Friday, July 31, 2015

Why I Like the Pope

Pope Francis is a big hit. Non-Catholics love him; most Catholics love him; many hardcore traditionalist Catholics don't like him. I have heard from some really, really active Catholics (ones who don't just go to church but who study every aspect of the workings of the Church) criticize his ideas. I'm not in a position to argue with them, because they are more knowledgeable than I. 

What I do see, though, is (at least through my lens) a pope who does not create but who emphasizes the ideals that Catholicism has always represented, to me, as a Catholic: humility, compassion, charity and a welcoming of all who honestly seek to understand God. It is not that other popes have not believed this, I am sure; it is just that they seem to have been more focused on discussing what was wrong to do as opposed to what is right to do  -- at least, they seem to have seemed that way to non-Catholics and to alienated Catholics. 

I'll admit I am probably too intrinsically and actively philosophical to be an easy-sell when it comes to religion; I was the kid in catechism class who asked all of the annoying questions. Catholicism, to me, though, has proven itself, at the very least, as a philosophical and theological system (if not always in terms of the sometimes heinous actions of its individual members) so different from how the average anti-religion person views Christians: judgmental, angry, exclusionary, uneducated. 

So, on one hand, I am glad that Pope Francis is exemplifying what Catholicism has always felt like to me. I do, however, wish people on the outside would stop expecting him to start openly accepting every modern idea under the sun; or, at least, that they would understand that he is not some rogue, rock star priest, but that he represents the ancient Church he has dedicated his life to. 

I saw a news commentator once say that while he is glad the Pope spoke of not condemning homosexuals who are "earnestly seeking God" he is "disappointed" that the Pope still won't accept gay marriage. He is still the Pope of the Catholic Church, and gay marriage is not in the bylaws, as it were. No one should be surprised by this, even if they disagree. 

All I know is that I watched him step out onto the balcony on the day of his selection and I called my wife and said, "This guy is going to be very different." He has proven himself so, especially in his quest to live by example. He carries himself in a very Christlike way and his emphasis on kindness, humility and the closing of the rifts between the faiths is something the world needs now. I like the him very much. 

(I recommend -- very highly -- the article on the Pope in the latest issue of National Geographic. Very interesting.) 

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