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.

  • http://roguemedic.com/ Rogue Medic

    Each probably considers the other to be too liberal. (Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh)


  • http://roguemedic.com/ Rogue Medic

    Locus Perantis,

    It’s must irk you terribly to see a successful and incredibly popular Catholic win this honor even though he did not seek it.

    Did I miss the election for Time’s Person of the Year, again.

    All of that campaigning and someone who did not officially declare candidacy was the winner!!11!!!


  • http://roguemedic.com/ Rogue Medic

    I am more of an optimist.

    I do realize that religion does have that potential, but I think that there are many religious people who would oppose that and have the gravitas to be listened to by the religious.


  • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    He’s done nothing except smile and pretend, deflecting criticism. I’ll believe he’s not as evil as all popes when he does something substantive. I’m not holding my breath.

  • Pseudonym

    I’m skeptical that doctrine has never changed in sixteen hundred years.

    Are you serious? Roman Catholicism is virtually unrecognisable compared to 1600 years ago.

  • Anna

    What makes you think it’s irksome? He’s newly famous and has attracted a lot of media attention this year. I’d be surprised if he wasn’t one of the top people considered. And by the way, being selected person of the year doesn’t mean you’re being given an “honor.” Previous selections have included such notorious people as Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Ayatollah Khomeini, and Vladimir Putin.

  • Anna

    There are some women that have been ordained into the Catholic church. I believe I read that the ordinations were valid though the men that performed them could be (and possibly were) excommunicated.

    It’s been a while, but there were details here:


  • Keulan

    Time magazine should have picked someone who’s actually done something for its Person of the Year. Pope Francis hasn’t done a damn thing to change Catholic doctrine or policy. He holds the same bigoted, backwards views as Benedict XVI. Francis is just much better at PR than his predecessor ever was.

  • audreydc1983

    How are they convinced? Like just about every believer is. Fear always trumps reason. Probably fear of death – or what happens after it.

    Plus, there’s the warm-and-fuzzy afterlife where you get to spend eternity with the whole gang (the threat of that itself would urge me to beg whatever god I wound up being judged by to send me to Hell instead).

    …and the reassurance that someone is watching over your life and helping you out (which I still find creepy, but some people find it reassuring anyway).

    Fear. It’s a terrific motivator.

  • dandaman

    “It wasn’t until I went to college (at a top engineering/science university) that, after months of independent study, I came to the conclusion that the Catholic faith is true.” Exactly what was it you learned in science that swayed you to the ludicrous?

  • Neko

    Right. I just can’t keep the Catholic taxonomy of truth straight. Doctrine? Dogma? Discipline?

    Never did make it to confirmation class.

  • Pofarmer

    “that, after months of independent study, I came to the conclusion that the Catholic faith is true.”

    That’s interesting, because I came to the exact opposite conclusion.

  • TheG

    Lots of people do. These days, it is many more that come to your conclusion than Joey’s.

    Must be something in the water.

  • TheG

    “Pope Paul VI stepped in as protector of Church doctrine. That’s what Popes do.”

    No, Paul stepped in to protect the Church doctrine as he saw it. These were two sets of men debating their opinions and human worldviews, not mathematicians trying to decide if 2 + 2 = 4.

  • TheG

    Catholics don’t know that much about their faith. I came to the right conclusion right away.

  • joey_in_NC

    But those are not Christians according to doctrine.

    That’s a debate on semantics. Though, the official position of the CC is that Protestant denominations are not to be considered “churches”.

    According to doctrine, the RCC is the one, holy, catholic, apostolic church. (The “Four Marks” of the Church, as I’m sure you well know.)

    Technically, you have to take away the ‘R’ in ‘RCC’. There are Catholic Churches in the Eastern Rites, that are in full communion with Rome.

    And the Catholic Church also considers the Eastern Orthodox Churches as apostolic churches as well, with valid orders and sacraments.

    …were to take a turn you didn’t like (as you indicated fairly vehemently)

    Just to be clear, it’s not that a ‘turn’ in a particular direction is what I wouldn’t ‘like’, but rather a drastic turn in any direction is what would be very problematic. In all honesty, I think the doctrine of the existence of hell is very troubling. I would much rather prefer to think there was no such thing, and that everyone who ever existed goes to heaven. But that is contrary to the Gospels. That is contrary to Church Teaching and Tradition since the time of the Apostles. If the Catholic Church now suddenly declares, “Nope, we got it all wrong, there really is no hell. Our bad.”…then everything else the Church teaches would be completely suspect. What other beliefs have they gotten wrong? If some drastic change in doctrine happened such as this, then in all honesty, I would not only ditch Catholicism, but Christianity entirely.

  • joey_in_NC

    My engineering studies had really nothing to do with my conversion, which is kinda the point. I added that factoid to point out that I didn’t attend a Catholic college nor did I study theology/religion that aided in my (re)conversion, but rather it was my own independent study.

  • Neko

    The popes have said hell is not a place, but a condition.

  • The Starship Maxima

    (mutters under breath) Dammit, she’s done it again.Refuting stuff with logic and truth. Shit.

  • http://roguemedic.com/ Rogue Medic

    Nobody needs to know anything about any religious doctrine.

    Rejection of the supernatural is natural.

    Rejection of the supernatural is logical.

    Where is the evidence that any magic occurs?

    If these Gods Magicians are so interested in fairness and honesty, why are they so bad at demonstrating any of what they are supposed to preach?

    Why are they so incompetent at communication that thousands of different sects can point to the same God and claim that their version is the Goldilocks God?

    Why is an unchanging God so affected by geography?


  • Pofarmer

    I’ve got a feeling Joey’s conclusion is a mixture of guilt and peer pressure.

  • Pofarmer

    “What other beliefs have they gotten wrong? If some drastic change in
    doctrine happened such as this, then in all honesty, I would not only
    ditch Catholicism, but Christianity entirely.”

    You need to read a little history, but I doubt that would do it either.

  • joey_in_NC

    I’ve got a feeling Joey’s conclusion is a mixture of guilt and peer pressure.

    Definitely not peer pressure, considering pretty much all my friends, family, and classmates have gone the other route.

  • Carmelita Spats

    They want to “root out” the inclination as “an objective disorder”…I’m sick and tired of the Roman Criminal Church’s bigotry and insufferable depravity. This has NO place in a civilized society…

    “Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.”


  • Little_Magpie

    And the Catholic Church also considers the Eastern Orthodox Churches as
    apostolic churches as well, with valid orders and sacraments.

    And vice versa, I think. My brother and sister-in-law are both converts to Orthodoxy (specifically Greek). He had to have an adult baptism (having been raised very loosely Jewish); she didn’t, having been baptised Catholic. To be slightly irreverant, it seems like “transfer credits” between universities or something.