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Sunday, October 23, 2016

A few words on the new pope.

Since ascending to the papacy in March, the former Jorge Mario Bergoglio has managed to surprise and impress the religious and irreligious alike by living a brand of faith seldom seen on the public stage. Pope Francis insists on carrying his own bags, living in a simple apartment and cooking his own supper. He has largely shunned the papal Mercedes-Benz in favor of a five-year-old Ford Focus. One of the earliest acts of his papacy was to wash and kiss the feet of a dozen young prisoners, two of them girls, at least one of them a Muslim.

But the pontiff’s appeal has not been solely stylistic. It has also been a matter of substance. This is, after all, the pope who famously asked, “Who am I to judge?” gay people. And who criticized Catholics as narrowly “obsessed” with abortion, same-sex marriage and contraception. And who called his church to be “for the poor.” And who said God loves atheists, too.

Tellingly, the pope has not — yet — sought to change any bedrock teaching of Catholicism. Still, his vision of a more compassionate and inclusive church has won him rave reviews from across the cultural spectrum. Thomas Groome, a theology professor at Boston University, called him “a breath of fresh air.” Columnist Michael Gerson described him approvingly as a “disruptive force.” Jon Stewart of The Daily Show said, “I love this guy!” Chris Rock tweeted that “the new pope might be the greatest man alive.”

It is a shower of unaccustomed approbation that should leave Christians, well … a little embarrassed.

They — we — should ask what it tells us that a pope models humility, inclusion, unpretentiousness, concern for the poor and nonjudgmental, small “c” catholic love — and people are surprised. Indeed, it generates headlines around the world.

  • Dominick Vila

    Pope Francis is, by far, the most intelligent and compassionate Pope in modern history. He recognizes the dangers of social intransigence and the Church’s refusal to adapt, and faced with a dwindling flock – and ambivalence by those who still consider themselves Catholic – he is doing what should have been done half a century ago.

    • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

      Dom, if you are an age like mine, then you should remember Vatican II. After the ascension of Karol Wojtyla as Pope John Paul II, he and his Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (i.e. head of the Inquisition), Josef Ratzinger, did everything they could to dismantle the reforms called for and enacted by John XXIII and Paul VI. Francis is returning the Church to those reforms, as well as reminding the Church, the same way his namesake did those many centuries ago, that its purpose is to serve, not to be served.

  • hotflashweave

    Neither a Catholic nor a particularly religious person, I think it nothing short of a “miracle” that this good man was chosen by church elites to head up the church at this time. His message, both spoken and lived, of simple humility and service, should send a resounding message to leadership in this country and around the world. Hallelujah!

  • Virginian

    Pope Francis and President Obama have everything in common. They preach the same values. I love them both. They are the 2 greatest leaders on earth today. Who are the worst? the Tea Party since they preach exactly the opposite: exclusion and hate of the poor. They will NEVER go to heaven!

  • Budjob

    This MAN,is a very GREAT MAN!!!! I am not a deeply religious person,in fact,an agnostic and close to being an atheist.However,I have nothing but the utmost admiration and respect for the truthfulness expressed by this very great person!

  • silence dogood

    A change of tone is not a change of policy.

    • Michael Kollmorgen

      You are right.

      But, at least this is a major start in the right direction. Let’s hope this leads to changes in policy.

    • JD Mulvey

      All the Pope really has is tone. Policy changes in the Catholic Church take centuries and few people follow them anyway.

  • Michael Kollmorgen

    Yes, this man is a great Pope, probably the greatest Pope of our generation.

    What worries me about him is that you never know. I’d watch my back if I were him. There are way too many nutcases out here who would probably love to take him out and/or replace him with a Pope that is more hard line.

    He is shaking the foundation of his church which is way over due. He speaks of tolerance and understanding which today is lacking in the Catholic Faith, at least here in the US.

    And, whether anyone likes it or not, the Catholic Faith is the Umbrella faith of most western religion(s) which takes their cues (follow the leader) from the Catholic Faith.

    This is going to be interesting to see just how much change this new Pope can institute within the Catholic Faith and western religion as a whole.

    • Bill Thompson

      Michael I had the same conversation with my wife two nights ago I fear for this Popes life. There are too many crazies in this world. Good deeds never go unpunished.

    • Annemb

      Yes, I worry about the same thing as you. I fear for his safety. Conservatives will not like his agenda, just as they didn’t like Popes John XXIII, Paul VI and other progressives before them.


      • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

        Conservatives in the United States (Catholic and Other) have already spoken out against him, claiming he has betrayed their trust. Of course, many of these people are the same ones who regularly declaim against Catholics as not “loyal Americans” (i.e. Republicans) because the laity do not follow the Bishops’ teachings 100%.

        • Annemb

          I was not aware of this attitude. Those who speak out against Pope Francis are in fear that their “comfortable world” will be overturned.

          The R.C. can and must move forward. If the R.C. doesn’t move ahead it will either die from lack of members, “old age” or both.

          The Church needs to be a leader for good in the world, to speak out for the poor, disenfranchised, heal, speak truth to power, and work for change in society i.e., overturn the status quo, just as Jesus – the Radical did. Yes, I know that Jesus was executed for his words and actions – but it is the Church’s mission.

          Pope Francis is courageously speaking out and taking leadership in this broken world.

          How refreshing!

          I appreciate your post and thank you for it.


    • howa4x

      I disagree with your statement about the Catholic church being the umbrella of western religion. I’m secular but have been around enough protestants in my life to know that they despise the pope and the church, and the evangelical preachers do not speak kindly of Catholics from the pulpit. Most think the pope is the anti christ

      • Michael Kollmorgen

        I never claimed the Protestants were under the umbrella of the catholic church. But, just about every other western religion does have their roots strongly within the catholic church’s doctrine. In general terms, what the catholic church says, the rest usually follow in one way or the other.

        Look at it this way, the Bible as we know it is used by all western religion. Yes, there are minor differences in how its used. But, they all basically teach from the same book.

        Yes, that is true, a lot of these other religions don’t speak kindly about the catholic church. But, believe me, when push comes to shove, the catholic church is still very much the main power player in western religion.

        You are right about the anti-christ. In fact, the entire catholic faith is considered representing the anti-christ to some western religions.

        Basically all this is is nothing more than power plays between various religious faiths trying to gobble up one another’s religious territory – so to speak of course. In short, my belief is better than yours, etc.

        • howa4x

          True I’m not trying to diss the church. 2 of my best friends were raised in it. I think all of western religion is morally bankrupt and cares far more about what you make rather than your spiritual values. This can been seen in the edifices that they each build for their religions, contrary to the teachings of their religions. Jesus gave sermons in fields and Moses in tents. The message has changed so much that none of the religions resemble their founders at all.
          I still have a wait and see attitude but hope this Pope can do more than his predecessors,

          • Michael Kollmorgen

            I know a lot of churches Mandate how much money you MUST give to the church. I think you’re supposed to give “voluntarily” 10% of your income. Some will boot you out if you don’t.

            That’s a lot of money to give to anything on a regular basis.

            Don’t ask me where they get that 10% figure. I have no idea where it comes from.

          • Sand_Cat

            I believe the 10% comes from the Bible itself.

          • Michael Kollmorgen

            I’ve read it several times, several different versions as well and I’ve never seen anything in it about percentage points.

            If you know where that is located, let me know:)

          • Sand_Cat

            Last time I read the Torah was at least 20-30 years ago, the New Testament only slightly more recently. I would think it’s buried somewhere in Leviticus or Deuteronomy, but I couldn’t swear to it. It may even be in the New Testament, or it may not be there at all. Perhaps some of the religious fanatics who haunt us could make themselves useful for a change and cite the chapter and verse. Not I, I’m afraid.
            On second thought, I get the impression most of those religious nuts I don’t like never read the Bible, or at least, never comprehend what they’re reading.

    • Sand_Cat

      The Catholic faith may be lacking, but the fundamentalist Protestant “faith” is in a far, far worse state: that of arrogant and merciless self-righteousness.
      I’m not a fan of much about the Catholic church, but at least it makes a large-scale and organized effort to live the teachings of the man who is its alleged founder instead of hiding from those teachings behind an empty and often self-serving and vengeful “faith” that requires no commitment to anyone or anything but oneself.
      This new guy should be an example to all who claim fealty to Yeshua (Joshua).

      • Michael Kollmorgen

        Oh, I agree. From what I’ve seen the Prot faith is much worse. I consider them to be the darker side of western religion.

        But, I don’t consider the catholic faith living in the teaching of jesus, far from it.

        Morally, they are just as corrupted as any religion can be. Plenty of greed is in the mix as well. They practice do what I say, not as I do.

        The catholic faith has just learned to hide it better over the centuries. But, I also believe over the years, the public is starting to find out more and more about how corrupt the faith really is. They are having a lot of trouble trying to keep hid their dirty laundry. They also seem to have more of it than anyone else and for a longer time.

        I’d love to go down into the Vatican Archives, the ones that are hidden from public view, and start reading.

        This is one of those issues where when a religion becomes so powerful, they start to believe they are above everyone else. I don’t mean to say that the average church goer is like this. But, the priests, bishops, cardinals and their popes do act like it.

        The only one I’ve seen so far that does not act the part is the new pope. My hope is that he can do some good for the church as a whole. It certainly needs it desperately.

  • John Kruger

    Forgive me if I am unimpressed by “acts of humility” that are purposefully broadcast world wide as proof of piety.

    This pope’s message about homosexuals is no different from the old message at all. The tone has changed, but homosexual acts remain a grave disorder and a sin. The idea of “it is okay to be gay as long as you never have gay sex” is unchanged, and as discriminatory as it ever was.

    Even if he suggests not making as big an issue of birth control, same sex marriage, and abortion, all of those things remain forbidden when it comes down to it. Francis only seems better at PR. Ratzinger’s main failing was honesty about the Catholic doctrines. There is no substantial change thus far at all, only a change of spin.

    • Eleanor

      You are forgiven. May God bless and keep you.

  • howa4x

    It is about time!! Popes for centuries starting with the Borgia’s moved the church away from piety and into the realm of the lavish lifestyle. Hence the gold plated hat and ruby red slippers. . The whole thing about celibacy started with them not wanting to pass their lands down to relative upon death, and keep it owned by the Church.
    Church’s stay in power by preaching a we/ they dogma. We are the true believers and anyone who doesn’t believe what we do needs to be either killed or at least despised. The Catholic church has a history of being far too friendly with fascist governments and the mafia. Priests have been vilified worldwide for their predatory actions on defenseless children, not only here but in places like Ireland where the government took educating the children away from them. This pope sincerely believes in Christ’s message of piety, and humility. Let see how this plays out. He is more like the Nuns who run the schools and hospitals than the priests who preach hatred by declaring others as sinful souls and back republicans in their war on the poor. We may have to wait for this elderly generation of American priests to retire before this change becomes real here. I can’t see a priest who has spent all of his career preaching hatred against women who had abortions, gays, and use of condoms change over night. They are not going to say we were wrong in our interpretation of the gospel or that we were just kidding.

  • Lovefacts

    The best thing about the new pope’s comments is that the far right can no longer claim their actions are Christian thinking. That also explains the reason why the Republicans are furious with the pope.

    • Sand_Cat

      They never could, really. They just did, and will continue to do so.

  • TZToronto

    Back in April of 1968, I went to church (Catholic) on Sunday, April 7. The priest asked for the congregation to pray for the soul of Martin Luther King, Jr. OMG! Did he actually say that? Pray for a Baptist? And one named for Martin Luther?? I don’t know whether that action was the priest’s own idea or came from some higher authority, but everyone was astonished by it. Pope Francis sounds like the kind of priest who would do that. As far as he’s concerned, apparently, we are all God’s children and deserve respect and acceptance from (and for) our brothers and sisters–and that includes those of us who question the existence of God. I’m willing to take him at face value.

  • JD Mulvey

    The last Catholic leader who spoke this way was Archbishop Romero. He angered the same people.

  • latebloomingrandma

    As a practicing Catholic, I think the Holy spirit created some mischief by inspiring the election of this man. Jesuits are not satisfied with sitting still, but constantly reading, .challenging, thinking and learning. My priest says that if you are a Christian or Catholic who thinks they have everything figured out, you probably have none of it figured out. The Pope said that faith should be a constant journey, not a set of rules that keep you in a box . (paraphrased)

    • Michael Kollmorgen

      Somewhere in the bible I think I read where it stated you can never understand god. IF you think you can, you are sinning.

      People better start seeing a good shrink if they think they can…………….