Okay, so what’s the dealio? The newly elected Pope Francis has been the head of the Roman Catholic Church for only 9 months and he’s already made the cover of Time magazine as their “Person of the Year!” Really? Person of the Year? What’s next for the Pontiff, the cover of the Rolling Stone? Now that would be a sure sign of his success! But I have to wonder, is Pope Francis for real? Is he really the meek and gentle soul he appears to be? Will he one day be remembered as Pope Francis the Benevolent or will he be just another in a long line of conservative popes?
In his short tenure as the Head of the world’s largest Christian church, representing over half of all Christians, he has not only succeeded in shaking things up and offering hope to an ailing Catholic Community, but he’s also got Vatican Officials scratching their heads in wonder as he continues to defy customs and traditions practiced for centuries by past popes. Many fear that the new pope will restructure the Vatican hierarchy and severely weaken the power and authority they’ve long held. He is already urging the Church to make themselves more accessible and bring themselves closer to those who are poor and suffering, to be more fair, frugal and less pompous in nature. Something I believe most Catholics would love to see happen. Can you imagine? A church without the pomp and circumstance they’ve enjoyed for centuries, now that would be a real tragedy wouldn’t it? I think not.
Yes the majority of the Catholic faithful are hoping that Pope Francis is the real deal. Although his break with tradition and frugality are a breath of fresh air and his overwhelming commitment to social justice suggest that he may bring about changes to the church the likes of which we haven’t seen since Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council, there remains an air of skepticism among those close to him and know him well. They believe that the long overdue spiritual breakthrough we’ve all been waiting for will not come during the reign of Pope Francis I. There are already indications that Pope Francis will be just as conservative as past popes. His election came as a surprise to many who had hoped for a much younger pope, one more in touch with today’s issues, someone who could successfully reform the church and bring her into the present day. Instead what we got is a 76 year old man strong in faith but unflinching in his beliefs. Which begs the question, Is he the right man the Catholic Church needs to carry them into the 21st century?
Pope Francis is not the breath of fresh air that we have been waiting for. He is a man of conviction. Although he speaks outwardly of tolerance and respect he is quite conservative and has strong feelings about same sex marriage and its effect on the survival of family. He is vehemently opposed to contraception, divorce, and artificial insemination and has major reservations on issues related to women’s role in the church. Pope Francis may be a Jesuit and Jesuits are believed to be more progressive, but don’t expect to see any real reform for women in the church. Fifty years ago the Vatican Council promised fundamental reform for women and their role in the church. Little has changed in that time. Although there is a dire shortage of priests, there are still no women deacons or priests. That will not change under Pope Francis. He is much too orthodox to make the changes necessary in our church, his faith flies in the face of today’s reality.
Now don’t get me wrong. I like the new pope. I believe him to be a humble, simple, down to earth man. A true defender of the faith. He is genuine and extraordinarily friendly and open. He is charismatic, charming, humorous and appeals to the media and masses alike. It may very well be that Pope Francis is the ideal front man/ spokesman for a church suffering from a major case of bad press, particularly in the area of sexual abuse. But is he the right man to lead the church into the twenty-first century? Is the vital, vigorous, leader the church so desperately needs? Only time will tell. Although I have my doubts, I pray that he is…