Reprinted from the Press and Journal
I’m not Catholic, but man do I love this pope.
Ever since Jorge Mario Bergoglio, otherwise known as Pope Francis, was confirmed as the Vicar of Christ in March of 2013, he’s been boggling the minds of religious and political observers.
Born to Italian immigrants in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Francis grew up in a lower-middle class environment in a country about as politically clean as the mob. He came of age in a place very much removed from stable public order. This upbringing led to become the head of the Jesuit order in Argentina at a time of dictatorship and domestic strife.
It is from this background that the Pontiff learned the importance of giving the needy a voice in human society.
All this and more make Francis a fascinating character.
His tenure as Bishop of Rome has been spent reaching out to the margins of society – the poor, the diseased, the lost and forgotten. Not long after being confirmed, he was photographed kissing the head of a disfigured man, an act of profound grace. During his recent trip to Washington, he snubbed a bunch of congressmen to visit a homeless shelter.
The caritas Francis has spread has not come without controversy, however.
Pope Francis refuses to abide by American political dichotomy. He is, as writer Damon Linker describes him, the “politically inconvenient pontiff.” He gets both liberals and conservatives steamed at his stubborn refusal to fit neatly into the left-right mold.
One moment he’ll be talking about the deleterious nature of capitalism while the next decrying abortion as a “culture of death.”
You just can’t pin the guy down. And that’s why he’s so needed in our hyper-partisan era. He gets the politically-minded riled up, pissing them off because they can’t box him into their parochial worldview.
Some examples: George Will, the libertarian-ish, atheist columnist of The Washington Post, is openly hostile to Francis’ “sympathy for medieval stasi,” and claims that “Americans cannot simultaneously honor him and celebrate their nation’s premises.” The conservative thinktank The Heartland Institute has launched a campaign to convince Catholic laity to challenge the Pope on the science of climate change.
This ire stems from Francis’ first encyclical on climate change and modernism, “Laudato Si’.” In the missive, the Pontiff denounces environmental exploitation and reminds us that we, as God’s children, are stewards of his creation. He calls for global action – meaning a transnational bureaucracy – to combat the ruination of our common home.
Predictably, liberals fell head over heels for the message. Conservatives? Not so much. The same pattern emerged previously when Francis was asked by a reporter how he feels about gay priests who try to live a chaste and faithful life. “Who am I to judge?” he responded, a phrase taken to mean that the Catholic Church could soon relax its stance on homosexuality. At the time, progressives heralded the apparent about-face, while conservatives raised their eyebrows at the odd change of tone.
But the Left’s infatuation with the Holy See didn’t last long.
During his stay in America, Francis committed an apostasy of liberalism: He met with the Satan-child Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses. It was an act of Christian solidarity – totally fitting for the Pope’s message of inclusion.
But don’t tell that to the liberals.
They are, in a word, pe-od. “In one 15-minute meeting, the [P]ope undermined the unifying, healing message that many queer people and our supporters were so eager to have him bring,” gay writer Vanessa Vitiello Urquhart whined.
Mashable contributor Brian Reis tweeted that the Davis meetup should remind “you why you stopped going to church in the first place.”
Never mind the fact that that Francis addressed income inequality, the death penalty, the broken immigration system, and the plight of the impoverished before Congress.
Also forget that he met with and embraced an openly gay couple while in D.C. All that is ruined because the Pope met with a fellow Christian that believed in the biblical definition of marriage.
There’s just no pleasing some people.
If Francis’ papacy has shown us anything, it’s that you can’t expect everyone to abide by our political norms. It brings a more nuanced view to the world’s problems that is sorely lacking.
It’s no stretch to say American politics is bitter and divided. The Pope transcends our simple differences by challenging believers on what they value most: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or the redeemed soul.
It’s all very inspiring.
Francis has brought out the irreducible complex nature of man. He is giving us, Catholic and non-Catholic, a new way of looking at faith.
He separates the wheat of the spirit from the tasteless chaff of politics. He rejects deep theology in favor of being, to borrow a phrase the Catholic writer R. R. Reno, a “poet of the faith.”
And that’s why Pope Francis is awesome.
His actions show that not all evangelization has to make sense. Like Paul said in Corinthians, to see the truth, sometimes we have to be fools for the sake of Christ.