Ten Things to Remember if Pope Francis Upsets You

We’re foolish to believe the headlines and we’re even more foolish to believe the headlines that do nothing but feed our own negative bias. Example: a liberal who disliked Pope Benedict would gravitate towards headlines that portrayed him as God’s Rottweiler and Nazi Ratzi. They were false but the foolish person swallowed the headline because it reinforced his already existing bias. Do you dislike Francis? Are you gullible enough to pick up the negative headlines about Francis and believe them without listening to the whole story? Do you believe the headline without even reading the whole article? Then it’s your partially your fault.

Seven: Remember Francis is from Argentina. The church scene there is very different from the atmosphere in the USA and Europe. He surprises us in many ways. He surprises right wing conservative American Catholics with what seems to be left leaning economic positions. He surprises liberal Catholics with his emphasis on the devil and the battle against demons. He surprises those in the developed world with his passion for the poor and his ability to turn over some tables. This is part of his gift to the church: that he is an outsider and as such he surprises and disturbs. Isn’t that part of what the gospel should do? Its supposed to make us uncomfortable. Its supposed to make us re-examine our preconceptions, our self righteousness and our certain certainties. Isn’t that what Jesus did to the religious establishment? Sure it’s scary at times. So buckle your seat belt.

Eight: Remember that you don’t have to pay serious attention to every single word that falls from the mouth of the pope. He’s not some sort of divine oracle, and the more he talks informally to people, the more he’s likely to be misunderstood, make gaffes and be mis reported. It’s okay to shrug your shoulders and let him get on with being pope and for you to get on with your Catholic life of prayer, worship, study, service and the pursuit of sanctity. So be a good Catholic and don’t worry about the pope. Even if he’s a corrupt monster (and we’ve had some popes like that) the church goes on. The gates of hell will not prevail against her–and neither will the odd pope who doesn’t fit your ideal.

Nine: The Catholic Church is universal. It’s a very big family. Not everything or everyone will be to your taste. Speaking of taste–how much of your discomfort with Pope Francis is simply a matter of taste? Have you done your homework, read what he has really said, watched what he has really done? Has any of it actually contradicted formal church teaching? Is any of it heresy? No. Maybe you don’t like Pope Francis and maybe you actually think he’s a lousy pope. Maybe you think he could handle the media better and may be you worry about some of his opinions. So welcome to the muddled mystery that is the Catholic Church. If you want a church to your own liking I guess you better go join a sect because the Catholic Church is never going to be 100% what anybody likes. Somebody once asked me after I became a Catholic whether I “liked the Catholic Church.” I said, “No. I didn’t join the Catholic Church because I liked it. If I was joining a church I liked I’d still be an Anglican. I joined it because it was the true church.”

Ten: Remember, where else are you going to go? A Protestant sect? The Lefebvrists? The Eastern Orthodox? Start your own garage church? Furthermore, what good does it do to get all upset and huffy about the pope?  Are you going to elect a new one? All you will do is get yourself into a lather and for what? Be at peace. Pray about it. Get more involved in spreading the gospel with joy. Roll up your sleeves, get busy in serving the poor, building your parish, sharing your faith and be a Catholic alive in the Spirit and full of optimism, faith and the joy of Christ. If the present pope tries your faith and your patience, well then offer it up. There’s a chance to have a stronger faith in Christ and to grow a bit more patient.