With the Pope being on the cover of the latest Rolling Stone cover with a 7,700-word article associated with it there have been various responses to it.
Much of the reaction has been similar to Pope Francis being named Time’s person of the year. That they like him because they think he is changing the Church at some fundamental level doctrinally. That if they really understood that he was truly a “son of the Church” they wouldn’t be very enthused about him.
The Rolling Stone article also has a contrast between Pope emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis that really sets up a straw-pontiff. The evil never-smiling staunch-traditionalist that is even compared to Freddy Kreuger; “he should be wearing a striped shirt with knife-fingered gloves and menacing teenagers in their nightmares.” A “disastrous pontificate” with no supporting evidence regarding this supplied. The language regarding Pope emeritus Benedict XVI is so over-the-top that Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi has strongly criticized it in this regard.
Whereas Pope Francis has a gentle voice and won’t judge anyone. Anywhere the Pope’s previous comments can be cast in the most unfortunate light they are. So you see the expected quotes pulled out by so many at odds with what the Church teaches. Plus this article contained this quite unfortunate comparison. “But Francis, like Bill Clinton, thrives on personal contact.” Yikes does the writer even realize what he is saying?
Still reacting to a Rolling Stone article on the Pope is mostly a waste of time as it is exactly what you would expect.
There has been much talk about the “Francis effect” and how those who are not practicing Catholics or even favorable towards the Church generally like Pope Francis. Part of this is that a seeming change in tone means an underlying change in doctrine. He seems like such a nice friendly guy that he really couldn’t believe in all those hard-sayings of Jesus and his Church. Many are drawn to likin him that they will broaden some specific statements that they interpet as liberal and then give him a pass if he mentions abortion since he is only throwing a bone to conservatives.
Some would critique the “Francis effect” as not a good thing since it might attract people to the Church with a totally false idea of what the Church is. Part of me is drawn to this critique since I am so tired of dissidents that bringing in another generation of them does not appeal to me. Yet I also reflect that any movement in the right direction is in fact a movement in the right direction. Any openness to truth can lead to more openness. God has worked with far less. The married couple that starts going to church because they had a child is not usually very well catechized, yet often God can work with this to bring them to a fuller understanding.
Have you ever read a conversion story where the person was already totally aligned with everything the Church had to teach? That the only thing they were lacking was becoming a member of the Church? We are all broken with various degrees of brokenness. Some will have less to repair, but we all need repair to become fully aligned with the Church and what God has in plan for us. A daily process with no end point in this life.
So I can’t say that “Here comes everybody” Catholicism delights me. I would be all for a smaller but more faithful Church where the members know their faith and act on it with total consistency. Plus I want that category to include me even though I don’t always fit that definition. I bet Moses would have been happier with a much smaller number of the faithful where they didn’t start building idols when he turned his back. Yet like the Israelites in the Exodus the Church is journeying towards the promised land and we can expect dissent and rebellions along the way. So while I long for the perfect Church that strangely also includes me I desire to welcome those to the Church drawn by Pope Francis or other means. Even if their journeying to the truth of what the Church teaches might include some time in the wilderness.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.