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On Not Disliking the New Pope

From Heather Horn, a guest post at Charles Pierce's blog that pretty well captures my feelings on the new pope:

my studiously maintained suspicion has been under constant assault since his election. It was bad enough when the first photos in March showed him rejecting that ridiculous footstool and making a statement by standing on the same level as the cardinals. Then came pope-on-a-bus and what, in my losing battle to maintain disapproval, I now refer to as Marriottgate. I can't read the news these days without running into some charming quote, some optimistically open pronouncement — though rarely as liberal or as new as the papers make it sound — hinting at his sense of consistency and conscience and self-awareness.

Maybe Michael Potemra is right and this is really just some kind of conservative jujitsu.  If so, he'll have the last laugh (along with many others).  But for now, I'm content to enjoy the sense of surprise and to hope that it portends something more.

About the Author

Eduardo Moisés Peñalver is the Allan R. Tessler Dean of the Cornell Law School. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the subjects of property and land use law.



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I do believe the pope is sincere about his acceptance of gay priests and in his liking of women.  But his good will doesn't seem to make any difference to his beliefs that marriage equality is bad or that women should not be ordained.  I feel almost mean-spirited for making that point, but it does matter.

I like him as well; I'm really hoping he will able to move us all to create that "poor church for the poor" he so desires.

I don't know yet if he'll be a good pope, but it is clear that he is a good man and would make a good friend. The governance issues that are of highest importance for me - sexual abuse and bishop accountability for such matters - hardly seem to be on his radar, but he is addressing other important problems. 

"A revolution is underway" as John Allen is reporting.        People are just wondering whether he can pull it off. "Ce la farà?" And everyone knows what it is. Hopefully it is the end of Empire and the resumption of the Gospel. Although Francis is careful not to needlessly offend it is clear that the Gospel is his priority. Not politics. 

Pope Francis is such an obviously great-hearted man that if he has any real faults we will resist admitting they're there.  But even if he's the greatest saint in 500 years, his judgment probably isn't perfect, and eventually he'll probably fail us in some ways. The trick then will be not to over-reat and not to call him a hypocrit if he turns out to be less than God.  What a beautiful, beautiful man, even if he's not perfect. 

Anything/anyone that/who appears to be this good, this early ... probably isn't.  But time and "the walk" is what will tell.

As St Ronald Reagan The Great is supposed to have said:  Trust, but Verify.

If there is going to be a "revolution", it won't be a revolution in doctrine, but rather in style.  The Church is now and forever, and as Someone once said, "The gates of Hell shall not prevail"...

I agree with Mr. Schwartz that if there's a "revolution" in the Church under Francis, it will be a matter of "style", not of basic doctrine.  On this point, I'm reminded of historian John O'Malley noting that "Vatican II intended to make some fundamental changes in the way the church operates" ("The Style of Vatican II", AMERICA MAGAZINE at  I don't see this doctrinally conservative pope veering from his public outreach to the poor and his stress on simplicity of lifestyle.  Having used the word, I'm not certain 'revolution' is an accurate descriptor for what is happening under this papacy.  A future pope could reinstate the governance style (with all the pontifical trappings, to boot) seen under JPII and especially B16.  Pope Francis knows well the division in the church.  I expect he will try to steer the Barque of Peter on a steady course through turbulent waters.  In all fairness to the man, I don't think we should expect much else.  He's one heck of an improvement, however, over his two predecessors --- to date at least.  Any future pope who tries to steer the church toward either Vatican I or Vatican II will find himself, I suspect, in a no-win situation.  Major issues such as women's ordination, optional celibacy, communion for divorced & remarried, and gay *civil* marriage are not going to go away.  Francis won't be pope forever.

The remark that he would "make a good friend" seems to me very much to the point.  I'm not exactly certain what was meant by that remark but I believe if we begin to allow our view of the Pope to be a wee bit more human he will notice and be better able to find the rest of us less confusing.  It may well be mostly due to my previous inattentiveness but it seems to me this Pope is genuinely trying to jump right in the middle of us all.  Wonder what he is up to.

I don't like whatbthe church teaches on gays and woemen. So what differnece does itrreally make whether I like this pope or not? He will change nothing of substance.

The same strange view as all the talk about Bush being a good guy to have a beer with. Adult groupie syndrome.

Bob, this church has changed positions on so very many things as often as I have changed my socks:

  • It was OK to own slaves.  In 1866 Pope Pius IX declared, “It is not contrary to the natural and divine law for a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged or given.”
  • Earning interest on loaning money was wrong. The church condemned usury at the Second Lateran Council in 1139, the Third Lateran Council in 1179, and the Council of Vienne in 1311.
  • Anyone who wasn’t a Catholic was doomed to hell.   (4th Lateran Council – 1215) (Pope Boniface VIII, Bull Unam sanctam - 1302).
  • The 1864 encyclical "Quanta Cura" by Pius IX explicitly condemned freedom of religion.

If we applied the authoritative and definitive approach of the last 50 years to the past, consider what would have been the case today. Coitus interruptus was considered quasi-homicide from ancient times up to at least the 14th century and heretics were tortured and put to death. Sex was only for procreation, sex during menstrual periods was a mortal sin, sex during pregnancy was forbidden and sex had only one licit position.

These were once the common opinions of theologians and Church hierarchy for centuries, but have seen been abandoned.

Is our understanding of homosexuality or contraception any more conscious, more universal and more complete than these obsolete principles?



Someone among us has very stinky feet.

He's not the revolution, but he may be paving the way. The primary thing that I've wanted from the pope and the bishops isn't that my views are adopted and enforced with the same intensity as current doctrine. Rather, I've wanted them to give Catholics the breathing room to be able to have frank discussions about their faith without having to fear that it will lead to them being banned from any public association with the Church.

The Church needs discussions where we can discern what the truth. The alternative is ossifying an inherently incomplete vision where agreement with that vision is the sole determinant of "truth."

Ryan --

Open discusions of disputed truths was typical of theologians in the medieval ages, and the Enlightenment also emphasized it,  Unfortunately it seems that few in the curia still respect the medievals, and there don't seem to be any there who respect the Enlightenment.  

The question is will Pope Francis open up the Church to such debate?  I have to admit I'm not at all  hopeful that he will -- he has often praised deciding issues on the basis of "heart" and scorned "intellect'.  Just what "heart" is has been historically problematic, I think, and without open discussion of *it* and its strengths and weaknesses we're not going to get very far.  

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