Many conservative Catholics are experiencing a range of negative feelings about Pope Francis. When a headline screams that he stated that 2% of Catholic clergy are pedophiles, that he “promises to solve the celibacy problem” that he doesn’t want to convert Evangelicals or that he doesn’t judge a homosexual who “searches for the Lord and has goodwill” they experience confusion, anger, resentment, bewilderment and fear.
Some have given up on Pope Francis. Others say he is “the false prophet” who will accompany the anti Christ in the end times. Others don’t like his dress sense, grumble about his media gaffes and some think they are all intentional and that he is a very shrewd Jesuit who wants to undermine the Catholic faith. The sensationalism doesn’t do any good. These folks should step back and realize they are (in their own way) being just as sensational about Pope Francis as liberals were about Pope Benedict when they called him “God’s Rottweiler” or “Nazi Ratzi” and said he was a closet homosexual and a hater of women.
So if Pope Francis upsets you–and by the way–I’ve had my own moments of head scratching over Francis–here are ten things to remember which help put things in perspective and maintain some balance.
The first thing to remember is that he is the pope. He is not going to change Catholic doctrine or moral teaching. He can’t and he knows that. He may be a “reformer” but there’s only so much he can do. His statement on women priests is an indicator of that: “The door is closed to women’s ordination.”
The second thing to remember is that we have been blessed for the last thirty years with two stellar popes. Most of us don’t remember any other kind of papacy. Both Pope St John Paul II and Benedict XVI have been men of outstanding holiness, intellectual accomplishment, courage and perception, and they were very much bookends. They supported one another. Francis is different, and if he is not their equal in those attributes, he has other strengths. Instead of criticizing him for what he’s not we should be loving him for who he is.
The third thing to remember is that Popes come and go. Each one brings different gifts and different personalities to the papacy. God knows what he’s doing, and if a particular pope challenges your faith…well faith isn’t much good unless it’s challenged. What kind of faith is it it is nothing but certainty and confidence all the time? Think of St Peter walking on the water. That’s faith.
Fourth: is your faith in Jesus Christ and the faith of the church or is it in the pope? Catholics should love the pope, but they should love Jesus more. If one pope comes along who you find difficult to love and understand, take heart. You weren’t supposed to love him that much anyway. It’s okay to love the pope, but those who blame Catholics for idolizing the pope? Well, sometimes they have a point.
Fifth: Check out the times in which we live. With modern social media, every conversation can become a global headline. This is a pope who loves people and relates to them. Here is a pope who connects with people, talks with people, shares with people and embraces people. When this happens there is a multitude of communication risks that take place. The pope says “X” but the person hears “Y” and reports “Z”. Hasn’t this ever happened to you? You’ve had a conversation and it was reported to a third or fourth party and you shriek, “But that’s not what I said!” The only way to avoid this is for the pope to be a silent figurehead in the apostolic palace just waving to people and never saying anything except in a formal papal statement. Maybe some people think this is what the pope should be, and some popes have been content to be that sort of figurehead. Not Francis.
Six: Media people love to write attention grabbing headlines and they know conflict sells. People love to read the gossip. They love to read the scandal. They love to pick up on the negativities. If a sour person can put a negative and shocking headline on a story he will. That’s life. Read More.