Just one last word on Pope Francis’ visit to the US-unless tomorrow he comes out against birth control & abortion; then I’ll bury him in indignation. In contrast to protestantism, Catholicism retains a medieval, hierarchical structure. The pope is very much like a feudal monarch & speaks ex cathedra, which is very much a vestige of absolutism jettisoned in the Protestant Reformation.
However, the papacy operates in the era of capitalism which introduced popular democracy (albeit stunted & selective democracy) when it overthrew feudalism.
Many rebuke criticisms of Pope Francis by saying he influences 1.2 billion Catholics. That may be true but they are 1.2 billion people who don’t think like serfs anymore, who are accustomed to defying authority (at least behind its back), who often don’t know the catechism of mortal & venial sins & would ignore them if they did.
Tens of thousands of Catholics ignore the ban on birth control & abortion. At least as many ignore the requirement of weekly Mass even though the catechism says it’s a mortal sin that will send them to hell. Most probably have sex outside of marriage & do it for pleasure not for procreation even though the church considers that a mortal sin. One mortal sin is all it takes to fry you for all eternity.
Catholics are not unthinking automatons, obedient to a slavish degree. They are as powerfully affected by the dynamics of democracy as everyone else. It should be said that in the US there is a deep-seated prejudice against Catholicism that considers them bovine when it comes to authority. That prejudice has everything to do with the protestant elite & largely Catholic immigration of the 19th century. Prejudice is in this instance what prejudice always is–the usual stereotypes & horse manure.