Confession Time for Pope Francis over Argentinian ‘Neutrality'?
With three of the most Catholic countries in the world among the final four teams in the World Cup, including the Pope’s Argentinians after their win Saturday over Belgium, many Catholics and Lutherans may expect Pope Francis’ next confession to include breaking the 7th Commandment and many Jews, Orthodox and Protestants may be accusing him of breaking the 8th Commandment.
About 16% of the world’s population is Catholic. Argentina (89% Catholic) beat Belgium 1-0 Saturday and will face the Netherlands (31% Catholic) Wednesday. The winner of that game will then face the winner of Brazil (79% and hosts 130-foot Christ the Redeemer Statue) or Germany (32% Catholic) for the title Sunday. (for estimated number of Catholics in each nation, click here).
The Pope has continued to insist he is neutral in the World Cup, despite reports in Breitbart as early as March 20, 2013 of his love for Argentinian soccer (see DEVILS BEWARE; POPE IS CHEERING (SOCCER) SAINTS), and being captured in a picture waving an Argentinian soccer jersey as recently as June 26.
Was the Pope really not cheering – or possibly even praying – eight minutes into Saturday’s game when Lionel Messi miraculously weaved through defenders and then had a pass from Angel di Maria deflect off a defender and to Gonzalo Higuain? Belgium defenders Vincent Kompany and Daniel Van Buyten split slightly due to the deflection, enabling Higuain to put a one-touch shot perfectly inside the left post.
Was the Pope praying that Di Maria could play through his thigh injury long enough to make the decisive assist? He crumbled later in the half and left the game, as updated by Bleacher Report.
Others will point to the home-continent advantage as a bigger reason that two South America teams have advanced to the semifinals. Still others will credit the play of Messi – who does make well over twice as much money as LeBron James for playing his sport.
But with the Pope’s Argentina squad making the semifinals for the first time in 24 years, and Costa Rica making the quarterfinals for the first time in history, the first World Cup since a card carrying soccer club Pope has been elected has an unbelievably Catholic flavor.
The images of the 130-foot Christ the Redeemer is frequently on millions of TV screens of the most watched World Cup in US history. That was the same image that was displayed when Brazil beat out President Obama’s all-out push for the Olympics.
Back to the Game
After the initial goal, the Argentinians dominated the rest of the game, controlling the midfield that had owned the Americans in the last game, and keeping their back line brilliantly aligned up field to force off sides on the taller Belgians rather than have to try to win headers against them. The Belgians had only four shots on goal after putting an unprecedented 27 shots on goal against the Americans.
The timing seemed to work out well. In addition to Di Maria’s reoccurring injury not coming until after the goal, halftime lasted just long enough for me as well as Catholics in arguably America’s two most devoutly Catholic cities (St. Louis and Chicago) to say the 2-minute noontime daily Angelus prayer (remembering Mary agreeing to bear Jesus) before the 12:02 start of the second half.
Possible Confession Results
Of course, whether or not the Pope feels the need to confess breaking his vow of neutrality can only be revealed by him rather than his confessor, as captured in 1953 by Alfred Hitchcock’s “I Confess,” when a priest was willing to take the murder rap rather than reveal the actual murderer had confessed it to him.
Certainly a playful pledge of neutrality could be viewed as a joke that was not really intended to deceive, or as a minor venial sin. If the latter, then the Pope would be confessing to breaking the 7th Commandment based on how Catholics and Lutherans number the 10 Commandments. Jews, Orthodox and Protestants have the same 10 Commandments, but their slightly different numbering would make lying the 8th Commandment for them.
A Catholic who commits a more serious mortal sin is instructed not to receive communion until they have first confessed it. Many believe this is only an extreme sin like murder, but Catholic teaching also includes any deliberate act such as not attending Mass on Sunday to honor the 3rd/4th Commandments, and supporting practices contrary to human dignity that have led to many political arguments.
To some degree, ignorance of the law is a temporary defense in the church unlike in the legal system. Catholics must go to confession at least once a year to stay in the church.
However, Popes and others like St. Teresa encouraged frequent confessions so that Catholics could identify venial sins including sins of omission (skipping daily prayer and scripture reading) or allowing the near occasions of sin (e.g. driving down a block frequented by prostitutes, casually flipping through channels in a hotel room with the chance that pornography or disturbing violence might be on a station, or drinking heavily at the wrong bar) that could grow into mortal sin.
As for a possible confession by the Pope, if he does determine he has committed a little venial sin in pledging a neutrality he did not really hold, then the confessor would require him to come clean and announce he was openly cheering for Argentina, or force himself to actually stay neutral from the point of the confession onward with no cheers or prayers that favor one team over another.
After all, Catholics do believe the Pope is responsible for every soul on the planet, not just the current adherents to Catholicism, and as an avid soccer fan he will likely appreciate whoever produces the brilliant play that wins the World Cup.