Being honest about Francis: one conservative’s reflection

A writer shares some reservations about the pope, and concludes:

I will be honest here: I really do not like liberal, secular Lefties. But our Lord forbids this to me. In some sense, yes, they are my “enemies” in this cultural battle. But the motivations we bring to that battle are critical. If I just want to “win” so I can “save babies” and so on, I am guilty of creating a spiritual fog in my soul, hiding in its obfuscating mist the deeper truth—nay, the deeper lie—that lurks there: I find these people annoying and I want to grind them into dust. Now I am not trying to put a halo on these types and say we should not engage them critically, but as Howsare said to me today, Francis is saying to us to just chill and be willing, like Christ, to speak the truth, but also to be willing to let the “other” do their worst to us without feeling like I have been wronged—to open ourselves to the martyrdom of truth and to enter into the joy of that—”My burden is easy, my yoke is light”.

Along these lines, I have to say that I have been harboring the guilty hope that this liberal honeymoon with Francis will soon be over and things will get back to normal as soon as they see he is “not one of them.” That will make me feel “vindicated” again and “right.” But why should any of us hope that they stop liking the Pope? Why should we not hope instead that this first acceptance of theirs of his message will bear fruit as their own hearts open to truths that they too will see they should be more willing to accept? So what if they like him for what we think are “the wrong reasons”? How are the Right-wing bloggers so certain that they don’t dislike him for all the wrong reasons? Why should we not hope that a new conversation can be started where, even if we still disagree, our common love for Christ and his Church will forge a new amity? Why should I hope they return to alienated distrust? This Pope is calling all of us out of our selfish and pinched pettiness. And God knows we all need to heed that call. I know I do. I am starting to think this Pope might actually be, indeed, a truly wise and holy man.

Finally, some of us have openly worried that Francis seems more than willing to allow this narrative of “rupture” with Pope emeritus Benedict to proceed without correction. He seems willing to allow the press to vilify Benedict. We are understandably protective of Benedict and defensive over attacks against him. But consider this: what if Francis has discussed this issue with Benedict and asked him for advice and Benedict told him to say nothing? Benedict is one of the most heroically humble Popes I have ever witnessed—a true saint of humility. And so he knows he resigned to make way for a new voice, a new message, a new approach. He cares about the Church, not himself or his “reputation”—vanity of vanities. He resigned under the tug of the Spirit and wants that Spirit to bear fruit. And he further knows that if Francis rushes in to defend Benedict, that the whole narrative will shift from a focus on the new start Francis represents and toward the “issue of Benedict.” I think Benedict would find such a focus horrifying. He may have even told Francis: “it is okay. Let them make me the bad guy. God knows who I am. And if making me the bad guy keeps the focus on your message of mercy then so be it.” Benedict, in other words, is perfectly willing to endure such persecution and to offer it up as part of his current vocation of prayer and penance for the Church and the world. I think such a scenario makes far more sense than the silly idea that Francis just does not give a damn about Benedict or JPII and is deliberately letting them get trashed in order to further his own agenda.

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