Pope Francis Named Time’s Person of the Year, Despite Not Changing the Direction of the Church

Time magazine announced this morning that its Person of the Year was Pope Francis:

But what makes this Pope so important is the speed with which he has captured the imaginations of millions who had given up on hoping for the church at all. People weary of the endless parsing of sexual ethics, the buck-passing infighting over lines of authority when all the while (to borrow from Milton), “the hungry Sheep look up, and are not fed.” In a matter of months, Francis has elevated the healing mission of the church — the church as servant and comforter of hurting people in an often harsh world — above the doctrinal police work so important to his recent predecessors. John Paul II and Benedict XVI were professors of theology. Francis is a former janitor, nightclub bouncer, chemical technician and literature teacher.

The Church finally found a way to shine a shit. But is Pope Francis deserving of the title?

Maybe it’s because I’m an atheist, but I can see through the façade. I’m not taken in by his rhetoric because I know the Church hasn’t made any substantive changes in policy or belief. Abortion in all cases is still a sin. Homosexuality is still a damnable offense. Celibacy for priests is still mandated. Condoms are still part of the problem, not the solution. Women still cannot become priests (or Pope, for that matter). Catholic-owned businesses still don’t want to provide comprehensive health care for their employees. The Church’s sex scandals are still coming to light.

Time admitted as much:

Francis signals great change while giving the same answers to the uncomfortable questions. On the question of female priests: “We need to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman.” Which means: no. No to abortion, because an individual life begins at conception. No to gay marriage, because the male-female bond is established by God. “The teaching of the church … is clear,” he has said, “and I am a son of the church, but” — and here he adds his prayer for himself — “it is not necessary to talk about those issues all the time.”

That’s true; you don’t have to shine a light on those issues all the time (*cough*Bill Donohue*cough*), but you can’t ignore them either. There are too many problems within the Church and having the Pope at the helm doesn’t seem to make people want to return to the pews. (Also not helping: The fact that Catholic beliefs are just plain untrue. The wafer is still just a wafer, my friends.)

If Pope Francis can help fix some of the problems within the Church, he will be deserving of all the honors people want to throw his way. Until then, he’s just a friendly face on a vile institution.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • momtarkle

    FYI: Miley Cyrus was a runner-up for Time’s person of the year.

    • https://soundcloud.com/eddieboydmusic flyb

      And this pretty much nails it.

  • Art_Vandelay

    Meanwhile, every other person on the planet that claims to speak for the creator of 950 trillion light years of space and time is in an asylum eating Xanax through a Pez dispenser.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    Wait? This can not possibly be true, — not in this day and age. There is no way, that such an arcane, obsolete institution should exist much less be news worthy. This must be a prank post. Are you serious? Time magazine still exists?!

    • Pepe

      Well Joe Klein certainly does

  • Whitney

    So they’re saying that his “big difference” is that he’s popular?

    Wow. I have never missed high school less.

    • Neko

      Glib. In the interest of accuracy, this is what TIME said:

      In a matter of months, Francis has elevated the healing mission of the church — the church as servant and comforter of hurting people in an often harsh world — above the doctrinal police work so important to his recent predecessors.

      That is the “big difference.”

      • TychaBrahe

        Whose life has it changed?

        I hear a lot of rhetoric, but whose life is better because Francis was appointed Pope?

        I realize this is a global thing, and what I’m seeing is highly US-focused, but Edith Windsor and the SCOTUS decision that gutted DOMA has already changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of gays and lesbians in the US.

        • Neko

          Whose life has it changed?

          Good question. I don’t know. I’m not making an argument for Francis, just pointing out what TIME actually said.

          I agree that Edith Windsor and the SCOTUS decision is a historic, humane development. It would be great if Francis could change the Church’s position on homosexuality, among other things, but I don’t know how much discretion he has to do so. I keep meaning to find out more about it.

  • God’s Starship

    Just a reminder, the title of Person of the Year isn’t necessarily a compliment. I think that he should actually reform something before we start calling him the reform pope. The fundamentalist Catholics in America are just as repulsive as ever. His shiny happy smile hasn’t made a bit of difference over here yet. Sure, he’s better than the last guy, but we all know how low he set the bar.

  • http://nwrickert.wordpress.com/ Neil Rickert

    Time Magazine announces “we want more Catholics to subscribe”.

    • https://soundcloud.com/eddieboydmusic flyb

      The sales boost for this single magazine alone will probably set them straight for a couple more years.

    • SeekerLancer

      It would vastly improve their current subscription base which includes doctor’s offices and nobody.

  • Katarn

    Lets not forget that Mythbusters proved to us that it isn’t all the difficult at all the polish shit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiJ9fy1qSFI

  • The Captain

    The whole “Time’s Person of the Year” is a joke anyway. It used to be a least somewhat legit back when Time stood by the idea behind it, and would pick the person who actually influenced the news the most that year. But in the last 20 years or so it has morphed into a kinda “award” that can only be given to “good” or “interesting” people. Not the person who actually influenced the news that year.

    And you know, I actually don’t blame Time for this one. This one falls on the loud, idiotic, mouth breathers in the US public that think the “person of the year” is some kind of newsmakers grammy, and can only be given to “good” people (“good” being defined by the US right wing media). The idiots who freaked the fuck out over the idea Bin Laden would have been chosen. Even though he WAS the person who most influenced the news that year. Just for the bad. So yea, now Time just goes with safe (although the business press may freak out over the pope) pick of some news celebrity which the pope fits fine. Even though Greenwald is right, it should have been Snowden.

  • baal

    The wafer is a corporation.

  • Darren

    Yeah, reminds me of President Obama winning the Nobel for… uh… not being George W. Bush.
    Also, check out the amusing location of the “M” in Time – first glance looks very like devil horns…

  • SeekerLancer

    Never underestimate the power of a good public relations campaign, which in reality is all Pope Francis is.

  • Andrew Kilian


  • Damon Icke

    Just shows how easily fooled most people are. Pope Francis smiles more and he doesn’t look like Emperor Palpatine. Sounds like reform to me. Give the fella an award.

  • Steve Barry

    Just a PR guy.