with fervent zeal and loud voice: 'Lord, open the king of England's eyes.' The executioner, standing immediately behind the stake, tightened the noose at the appropriate signal. It had not been shown that Tyndale was a relapsed heretic, and he qualified for the mercy of being strangled in the moments before the fire was lit.  Then it appears that the executioner bungled his work,  that the prisoner was still alive as the flames engulfed him. The executioner added fuel to the fire until the body was utterly consumed. The ashes were then disposed of, probably by throwing them into the sullen waters of a nearby river, so that no trace of the individual remained to 'defile the earth'.

  Ironically, history records that the precise charges under which our victim was executed, and numerous others before him, were completely reversed less than a year after* he was burned at the stake.  His crime:  translating  the word of God into English. His name was William Tyndale. His genius for words, which apparently matched that of Shakespeare, was to change the literary, religious and political landscape forever.  But the young Gloucestershire tutor paid for his efforts with his life:  reviled, driven abroad and finally burned at the stake. 

 Today Christians around the world probably take for granted their favorite version of the Bible in the vernacular.   Wikipedia reminds us that  the Latin Vulgate was dominant in Western Christianity through the Middle Ages.  Only the educated clergy could understand Latin while the common people were completely under their domination. Hence the obvious threat it posed to the church.  Today the Bible has been translated into more than  500 languages, while another 3,000 languages have at least some portion of the Bible.  At the same time it should be noted that the Latin Vulgate was itself a translation  from the Greek and Hebrew.

  In the eyes of the Church Tyndale’s crime was considered a heresy.  Heresy had been declared to be ‘treason against God’ by Pope Innocent III in 1199, and regarded as the worst of all crimes.  The great medieval theologian St. Thomas Aquinas even declared that it separated man from God more than any other sin.  The Church imposed a double jeopardy on heretics.  The earthly poena sensus, the punishment of the senses, was achieved by the stake and the fire.  The poena damni proclaimed by the bishops on Tyndale damned him to absolute separation from God and to an eternity in hell.  The Church could not itself carry out a burning.  To do so would defy the principle under which the Church does not shed blood.  Pope Lucius III had bypassed this inconvenience in 1184 by decreeing that unrepentant heretics should be handed over to the secular authorities for sentence and execution.

  The story which led to the execution of William Tyndale is filled with intrigue and betrayal by the Roman Catholic Church ably represented at the time by Sir Thomas More.  The latter, not unlike Victor Hugo’s Inspector Javert in Les Misérables, ruthlessly persecuted Tyndale with profound hatred and a zeal for blood. It is said that More’s obsession with Tyndale is to have unhinged him.  Lord Chancellor of England by day he devoted his night to penning half a million poisonous words attacking his great enemy which finally led to our victim's execution.

  According to Brian Moynahan in his  Book of Fire (2002) or God's Bestseller  “It may seem wrong, and perhaps it is wrong, that Thomas More should have been canonised in 1935 [,as a martyr of the schism that separated the Church of England from Rome]) and it is, at the very least, bizarre that he should have been further elevated in 2000 to become the patron saint of politicians.  Politicians persecute opponents readily enough without having More dangled in front of them as a role model.”

  It came as a complete surprise then that Cardinal Collins should recently urge Catholics ‘to follow the example of St. Thomas More and consider what More can teach us about religion’s role in civil society.’    Perhaps some Cardinals and other members of the Catholic hierarchy do not read secular histories and still adhere to reading only material dictated or approved by the Vatican.  However, in this age of instant electronic information/communication there is very little that escapes the spiritually hungry laity who should be extremely thankful to Tyndale and others that the Word of God  is now available in the vernacular to practically everyone.  Not to forget the Word of God placed upon their hearts,

  Finally, should we not all follow the one and only model Jesus Christ on which the Church supposedly built on to begin with? 

    For if God be on our side, what matter maketh it who be against us, be they bishops, cardinals, popes, or whatsoever names they will?    Quote from William Tyndale      

*   Even after English Bibles had been legalised and officially distributed, in 1543, social and sexual misgivings remained.  Noblemen and gentlemen were allowed to read the scriptures aloud in English to all in their households.  Noblewomen, and burghers, could 'read for themselves but for no one else any text in the Bible'  A statute was enacted to ban the reading of the English Bible absolutely to 'women, artisans, apprentices, and companions working for those of an equal or inferior rank to yeomen, farmers and manual labourers'.  - Brian Moynahan, Book of Fire. 

Monday, 19 May 2014

If the church were Christian . . . .

“While many denominations claim to be growing, the largest group in American religious life is the disillusioned – people who have been involved in the church yet see few similarities between the church’s life and the person of Jesus.  In the midst of elaborate programming, professional worship teams, and political  crusades, they ask, “Is this really what Jesus called us to do?”  - Philip Gulley 

Building on my previous blog ‘Into the Spiritual Wilderness’, so begins the flyleaf to Philip Gulley’s book “If the Church Were Christian – Rediscovering the Values of Jesus’, (2010). Diana Butler Bass, author of 'Christianity for the Rest of Us’ endorses the author’s effort as she declares “In an age of shouting, Gulley gently points out the flaws in the church while opening ways to practise Christian spirituality with greater integrity.  If the church were, as Philip Gulley envisions here, people would be knocking down our doors to experience God’s love.”

In this blog I have deliberately ‘borrowed’ Mr. Gulley’s ten chapter subheadings each beginning with “If the Church Were Christian . . . . . and  inserted my own or personal observations which you can read here.  While it was not my intent to usurp Mr. Gulley’s writings, which are much more elaborate and definitive, but simply to express my own thoughts and ideas in answer to each of these ten headings.   In that way I would ask each reader here to consider how they in-turn might answer each item according to their own and particular understanding.  In so doing Philip Gulley’s book can become an inter-active exercise toward building Jesus’ greater inclusive Kingdom here on earth.  

If the church were Christian, Jesus would be a model for living, not an object of worship.

The Gospels (see esp. Luke 9:1-6) are quite clear as to how we are to preach the Good News. Note that Jesus reminded his disciples to take nothing with them but only preach about the Kingdom of God and heal the sick. Nowhere do we read in the scriptures that this task should demand an exclusive membership to a particular religion or more precisely to adopt his Jewish religion. Jesus does not demand that we must follow and accept any fixed dogma or doctrine. Instead the role of a true disciple is merely to invite others to follow or imitate the life of Jesus.  We worship (praise or adore) whenever we imitate Christ.      

If the church were Christian, affirming our potential would be more important than condemning our brokenness.
Again and again the gospels remind us that God is more interested in our potential than our sins. There are no sins from which we cannot be forgiven whenever we are willing to ask. Jesus came to heal our brokenness and said that he came to save the sinner not the self-righteous.      

If the church were Christian, reconciliation would be valued over judgment.
Many of us were taught that we are somehow separate from God. Yet, we would not be here if God the Creator of all things and matter were not present in ALL people. Jesus came so that ALL - not some - may be reconciled with the Father. God’s judgment has everything to do with restoration and being filled with God’s unconditional love, not with punishment.

If the church were Christian, gracious behavior would be more important than right belief.
God reads hearts not minds.  As Kingdom people we must learn to accept people where they are not where we would have them be.  Right actions will lead us to right beliefs. All life is about change - nothing in our expanding universe remains static.

If the church were Christian, inviting questions would be more important than supplying answers.
Faith is a gift from God – not from a religious institution. “Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.” – Brené Brown.  Faith is not a mystery to be defined but rather a mystery to be experienced  and addressed to our own unique and personal needs and questions.

If the church were Christian, encouraging personal exploration would be more important than communal uniformity.
"We may have different religions, different languages, different colored skin, but we all belong to one human race." – Kofi Annan
“Our task must be to free ourselves... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.” -  Albert Einstein

If the church were Christian, meeting needs would be more important than maintaining institutions.
Then Jesus said to them, "The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.  Mark 2:27

 If the church were Christian, peace would be more important than power.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” - John 14:27

If the church were Christian, it would care more about love and less about sex.
Jesus said “I came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it”. The question Christians should ask is, “fulfil it with what?”  And they would know that we need to interpret the law with our hearts, not our heads.  
If the church were Christian, this life would be more important than the afterlife.

Many Christians may have been mistakenly taught that they had to earn their way into heaven. If that were so, then none of us would make it.  However, God so loves the world that he cannot share his heavenly realm without every one of his Creations for even a minute. When we come to realize God’s unconditional love in this context we can truly begin to live our life in the present without fear of the future.

In addition to Mr. Gulley's insights into all of these ten observations, his book includes a special chapter dedicated to 'Discussion Questions' to help readers explore and evaluate each chapter.  You can visit Philip Gulley's website here

Sunday, 11 May 2014


If  you are among the many people caught in a 'spiritual wilderness' you might just want to listen to  what pastor Troy Watson of Quest Christian Community recently had to say about  the possible direction religion may take us in the 21st. Century.

The following article by Pastor Watson first appeared in the St. Catharines, Ontario Standard on April 5th. this year and is hereby reproduced in full on-line with his kind permission.    

Into the spiritual wilderness

Special to The Standard – Saturday, April 5, 2014

Over the past few years, I've been inundated with stories, statistics, articles, books and documentaries chronicling the mass migration of people leaving the Church.
          The response of "church loyalists" to this phenomenon of church abandonment has been all over the map. Some are angry while others are afraid. Some are in denial while others are grieving. Some blame contemporary culture, secular universities, the media, postmodernism or anything else under the sun (except themselves) while others desperately try to adapt and attract people to their church by incorporating more technology, pop culture and socially "relevant" issues and causes into their gatherings and programming.
          Some churches are asking tough questions about the evolving role of the church in our new world and have begun experimenting with new ways of being church. Others are convinced the solution is found in getting back to the old "tried and true" ways of the past.
          It seems the only common ground in virtually all churchgoing folk's response to the decline in Canadian church attendance, is that we need to — get people back to church. But this assumption might be causing us to miss the bigger picture. What is most important and most interesting in this unsettling season for Christianity, is discerning where God's Spirit is during this mass exodus.
          In the Exodus story in the Bible, God calls Moses to liberate the Hebrew people enslaved and oppressed in Egypt so that they may worship God in the wilderness. I can't help but wonder if there are correlations here.
Are the millions of Christians who are leaving the Church abandoning God? Or is something else going on? Are these people rebelling against their Creator or embarking on a journey into the unknown and the unfamiliar in attempts to reconnect with Divine Spirit and renew their faith and spiritual life? Could it be that the Church has become Pharaoh and the oppressive ancient Egyptian regime for some people and the Holy Spirit, like Moses, is beckoning them into the wilderness to worship their true God? What a sobering thought. That God's Spirit might be saying to the Church,. "Let my people go, so that they may worship Me in the wilderness." (Exodus 7:16).
          For many ex-churchgoers, the Divine Spirit has literally called them into the wilderness, into the healing beauty of nature, to be still and know God. Away from all the noise, consumerism and busyness of work, life and church. I empathize with this. As I get older, spending time in solitude, surrounded by nature, has become essential to my own spiritual wellbeing and sanity. Of course, equally important to my faith and spiritual growth is being part of a community, experiencing togetherness, spiritual friendship and serving others. But do we need "church" for this? I suppose that depends on how we define church.
So what makes a community a church? Do people have to sing together? Do they have to gather on Sundays? Does everyone have to the same doctrine?
I believe many of our current versions of church will become extinct over the 21st century. As a pastor who makes his living through the current church paradigm, I may very well belong to one of these extinct versions of church. On some levels this concerns me but I hope my faith In God will give me the courage to let go of my desire for certainty, security and familiarity and kindle in me a willingness to follow wherever the Holy Spirit is moving. Even if that is away from Church as I know it.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Narcissists and Pope Francis

Just days before Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope, he criticized the Vatican culture as one of narcissism. Speaking to reporters of the popular Italian press La Repubblica Pope Francis emphasized that "Heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy.”[1] 
This staggering accusation by the future Pope Francis seems to suggest that he and the Vatican might finally be prepared to address the endemic and systemic issues which until now have remained hidden behind the sexual abuse and financial scandals of the Vatican Bank (Istituto per le Opere di Religione - IOR).

For many years experts, such as Richard A.W. Sipe, have stated that the sexual abuse and cover-up is central to clerical culture and its inherent narcissism. Is it possible that Pope Francis read the article by Sipe published in March of 2013 under the heading Spirituality andthe Culture of Narcissism'.[2]  Judge for yourself.  .
At an unprecedented summit convened in Rome at the behest of Pope Francis earlier this month, a Vatican official warned the treasurers of 500 Catholic orders from around the world that their financial wealth, sometimes used for secular, commercial purposes such as running hotels and restaurants, was contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church and imperils their religious mission. This new move by Francis, just one part of what many Catholics hope are wide-ranging financial reforms within the church, is driven by the pope’s concern that by engaging in modern economic activity, religious institutions “run the risk of losing their true identity.”  Watch the on-line documentary ‘Holy Money[3] presented by CBC’s ‘The Passionate Eye’ as they investigate the financial scandals rocking the Catholic Church & the efforts of Pope Francis to clean up the Vatican’s multi-billion-dollar business dealings amid accusations of money laundering, corruption, and misuse of donations here.

A year has gone by since Pope Francis took over leadership of the Roman Catholic Church.  His growing popularity and humble manner has been unmistakable.  Hardly a week goes by when 'Il Papa' does not provide the world with some example of what is means to live a simple Christian life despite the fact that he operates out of an extra-ordinary religious institution which can hardly be called simple.   
Many are now asking is this Pope is finally going to bring about the necessary changes that would restore trust in a much tainted institution?  Is this the Pope who will finally tackle the church’s most challenging issues such as contraception, divorce, women in the church, abortion, celibacy, homosexuality, and same-sex marriage?  Is this the Pope who will finally address and listen to the People of God?  Or, is this a Pope who will ultimately be forced to defer to his immediate advisers?   The latter seems more likely according to his German critics.   
The German weekly tabloid Der Spiegel in an article ‘The Pope’s Sex Problem‘’ [4] takes issue with the Synod of Bishops’ questionnaire ‘Catholic Family Values Survey’.  This hurried document, blessed by Pope Francis, which hardly saw the light of day in most parishes, will be dealt with almost exclusively by an all male and celibate jury in October of this year.  Disappointed Catholics will ultimately see this as a return to the conservative style of Pope Benedict.    
Critics derisively refer to Pope Francis's approach as "Papastroika, as if he were opening the Church like Mikhail Gorbachev opened the Soviet Union. That, as we now know, ended in chaos. But it should be noted that, unlike Gorbachev, Francis has yet to modify or eliminate a single relevant rule or regulation in his realm.
Those who have put their hopes in Pope Francis will need to realize that he is faced with some enormous challenges not the least of which have all been shrouded in centuries of secrecy and intrigue inside an established patriarchal hierarchy such as the Roman Curia that unfortunately sees itself as far above and beyond the $ 1.2 billion followers it is called to serve.  It will probably take more than just one man to make the necessary changes and before it can return the institution to the trusted place it once held. It will probably take more than one man to remove the narcissist from the papal court.