Both left and right need to wake up. Francis is, at his heart, a spiritual leader. His mission may have political implications, but he has come to serve God, not advance the platform of the Democratic Party — and it’s presumptuous to imagine otherwise. Even in discussions of economic inequality, Francis sees the primacy of the faith: “I am firmly convinced that openness to the transcendent can bring about a new political and economic mindset, which would help to break down the wall of separation between the economy and the common good of society,” he writes in “Evangelii Gaudium.” Oh, my: Sounds like Francis believes in trickle-down transcendence.
If Francis is a radical, it is like this: By speaking the language of the common person in the year 2013, in his awareness of the inspirational power of grand, symbolic gestures, through his call for everyday Catholics to embrace the simple, radical, mandates of their baptism, Francis is awakening a world that was becoming dead to Christianity. If he’s breaking new ground, it’s because he’s discovered an effective way to call people to Christ.
Quoting Pope Benedict, Francis declares that “being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” And that person is God.
Don’t worry if you’ve misread Francis till now, or projected your own political projects or fears onto him. Francis, after all, attends confession every two weeks. He believes in repentance.
Go and sin no more.