Just after pope Benedict resigned from the papacy, I blogged here in agreement with E. J. Dionne in order to do any real good, the church needed to think outside the box and elect a woman to the papacy, arguing that nothing short of turning the organization upside down would effect any real change. I also blogged here that early results from Pope Francis were great.
Times’ “Man of the Year” appears well deserving, not for anything in particular that he’s gotten accomplished on the world stage, but for the attitude he brings to the job. He sees himself as a servant, not as royalty. He’s anxious to let go of the trappings of the papacy and apply real reform to institutions that need it ( see Vatican Bank ). And at great risk to himself I would add. Any time you start talking reform and the result is that corrupt individuals are no longer going to be benefiting, you’re messing with fate. Just ask Ethel Kennedy.
Most importantly, his focus is right. He hasn’t significantly brought about reform of any kind yet … but he has softened the church stance somewhat on gays and Christianity ( “who am I to judge? ” ), and he rightfully reminds people when it comes to birth control, abstinence, celibacy for priests “We don’t need to talk about these things all the time.”
That is an incredibly powerful message. This is the point I was trying to make in my earlier post about Francis. No, he hasn’t changed his mind on the ‘official’ laws on something yet, but we have more pressing things to worry about right now than to be talking about contraception all day long. Yeah, it’s on my list but it’s 79th.
It’s easy to over-simplify these things, but in my mind there are two basic camps of Christians in the catholic church. You have your group led by Bill Donohue of the Catholic League who run around using fear tactics to justify every archaic rule that’s ever been invented by man… and then you have your second group which is more focused on social justice issues like income equality, housing for the poor, feeding the poor, health care for all, etc. There are quite a few Catholics who get this and roll up sleeves and get to work on behalf of the poor and have been ignoring Rome for decades. Now they don’t have to anymore because they have a friend in Rome who has the same mind-set as they do.
I believe this is a quiet revolution that, if given some time, has the potential to turn the Catholic church into something that many people will come to admire. Prior to Francis, the only news from the church was bad news. More child molestation charges and more instances of the pontiff in chief making sure that the rules of the church didn’t change on his watch.
But you really need no more proof than watching Rush Limbaugh go off on a rant calling Francis a Marxist. The rule of thumb that I go by is, anything that pisses off Rush Limbaugh is a good thing.