The Pope of Hope?

The Pope of Hope?

Adrienne BoettingerMonday,21 September 2015

As our nation’s capital prepares for the pomp and circumstance of a papal visit (and I prepare to spend most of my week sitting in traffic), I’ve been thinking about Pope Francis and the sentiment he has inspired. To paraphrase eleventy gazillion pundits, the Pope has favorability ratings that the presidential candidates would sell their souls for. So everyone adores him, right?

Well, not so much on the right and it turns out not so much on the part of many traditional Catholics. His talk of climate change, specifically about the “planet being squeezed dry at every limit,” had soon-to-be-ex-candidate Rick Santorum saying the Pope should stick to theology and leave the environment to scientists (less than 2% of them) and politicians. Pope Francis’ emphasis on solving the problem of income inequality and “the idolatry of money” also isn’t super popular with many capitalists.

And then there’s the softer stance Pope Francis has taken on same-sex civil unions and abortion. These views are music to my bleeding-heart-liberal ears but it’s important to note that Francis isn’t changing any actual church teachings on these subjects. He still believes the sacrament of marriage is only between a man and a woman and though he’s worked to make annulments easier, divorcees who haven’t had an annulment aren’t back in the church’s good graces. And when it comes to abortion, what he has said hasn’t opened church doors for all the pro-choice among us. What he’s done is to say that during this papal “Year of Mercy,” if a woman who has had an abortion repents the sin, Catholic priests can forgive her.

Even the appearance of a softer stance with no change in church doctrine is too much for the more conservative in the Church and nowhere is that more the case than here in the United States. Although millions of the faithful (and even the non-practicing Catholics) are very excited for this Pope’s first trip to the U.S., some like the Archbishop of Philadelphia aren’t exactly singing Francis’ praises.

What does it all mean? I guess that answer is different for everyone. I think Pope Francis is a breath of fresh air and his messages of love and mercy are certainly ones we could stand hearing from a few more current (and future) world leaders. I don’t care as much for some of the doctrine behind those messages but that doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to listening to what he has to say, particularly when he addresses the U.S. Congress.

 

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