Why the Pope Bothers Me

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2489534

I hear accolades of wonder and amazement every time we see the pope reaching out to the poor, washing feet of addicts, maintaining his vow of poverty, or telling us that the church should be more welcoming and forgiving. None of our gratitude goes undeserved and it is well placed towards these acts of love. The hope of reconciliation of the Catholic church, with the world, and with the East is something that should evoke thanksgiving for all Christians.

But it bothers me.

The positive reception of Francis is not unlike a person with an acute illness who has just been given hope that a new treatment will heal her. People don’t need treatment for sickness they don’t have.

It’s too easy to point to the hope of healing the Catholic church and the world from decades of financial mismanagement and the evil horrors of sexual abuse and pedophilia. We can too easily be dismissive, sit back, and say, “Praise God! They can fix their problems!”

The truth is that we are all sick. The genuine acts of love we hear and see from this pope reveal to all of us what spiritual healing looks like. But in that, we also see just how sick we are as people, cultures, and societies. With the number of school shootings, latest celebrity failures, consistent flow of violence and sexual dysfunction in the media, and our overall nastiness and cynicism in our ways of being with one another, we sometimes lose our ability to respond to others with love and compassion. When this happens, the mere sight of love and compassion is almost jarring to our messed up sensibilities.

Pope Francis bothers me, but not because of what we see him doing in his acts of compassion with others. What he is doing is not great at all. Each Christian is expected to do just as much. The fact that we see these acts as a great achievement is troubling. It is a signal that something is very wrong in the world. Pope Francis is showing us not only what love looks like, but he is showing us just how unloving the world has become.

That makes sense in that Christianity is a religion based on the fact that when God came to visit humanity, humanity decided it was best to kill Him.

The good news is that the Resurrection gives us hope. We do not have to be sick. We can choose little acts of compassion that will makes us and others well. Just seeing Pope Francis kiss the head of a diseased man is spiritually nourishing to us. How much more spiritually nourishing is it to our neighbors to do one nice thing today.

  • Leonard Swidler

    Dear Andrew, your piece on what troubles you about Pope Francis reminds me of a book reviewer who spends his time writing about the book the author had written, instead of writing about the one he did write. In other words, your words here are beside the point, hence, worthless. That is the difficulty with “pessimists,” which at least here you qualify as such–they tend to engage in self-fulfilling negative prophecies. Len Swidler, Temple University

    • http://mindsquirrel.com/ Andrew Tatusko, Ph.D.

      The point here is what I have seen only after I wrote this. Find it with the tag #popecrush. With all do respect it is ironic to find a response opposing something that sounds pessimistic with what sounds to me like a very pessimistic response having little to nothing to do with the content of the post itself. Strike you odd as well?

      Perhaps you did not read the last paragraph which I quote here. “The good news is that the Resurrection gives us hope. We do not have to be sick. We can choose little acts of compassion that will makes us and others well. Just seeing Pope Francis kiss the head of a diseased man is spiritually nourishing to us. How much more spiritually nourishing is it to our neighbors to do one nice thing today.”

      Hardly pessimistic.

      • Tim

        With all “due” respect…

  • jenny

    I like this article. And I like the picture with the Pope kissing the man head.

  • Vacy

    I agree fully with “Pope Francis bothers me, but not because of what we see him doing in his acts of compassion with others. What he is doing is not great at all. -’ but not for same reasons. This is what popes should have been doing for centuries – not the unChristlike pomp and circumstance. In this respect Pope Francis is radical i.e. living from the roots of Christ’s teachings.

  • Nan

    @Vacy, popes have been doing this the whole time. Venerable Pius XII went out into the streets of Rome to comfort the afflicted during war; he also opened Castel Gandolfo to save Jews, and had thousands housed in convents, monasteries and churches. The head Rabbi of Rome converted and took Eugenio as his baptismal name. This is but one example of how a pope lived the beatitudes.

    @Andrew, you’re Orthodox. You don’t have to pay attention to the pope. Orthodoxy has its share of financial mismanagement and pedophilia. The Church is just a bigger target as so many don’t know that Orthodox churches exist, nor do they have one universal leader.

    • http://mindsquirrel.com/ Andrew Tatusko, Ph.D.

      Nan, I think we do need to pay attention to the Pope. Rome is one of the seats of Christianity and is held by the largest Christian communion in the world. We ought pay attention to all of Christianity.

  • Michael P. Daniel

    Very well stated, Andrew. I am sorry to say that as refreshing as I found Francis to be, now I have more work to do myself! Thank you for this perspective. Now he bothers me as well!!

  • Tim

    I’m encouraged by Pope Francis, but discouraged by all the adulation he receives. The media could barely contain their excitement: “Wow, he actually lowered himself to ride the bus!” and similar sentiments. I’m waiting to hear, “Breaking news- Pope Francis chooses to breathe in and out, just like the rest of us!” The fact that we put ANYBODY on a spiritual pedestal is the real problem. Unfortunately, all of the silly titles- Father, Your Eminence, Metropolitan, His Holiness, etc…, only exacerbate the problem. I have (mostly) lost my religious faith, but I still understood what Jesus was talking about when he railed against the religious folks making a show of their piety. The real saints are the ones we never even know exist. Picture an adult wiping the a** of a severely retarded, cerebral palsy sufferer living in an institution. Now picture this same adult doing this same act of love day in and day out for years and years. Don’t hold your breath waiting to hear about that on the evening news. Simply put, it’s much easier to focus on the supposed importance of men who wear silly hats than to actively love yourself and others.

  • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

    Andrew – as a fellow Orthodox, let me say, ‘Lighten up, already!” A good Pope is good for the Church, and this Pope is making waves, and the right kind of waves.

    Remember, the ‘One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church’ may no longer be in communion with the Bishop of Rome (the Pope), but he nonetheless represents catholicity to the world.

    Through his dynamic love, we are seeing Roman Catholics returning to church, and hopefully we will see others, such as the millions of ‘Nones’ in America today, find their way home to the ancient faith, too.


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