Daily Archives: December 11, 2013

Well that’s over.

Here’s the new Pope:


Imagine that, Time‘s “Person of the Year” takes the subway

What makes this Pope so important is the speed with which he has captured the imaginations of millions who had given up on hoping for the church at all. People weary of the endless parsing of sexual ethics, the buck-passing infighting over lines of authority when all the while (to borrow from Milton), “the hungry Sheep look up, and are not fed.” In a matter of months, Francis has elevated the healing mission of the church—the church as servant and comforter of hurting people in an often harsh world—above the doctrinal police work so important to his recent predecessors. John Paul II and Benedict XVI were professors of theology. Francis is a former janitor, nightclub bouncer, chemical technician and literature teacher.

Did you say “Bouncer”?


And behind his self-effacing facade, he is a very canny operator. He makes masterly use of 21st century tools to perform his 1st century office. He is photographed washing the feet of female convicts, posing for selfies with young visitors to the Vatican, embracing a man with a deformed face. He is quoted saying of women who consider abortion because of poverty or rape, “Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?” Of gay people: “If a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge.” To divorced and remarried Catholics who are, by rule, forbidden from taking Communion, he says that this crucial rite “is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”

I know I’m not alone in particularly loving this moment

Clearly the Pope was reminded of his own childhood.


But make no mistake, his public appearances are many and varied.



And so Francis signals great change while giving the same answers to the uncomfortable questions. On the question of female priests: “We need to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman.” Which means: no. No to abortion, because an individual life begins at conception. No to gay marriage, because the male-female bond is established by God. “The teaching of the church … is clear,” he has said, “and I am a son of the church, but”—and here he adds his prayer for himself—“it is not necessary to talk about those issues all the time.

The five words that have come to define both the promise and the limits of Francis’ papacy came in the form of a question: “Who am I to judge?” That was his answer when asked about homo-sexuality by a reporter in July. Many assumed Francis, with those words, was changing church doctrine. Instead, he was merely changing its tone, searching for a pragmatic path to reach the faithful who had been repelled by their church or its emphasis on strict dos and don’ts. Years of working closely with parish priests have taught him that the church seemed more comfortable with narrow issues than human complexity, and it lost congregants and credibility in the bargain. He is urging his army to think more broadly. As he told Spadaro, “What is the confessor to do? We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. That is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context.”

IOW the “bouncer” knows how to bounce.

Those who have inveighed against abortion and homosexuality for decades may fear that the ground is shifting underneath their feet. Some of the harshest criticisms of Francis have come from traditionalists alarmed at his emphasizing the Pope’s role as just another bishop—¬albeit of Rome—rather than Supreme Pontiff. They ¬argue that this path would lead to the end of the papacy as the world has known it for centuries. In early October, Mario Palmaro, a conservative bioethicist who worked for Radio Maria, went so far as to co-author an essay titled “We Do Not Like This Pope” that hinted that Francis was the Antichrist because of his all-too-knowing use of the media to propagate heterodox ideas. Palmaro was particularly appalled by the interview Francis granted the atheist editor of the Italian daily La Repubblica, in which the Pope was quoted as saying, “I believe in God, not a Catholic God.” The station fired Palmaro for criticizing the boss. But in November, after Palmaro came down with a debilitating disease, Francis telephoned to console him. “I was so moved by the phone call that I was not able to conduct much conversation,” Palmaro told reporters. “He just wanted to tell me that he is praying for me.” Palmaro says he has not changed his opinion of Francis’ policy.

But the opinion of a great many others has changed. Instead of ideological rigidity we now have the promise of “openness.”

How words become deeds remains to be seen. But at this relatively early juncture I cannot help but be reminded by a previous Pope –


– who inspired a gay Marxist athiest



to make THIS

Cue Marty, Bob, Thelma, Elaine and Saul Bass and Johann Sebastian Bach.