Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Friday, October 21, 2016

In choosing Pope Francis as its Person of the Year, Time magazine dared to commit an almost unthinkable act in modern-day journalism.

It chose to celebrate hope — and civility.

A key phrase in its long cover story, written by Howard Chua-Eoan and Elizabeth Dias: “This new Pope may have found a way out of the 20th century culture wars.”

Time’s choice has launched countless critics, of course. I, too, lament that only five women have made the stand-alone cut. I understand why National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden’s runner-up finish set off a round of criticism steeped in disbelief from his defenders.

Nevertheless, I think Time got this one just right.

I am not Catholic and have been critical of the Church for mishandling the pedophile sex scandal and its backward views of women and the gay community. There are always more battles to be won.

But Time’s decision to honor this gentle warrior for social and economic justice speaks to a national yearning.

Any journalist willing to talk to people outside the Beltway knows this to be true: The majority of citizens have had it with the state of discourse in this country, particularly in our nation’s capital. People are hurting, and they are desperate for reasons to hope.

As Time’s story noted, the Pope is cannier than his gentle demeanor suggests:

“He makes masterly use of 21st century tools to perform his 1st century office. He is photographed washing the feet of female convicts, posing for selfies with young visitors to the Vatican, embracing a man with a deformed face. He is quoted saying of women who consider abortion because of poverty or rape, ‘Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?’ Of gay people: ‘If a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge.’ To divorced and remarried Catholics who are, by rule, forbidden from taking Communion, he says that this crucial rite ‘is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.'”

And then he took on capitalism.

“We also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality,” he wrote. “Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.”

It’s enough to take our breath away.

  • John Kruger

    Not one line of Dogma has been altered. Not one priest has been held accountable for crimes against children. Homosexuals are still called by Catholics to lifelong chastity. All contraception is still forbidden. This Pope has not changed anything at all, not even slightly. He is a better PR spin doctor than Ratzinger, nothing more.

    George W. Bush made the list of Time’s “Man of the Year” twice. I cannot say I really care about the “honor” of an award like that anyway, but perhaps at least Time is remaining consistent.

  • Bill Thompson

    I watch the News Hour last night a PBS station there were two Catholic damage control spin doctors trying to comfort the right. In essence saying none of the teachings have been altered at all. What Pope Francis is actually saying is the teachings do allow for caring for the poor which I believe is true. The pandering and backpedaling for the sake of right was obvious. If the walls of the Vatican could speak. I’m sure there are some very contentious conversations presently taking place.

  • sigrid28

    Connie Schultz captures both the satisfaction and the mystification with which the American public contemplates “Time” magazine’s choice of Pope Francis as Person of the Year–2013. We are shocked and at some level pleased by segments of the pope’s apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel,” which takes the wealthy nations of the world to task for the inhumanity that has come to be identified with capitalism. Considering the ministry of the pope’s chosen namesake, however, Pope Francis may have let us off too easy. Over a decade ago I had the privilege to read what was then a new biography of St. Francis of Assisi, Valerie Martin’s “Salvation: Scenes from the Life of St. Francis” (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001). It draws a picture of St. Francis as an inhospitable, uncompromising individual who abandoned his family altogether and its wealth he to live by rules that demanded a regime of strict poverty: he and his followers could not own any property except “one habit, quilted inside and out if they wished, with a cord and breeches.” (10) St. Francis, Martin states, “never wavered in . . . his radical devotion to ‘Holy Poverty. . . . He was a great success because he was determined to be, in the world’s eye, a perfect failure.” (13) These scenes from the extraordinarily difficult life of St. Francis that do have one xxx in common with our current pope’s willingness–even eagerness–to chastise the rich and powerful.

  • Liberalism is Nonsense

    The past century of centralization has undermined the foundations of morality and liberty to the point where civilization’s greatest threats arise from the ignorance institutionalized within its very own central governments.