Tuesday, March 18, 2014

An Elegy to Pope Francis the Liberal

     When the current Pope put on the hat last March, the world was watching. From the start, Pope Francis was far from an ordinary member of the seminary. Born in Argentina, the first ever Pope from the southern hemisphere, and the first non-European Pope for more than a century, he seemed to be exactly the kind of outsider who might shake things up in the Vatican...to the extent that the Vatican can be shaken up, that is. This was a public image that was hugely embraced by the media and repeated often, and is controversial today. What does the Pope of today really think about issues like homosexuality, abortion, and birth control? (Spoiler alert: he's not as much of a Good Guy as you think.)
His waving style is also decidedly un-Popelike.
     One line that I see getting tossed around quite a lot is that Pope Francis has declared that "all atheists are redeemed." While this is technically true, this is the Pope we're talking about here--he chooses his words quite carefully. When the papal quote was first spoken, there was some substantial controversy over what he had meant. (See the comments section in the previous link for good times.) Did the Pope truly just give atheists a free pass into heaven? Were we bros now? Not really, as it turns out. A close look at the Bible passages he references, along with a few technicalities, should be kept in mind. He informed the world that all atheists are redeemed, but redeemed=/=automatically saved. All atheists are redeemed in the same way that all pedophiles are redeemed--we both have a chance to accept Jesus in our hearts etc. etc. and although the Pope was creating an image of tolerance, he was also just reminding everybody that "it's not too late, folks."
     Another issue that the Pope has spoken some interesting words about is the Church's stance on homosexuality. To the best of my knowledge, Pope Francis has never asserted that every homosexual person is hell-bound, only the ones that act on their sexual impulses. Remember kids, you can go to heaven as long as you remain chaste your entire life--while you're at it, why not join the priesthood? Also, this is the same man who openly opposed gay marriage while he was in a position of power in Argentina and referred to it as the work of the Devil and a "destructive attack on God's plan." Despite these, uhh, small quibbles, though, he thinks that gay people are great! He's been hailed by the media as the least harsh Pope on homosexuality so far, though, so that's something.
     Just to go down the laundry list, the Pope has also said that abortion is "horrific" and something that good Christians ought not to do, although notably he has approved the use of contraception to control disease, which is pretty great. At the same time, though, he's still not allowing women to be priests, he really enjoys reminding people that everyone who accepts Christ must also accept the Church, he thinks that homosexual adoption is not cool, and has reminded us all that his first loyalty will always be to Church doctrine. While I'm at it, this guy is not a comic book villain, he has some excellent qualities--his stance on the importance of Catholics to assist the poor and needy has always been rock-solid and he has even taken steps to reduce the Vatican's wealth.
     So how progressive is Francis, really? I think it's clear that the media's trumped-up and oversimplified version isn't accurate--this is not Pope Francis the Liberal, and not a man who wants to seriously mess things up in the Vatican. He's made some great steps forward, to be sure--never forget, the last Pope thought that contraception was never okay and that every last gay person had a one-way ticket to hell. Is the honeymoon over? What has he done well, what has he done poorly, and what can he do in the future? Tomorrow's ISSA meeting should yield some interesting discussion, so make sure not to miss it!

1 comment:

Kendall said...

Ignatius of Loyola, founder of Pope Francis's religious order, the Society of Jesus, was as far from chaste as you could get for the first 30 years of his life, yet he is a canonized saint. Chastity is something even the greatest saints have struggled with, but they have allowed God to forgive them in their failings and looked to His grace for strength to continue in their struggle.

I hope the discussion went well on Wednesday! I'm regretful that I wasn't able to attend.

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