I seldom take the time to read editorials. While the premise is good, the execution scarcely follows through. They tend to be pejorative, one-sided, and offer little intellectual value to the conversation. Instead, they simply validate those who already agree with a particular viewpoint and shut out the rest. I came across what ended up being a rather amusing editorial
in which the author suggested that Pope Francis should resign. Furthermore, should he decline such an enticing offer, the faithful should force him out of office.
Now that we’ve clearly answered this ridiculous call, let’s take a closer look at what is actually happening, and why it’s making some of us uncomfortable.
Pope Francis comes from a nation of tremendous turmoil. Argentina is a land very different from the one we know in the United States. For nearly half of a century, it was a nation embroiled in violence and instability on a scale unimaginable to us. Out of that crucible came the man we now know as Pope Francis. Consequently, we can’t reasonably expect him to think, act, and reason as we do. In his time, he spoke out strongly in support of those issues to which the Catholic Church holds most dear, especially on human rights and life issues. His record is without question, and not even quotes ripped from the headlines can undo that witness.
We should consider, for a moment, how Pope Francis is mirroring very closely Jesus’ life. While we have the excellent stories from the Gospels, and a rich tradition, what we tend to overlook are the minute details. Jesus was a very shocking figure, challenging the comfortable and the religious and welcoming in the outcast and destitute. He challenged the religious because they let the rules become their religion, and bore little fruit. He welcomed the outsider because they were in desperate need of attention, compassion, and love. Francis challenges those of us who consider ourselves to be Catholic. We’ve become so vanilla that we share the same divorce rates as our non-Catholic neighbors. We use contraception, we’re materialistic, and we’re extremely judgmental.
Francis, like a loving father, challenges us to do better, because we are better than this. We don’t like how it comes off, and many of his one-liners can be confusing, but we need to take in the totality of his life, mission, writing, and works in order to grasp this simple message he has for us: come back. His outreach to refugees, victims, and those we routinely ignore is a painful reminder of just how much room we have to grow in our faith. We need to live our faith.
Time has a way of bringing clarity, and I think that years down the road, we’ll look back on his papacy as a reminder of the importance of charity, along with faith and hope, as Benedict and John Paul brought to us. God has a way of placing what we need in our lives at just the right moment, even if it makes us uncomfortable. Pope Francis just may be what we need, right now.