The poetic, playful and prophetic musings of quintessential voices trying to keep up with life

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"Who Am I to Judge?": Why I'm Cautiously Optimistic About Pope Francis I

There’s been a lot of buzz about Pope Francis’ first extensive interview since his election, which was released to the public last week.  As the resident Catholic of Her/Story, I figured I should spend some time reflecting on what the Pope had to say in what proved to be a wave-causing piece.  Before I dive into the article, however, I want to share my initial thoughts about our new Pope.  I’m not gonna lie…I was hesitant when he was first elected to fully embrace him as my spiritual leader.  I knew very little about him (he was no even a blip on my Papal radar…I was pulling for Cardinal O’Malley myself).  Immediately after he was elected, I heard mixed responses from my fellow Catholic-people.  Most of what I knew and heard was good and encouraging: he’s from Argentina and is the first Pope from this side of the Atlantic Ocean, he was a member of the Jesuit order, and while serving as Bishop in Argentina he passed over many of the “perks” of the job to live a simpler, more humble life.  So that was good.  Not so great were rumors that he was ultraconservative, and that he was negatively involved with past political conflicts in Argentina.  Again, though, I knew very little, so I decided to withhold my ultimate opinion until I saw what he did with the position.

Six months later…I’m really starting to like this guy.

He is turning out to be a bit of a rebel-rouser, which I greatly enjoy, and he hit the ground running when it came to implementing some changes to how things are done, especially by the Papal Office itself.  Pope Francis continues to maintain his modest and humble lifestyle, not living in the papal apartments, but in the less elegant guest house.  During Holy Thursday last year, he washed the feet of juvenile inmates…including the feet of a couple of girls, which had never been done before by a Pope.  I won’t get into all of the reasoning behind not washing female feet…just know that this was a significant moment in the history of the Vatican.  He began to rework the Curia to de-centralize power, and then there was his now widely known comment in regards to gays and lesbians: “Who am I to judge?”

And now, with his big interview, he has given me more reason to be optimistic.  He called the Church out for negatively obsessing over gay marriage, abortion, and contraception.  That is not to say that he approves of any of the above (one step at a time, people), but he acknowledges that “The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you.”  He has been criticized by the more conservative side of the Church for not speaking out about these issues yet.  But the Pope wants to turn the Church away the path that it seems to have found itself barreling down, which makes it appear rigid, uncompromising, inhospitable, and exclusive.  Instead, he wants the Church to put its focus back towards Jesus, and work on healing “wounds” and warming “the hearts of the faithful.”  Whereas Pope Benedict sought to protect the church by solidifying the core of ardent believers, Pope Francis seems to want the Church to be a welcoming community that all believers can feel at home in.  True, there is still a long way to go for the Church to be considered completely inclusive, and I don’t think even under this Pope we will see same-sex marriage accepted, or the ordination of women into the priesthood (although he does say that the role of women needs to be seriously considered, and a stronger theology of women developed).  I truly hate using political terms when discussing Church matters, but I wouldn’t put Pope Francis as a liberal, or a conservative for that matter (his passion for the poor and social justice would not fit the mold).  Instead, he is in the middle, trying to balance traditional doctrine and modern ideals that seem to have only clashed in the past several years.  I remain cautiously optimistic, however, in what Pope Francis could do for the Catholic Church.  If nothing else, he is setting the stage for a future we might not have thought as possible before.

What are your thoughts on the new Pope and what he’s been saying and showing to the world?  Let me know!

Bye for now,
Erin B.

For the English translation of Pope Francis’ interview, following the link to the American Magazine website:

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