Ultimately, I am a pragmatist.
People occasionally say to me, “I don’t believe in divorce.” I respond, “Then I must not exist.”
In other words, you may not like divorce, but not believing in it is not one of the options. Divorce exists. Deal with it.
I’m not a fan of the papacy. I think that bureaucracies and hierarchies are bad for the gospel. I think they’re anti-gospel.
Nevertheless, I’m a realist. The Catholic Church is one-half of the world’s Christians, and that church has a pope. So, whether I like it or not, that one celibate dude has a lot of cultural cachet — how people see him will affect how they understand the religion that I practice.
Yes, I was cynical last week. Why is it huge news that a Christian leader paid his hotel bill? Shouldn’t that be the standard?
But as the days have progressed in Pope Francis’s tenure, it seems that his humility and generosity are neither a gimmick nor a fluke. His choice of shoes show more austerity than his predecessor. He has repeatedly stopped his topless popemobile to dismount and greet and bless people (I register my discomfit with this below). And he’s asked the masses to pray for him — actually stopping his sermon for an extended pause. It’s as though he actually wanted them to pray for him! And his sermons and speeches are filled with beautiful rhetoric that matches the Christianity that I attempt to practice, like this:
“Let us never forget that authentic power is service.”
I firmly believe that all human beings are ontologically the same. One human being does not have the power or authority to “bless” another human being, unless that blessing is seen as a mutual act that could just as easily go back the other way. That’s not SOP in Catholicism, where clergy are granted the ability to perform certain functions (e.g., perform sacraments) that emanate from a place of ontological priority. I unconditionally reject that notion as sinful, reprehensible, and ultimately responsible for all sorts of institutional misogyny and abuse.
That being said, I appreciate both the actions and the words of Pope Francis, for he seems to be subtly subverting the ontological priority that his system assumes he has.