Does God Change His Mind?

I don't watch network news anymore, so my exposure to the mainstream media is typically through radio. But what I've heard lately leads me to believe that there are at least a few media pundits out there who think that the Catholic Church, in picking the next Pope, ought to pick one who might be willing to soften the Church's stance on abortion and birth control.

A point was made that it seems contradictory to find, in polls, that a great many Catholics do not believe that birth control is a sin (or at least use it anyway), and yet discover the immense support for, and adoration of Pope John Paul II - and that contradiction can't be good for the church.

I, personally, don't consider these contradictions. But what I'm curious to understand is: what would a person with this viewpoint think would happen if such a Pope were chosen? Let's imagine for a moment that Pope Bill Clinton the 1st was ordained. In an appeal to popular beliefs and higher polling numbers, he decides to sanction first-term abortions, and most forms of contraceptives. My question is: What difference would it make?

If I think Pope John Paul II was a brilliant, inspiring, and spiritual man who was "correct" in his views on abortion and birth control (meaning he understood what God wants of us), then what could Pope Bill Clinton do to change that? Could he convince me that his predecessor - and thus the entire Church - was wrong? Or would he convince me that times have changed, and that even God has changed - He's reconsidered things, and decided it was time to soften His stance.

Similarly, even if I think that Pope John Paul II was a brilliant, inspiring, and spiritual man who was "INcorrect" in his views on abortion and birth control, changing the Church's position doesn't mean changing MY position. Abortion is what it is. The various methods of birth control are what they are. By changing the official position of the Church, one is changing the Church itself.

Perhaps this new church would have a different set of followers. Perhaps some would remain. But I don't know that anyone's mind would change. Those who today believe that Pope John Paul II was speaking on behalf of God would probably continue to believe this. And those who today believe that Pope John Paul II was wrong, will continue to believe so.

Am I wrong?

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No I don’t think this

No I don’t think this would be an explanation of high rate of Birth control use in Latin America. I don’t know the actual numbers of birth control usage or illegal abortions in Latin America, but I would guess they are less than in the US (I definitely could be wrong, but I would be surprised. If anyone has these figures; they would be interesting), and I would attribute that to a more religious culture.

I’m also not certain that birth control usage and abortion rates can be directly correlated to the beliefs of a group of individuals. Sometimes someone will do somethings that he or she believes is sinful because he or she feel unable to handle a situation or temptation.

Thea, 70% approval rate


70% approval rate seems to be the average across Latin America. In some countries like Colombia its around ~85%. They appear to realize that opposition to birth control, is, well, fucking stupid. The RCC is way out of step on that issue throughout the Americas and Europe.

As to abortion, its common in Latin America, especially in countries like Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Venezuela.

Thea, Which explains the


Which explains the ready acceptance and high rate of birth control use in Latin America?

Also note that "illegal" abortions are very, very common in Latin America.

I think that a pope that

I think that a pope that supported Birth Control and/or abortion would cause many to leave the church if not an outright schism. I know I wouldn't feel comfortable communing in a faith that held these beliefs, and I would not consider myself an extremely conservative Catholic.

A note on those polls, I think that they blow out of proportion the actual number of "progressive" Catholics. They generally are of American Catholics, which I would wager are far more "progressive" that Catholics in say Africa or Southern America. Additionally, I would guess that the vast majority of those polled live in urban areas which tend to be more "progressive" than more rural areas.

Petro, Yeah, that's one way


Yeah, that's one way to explain it. Another way is to accept the reality that Christianity is a human-created institution and that the Bible is a culturally-constructed document.

I think the official

I think the official position on the Pope's stance is that he's correct. Period. Papal infallibility was determined in 1870 by a Vatican Council under Pope Pius IX (click here for more on that). So if the new Pope says God wears boxers and the old Pope says God wears briefs, God must have changed his mind somewhere in the middle. I think the infallibility extends back retroactively to all Popes, but I'm not positive. If so, that raises the paradoxical issue of Pope John Paul II noting in 1992 that "mistakes were made" regarding Galileo in 1633. I don't think most of the Pope's followers are overly concerned with contradictions in their dogma, though, so probably they're willing to let that slide.

Speaking in terms of reality, however, I think Pope Bill Clinton's policies would stand and eventually be accepted. Much of the U.S. was dragged kicking and screaming away from racism in the past century, and it took several decades for citizens' minds to follow what the policies mandated. As evidence, I'm sure most of us have (or know people who have) racist grandparents, but we enlightened youngsters grew up with those policies already in place and take a broader view.*

If Pope Bill Clinton told us that God was now pro-choice and pro-BC, the adults now would hate it. But the next batch of good Catholic children might grow up to have only a single-digit number of offspring.

*I know that's just correlational evidence, but it serves to demonstrate my point (whether the racism example is correct or not).

[...] rogressives, split

[...] rogressives, split among a handful of possible candidates. As my colleague Bill Cholenski noted earlier, the Catholic Church’s positions on things ought to [...]

God does not change his

God does not change his mind, but as society changes over time, Gods relationship with man may change.

Contrast the "Old" and "New" testaments.

An imperfect analogy is the maturation of a child. You have one set of rules for a toddler that at some point become a fairly different set of rules for a teenager. Toddlers should *never* go near the street alone. Teenagers can.

Does this mean that the parent changes their mind?

The Church could change its

The Church could change its position on whether to support coercive government enforcement of its views on abortion or birth control. One can regard abortion as immoral yet not want to coerce anyone into carrying a pregnancy to term.

The Pope is considered

The Pope is considered infallible on matters of doctrine (faith issues) and that's it. And by that we mean issues like the trinity, Mary, baptism, etc etc etc.

Last I checked Abortion and Birth Control are not core elements of the faith. Faith can inform your positions here, but there is no question of infallibility.

This is what happens when

This is what happens when you start an organization that claims to know divine, incontravertible truth: you look like an ass when you have to admit that you are falliable.

A quote, from George Carlin

A quote, from George Carlin in Dogma --

"The Catholic Church does not make mistakes!"

I've often wondered the same thing. After all, if the Catholic Church changes its policies, one doesn't think that God changed his mind. Perhaps one thinks that the Church better understands or interprets what God wants, but if they were wrong for the last 2000 years, what's to make me think they got it right this time?

Well, the RCC has changed

Well, the RCC has changed its position on numerous matters in the past. For example, making the seculars just like regulars as far as celibacy is concerned. Infallibility and purgatory are also doctrines which came to the Church only in high middle ages.

As an atheist this seems to me like making it up as you go along, as is the case with all religions with any historical heft to themselves. Religion reflects cultures; or in this case, it reflects the culture where the RCC was most dominant. This is why in many ways the RCC, especially in Rome, still looks so much like a medeival kingdom in its "operations." The Pope has nobels/cardinals by which to run his various fiefs, he has a privy council/curia as a means to offset the power of the nobels/cardinals, etc.

It depends on how the

It depends on how the Catholic teaching about abortion and contraceptives is classified by the Church. There are very few ex cathedra announcements on matters of faith and doctrine. Those who dissent from these ex cathedra announcements are anathema and not considered Catholics. However, a Catholic could have supported Bush's War in Iraq without losing his place in the church, even though John Paul II opposed the war.

- Josh

A respected authority figure

A respected authority figure advocating certain changes gradually can definately change some people's minds. You aren't the marginal case, the one who supports the right to life and are against birth control mainly because your spiritual leader tells you...