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Saturday, September 24, 2016

WASHINGTON — In winning election as Pope Francis, Jorge Mario Bergoglio defied the papal pundits, even though they should have seen him coming. His rise marks the decisive shift within Roman Catholicism toward Latin America and the developing world. In theological terms, he represents continuity, yet he is the first non-European pope in more than 1,000 years, and also the first Jesuit.

He is a doctrinal conservative who battled gay marriage in Argentina and fellow Jesuits who were more liberal. But he also rebuked priests who denied baptism to children born out of wedlock and has spoken strongly for social justice. He is the first pope to take the name of the saint known for his devotion to humility and to the poor. He is likely to weigh in often on behalf of the world’s poorest regions.

“We live in the most unequal part of the world, which has grown the most yet reduced misery the least,” Bergoglio told Latin American bishops in 2007. “The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers.”

That his election was a surprise is, in itself, surprising. It was widely reported that he came in second to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — Pope Benedict XVI — in the 2005 conclave. John Allen, the well-sourced Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, cited a prelate who said that Bergoglio had given Ratzinger “something of a horse race.”

Bergoglio’s support stayed intact in the ensuing eight years, and one church official said that he received roughly 30 votes on the first ballot on Tuesday, a strong showing in the 115-member conclave that placed him in a commanding position to win early after only five rounds of voting.

In the run-up to the conclave, however, he was pushed down the list of probable victors, partly because of his age — he is 76 — and partly because some cardinals wondered whether he had the toughness to take on a Vatican bureaucracy in desperate need for reform. This will now be tested.

More liberal American Catholics seeking change in the church’s stance on the role of women and sexuality cannot expect much movement from Pope Francis. He is a traditionalist, although the same could be said of all other potential winners. Francis was an early critic of liberation theology, which united Catholics and movements on the political left in Latin America.

  • The College of Cardinals did a great job in choosing Jorge Mario Bergoglio, an Argentinean and the son of Italian immigrants as the new Pope. His record as Archbishop of Buenos Aires and Argentine’s Cardinal includes examples of humility, a focus on the poor, and a champion of human rights. His convictions were accentuated by choosing the name of St. Francis of Assisi for his Papacy.
    It remain to be seen, however, how much he can realistically change. His record suggests he is a traditionalist who, almost certainly, will protect and preserve Catholic doctrine. He may make changes in the Vatican’s financial affairs, flaunting wealth and power, on how to deal with priestly scandals, will probably extol priest to engage in evangelism, and he is likely to follow the example of John Paul II by traveling a lot and spreading the message of the teachings of Jesus Christ and the role of the Church of St. Peter. I don’t expect huge departures from Catholic doctrine.

  • JDavidS

    Pope Frank is a Jesuit… Not exactly known for their liberal thinking.

    • m8lsem

      Jesuits in some ways are flaming liberals. First, they have long favored excellent educations, founding many colleges and universities and encouraging their members to use them. Second, when long ago approaching Algonquian tribes in Canada and Northern New England, they took the approach of accepting the belief in Dabaldak as belief in the same God of whom the Jesuits knew much more, thus befriending the people instead of Puritan-style calling them subhuman Devil worshippers. And their relationship continues to today. Jesuits take the call to help the poor, the sick, the young, the very old, the strangers and outcasts very seriously.

      • JDavidS

        Yes, my friend…in “some” ways. However, they have been referred to as “Gods’ Marines” and “The Popes’ Shock Troops”. Certainly not because they were liberal. And this new pope continues that tradition, being vehemently anti-gay marriage and women priests, to name but two areas. Your points about education, the poor, the sick, the very old, etc. makes them compassionate, not liberal.

        • Michael Kollmorgen

          I’ve never known a catholic priest, from any sect, to be openly “liberal”. IF they are, they risk being ex-communicated.

          And, yes, this sect is very compassionate. But, they still have an eye on trying to convert you to their religion. They’re not doing anything for the sake of humanity, only for the cause of the church. Their ultimate goal is soul-saving, really nothing more.

      • Michael Kollmorgen

        I seem to constantly remember the Jesuit in reference to old black n white cowboy movies out west where the Jesuit Monks in their long robes are always taking care of the Mexican poor and pretty much trampled and sometimes killed by the Mexican Army.

        Then we have Friar Tuck in all the Robin Hood movies who probably what a Jesuit Monk too. Lest we not forget all those long-robed Jesuit Monks all marching in line directly into the Castle proper.

    • angelsinca

      Why should the church become liberal? The church is a solid foundation of tradition, nut a reflection of modern trend.

      • JDavidS

        angelsinca… I didn’t say that the church should or shouldn’t become liberal. I merely commented on the article. I couldn’t care less what the R.C. church does or doesn’t do.

        • angelsinca

          My apologies. I must have misinterpreted your intent. It appeared the theme of the thread echoes discontent with the church’s continuing non-liberal doctiine because it selected a pope with a conservative Jesuit background. Interesting disussion. thanks

      • Please do maintain tradition.

        Tradition includes centuries of immense wealth from the sale of indulgences with resulting corruption.

        It includes an 18-year old who was ordained and on the same day elected as pope by electors who had been bribed or blackmailed by his father, the previous pope.

        It includes the hereditary Borgia popes who gained office by assassinating their opponents and who held orgies in the Vatican.

        It includes military-trained generals who fought wars to gain territory and booty for the church but none the less were popes.

        Please do mate that tradition to dogma that is sold better by evangelicals.

        Please do rigidly enforce taboos that are obeyed by fewer than 10% of members.

        Those of us who were raised catholic could be driven out far more efficiently.

        With so little effort today’s ratio of 5 departures for each conversion could easily be doubled.

        • angelsinca

          The human frailties you listed are not the traditions of the church. They are examples of men surrendering to evil. The postive teachings of the church exist and are embraced by billions. Those souls depend on the church to deliver them from evil, so I don’t mock their benefactor. It doesn’t make sense for the church to drive catholics out unless the Trinity was abandoned and dogma rejected. I can see how the church would cast out those that pollute its congregation with evil, hate or disobedience to its teachings. If you don’t like it, you can pick another media to battle evil and achieve ascension. It’s much more rewarding without the Latin anyway.

  • latebloomingrandma

    In one of E.J.’s previous columns or interviews on TV, he stated that the upcoming conclave was going to be Machiavelli vs. the Holy Spirit. I think the Holy Spirit was in evidence here. All 155 cardinals are doctrinally conservative, so us Catholics should not expect any movement in these areas. But to pick someone in the forefront of the social justice arena, which us liberal Catholics care about, is a change. Some of us prefer to put our pro-life efforts into the injustices confronting living, breathing people rather than getting in the faces of women going into an PP clinic. I wonder if Paul Ryan, who touts his devout Catholic bona fides, has any qualms about this Pope. If he is as smart as people claim him to be, he should be shaking in his shoes a little bit. Or maybe he’ll claim separation of church and state. Something I’ve claimed all along. Let’s see if it works now for the “other side.”

  • Michael Kollmorgen

    Maybe with a little luck, he might use some of the vast wealth of the Vatican to improve the lives of the poor, helpless and needy. It’s about time!

    I don’t see this man being as liberal as some of the flock would like. I doubt he would approve of women being in the Priesthood. He sure won’t sanction any gay activity let alone approve of gay marriage.

    With this pope, it is in the right direction. But, the Church still has a long way to go. Overall, I like the Jesuit Sect over all the other catholic denominations, The Jesuit Sect seem to be the ones who do the heavy lifting and the actual leg work.

  • Pamby50

    I was not as surprised as many that the Pope was chosen from Latin America. I was thinking either from there or from Africa. I know if they had chosen an African for Pope the religious right here in the USA would have apoplexy. A black president and a black pope. As a Jesuit, it will be interesting to see how he brings the message of peace & taking care of the poor. If he needs any inspiration, he should ask about the nuns on the bus.

    • angelsinca

      You assume the religious right is not only racist toward the president, but also assume they would be racist had a black pope been chosen. What do you base that on, your own prejudices?

  • How brave he was to oppose his government when it came to gay rights and contraception.

    He did not speak out when it came to outright murder (which is apparently a far lesser sin).

    After coercing the poor to bear more children than they could feed, clothe, house, medicate or educate, did the church offer to do those things?

    Not at all!

    Instead, the less profligate and more rational cultures who did not contribute at all to the problem are obligated to correct it.

    “The unjust distribution of goods persist creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven”

    I am offended. It is hypocracy “that cries out to heaven”.

    This new pope is no more responsible than the last one.