Okay, I care–in the sense that I am interested. However, I have lived long enough to know that it’s impossible to predict what a newly elected pope will do. It’s like Supreme Court justices. Everybody gets all in a dizzy tizzy about every newly appointed justice–claiming he or she will do such-and-such. Generally speaking, it doesn’t turn out the way the “experts” predicted.
I’m vicariously excited for my Catholic brothers and sisters. But for myself, no, I’m not excited. The bishop of Rome does not represent me in any way. (I know Protestants, including Baptists, who look to the bishop of Rome as some kind of universal Christian cheerleader and spokesman. I don’t share their view.)
I take a wait and see approach to what this new Latin American pope will do. I hope he will give greater moral support to liberation theology. The last two have not. In fact, in my opinion, they have seriously misunderstood the mainstream liberation theologians and have tended to lump all liberation theologians together as dangerously Marxist. But how can one lump Jose Miranda together with Gustavo Gutierrez–as if they were the same about everything? They shared certain commitments, but their levels of influence by Marx were different.
What I would like to know is why the mass media make so much of the election of a new pope? They say he leads 1.2 billion Catholics. Well, I seriously doubt both “lead” and the number. How do they count Catholics? If it’s anything like the way the Southern Baptist Convention counts Southern Baptists, well, I’m doubtful of the number. (The SBC counts me as a Southern Baptist! I’ve never been one.)
I suspect that millions of Latin Americans are counted as Catholics just because they were baptized into the church even though they attend Pentecostal churches. The same is true, I believe, in places like the Philippines and many other traditionally Catholic countries.
I am old enough to remember when John Paul I was elected pope. (He served less than a year.) There was no media hype as there has been since the election of John Paul II. The hype then was because he was Polish. The hype the last time was because Josef Cardinal Ratzinger was controversial. This time some hype is justified because Francis is the first Latin American pope, but I think the media goes overboard– because there is the platform for it based on the previous two elections (and John Paul II’s popularity and death).
I offer my congratulations to my Catholic friends, but please don’t expect me to celebrate. I’m emotionally and spiritually indifferent about it–as I should be. I worry about Protestants who invest tremendous emotional and spiritual interest in the papacy.