Beauty and Ugliness

The other day, Pope Francis welcomed a severely disfigured man and kissed him.

At almost the same time this was happening, yet another Reactionary was complaining on FB about the huge problem and danger this man is and complaining about various people who, like me, love this man deeply.  At one point he rolled his eyes in sarcastic disgust and declared that if Maloney (he meant Cardinal Mahony) were pope we would defend whatever *he* did too.

It was an epic illustration of the incredible lack of discernment that has irked me from the start of the Francis-bashing.  Somebody who says something like this is not, contrary to his assumption, offensive to me because I believe every jot and tittle, every slightest thought and deed of the pope–any pope–is beyond question.  It is offensive to me because you frankly have to be not just a moral imbecile, but stone blind, not to be able to tell the difference between a corrupt prelate like Mahony, marinating in wealth, corruption, deceit and vain egoism, and the man in the picture above, who has served his flock faithfully, lived modestly and shown more pastoral care for the least of these in his little finger than Mahony has demonstrated in his whole body.

It does not take a blind devotion to ultramontanism to grasp this elementary distinction.  It only takes the sense God gave a goose.  All the world can see it in a picture like the one above.  And yet, in one subculture in the Church, one regularly runs into the dark suspicion that this pope is one of the gravest threats the gospel faces, that he is morally indistinguishable from Mahony, and that anybody who defends the proposition that he is a beautiful witness to the faith is a lickspittle ultramontanist who is blind to the terrible threat he poses.

It’s that sort of massive and incredible lack of discernment that is far uglier than anything in that picture.

I love this man, not because he is the pope and incapable of sin or error, but because he is obviously, beautifully, plainly a very good man.  And this photo shows why.  He inspires me and puts me to shame.  There is nobody on the world stage who champions Christ as he does in this hour.  That Reactionaries have spent the time since his election busying themselves with judgment, complaint, accusation, and handwringing and not with listening and learning is a judgment entirely on them, not him.  Enough already.  Look. Learn. Imitate.  We’ve been given an astonishing gift in this man–one well beyond our desserts. Let say thank you to God and then look around for something good to do, as he does.

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