Among the most prominent criticisms thrown at Pope Francis is the charge that his alleged “ambiguity” on certain moral issues is dangerous to the Church and Her people—a complaint that seems to have reached its peak over Amoris Laetitia.
In fact, this characteristic has sent many Catholics, lay and religious, into a bit of a frenzy (some more than others), and has spawned numerous debates, blogs, and discussions on whether or not the Pope is in error.
Now, to those familiar with the Mackerel Snapper blog, it should come as no surprise that my opinion on the matter is a hard opposite to that of Francis’ dissenters. And I believe most of them have missed the point of the Pope’s ministry completely.
Francis is all about mercy and forgiveness—arguably the two most radical aspects of the Christian faith. And I think even his most hardcore critics can realize and, to some degree, respect this. The problem for many, however, is that when he speaks, he does so from a platform of mercy and empathy rather than one of hardline theology. And that bothers some people, because, at the end of the day, they want all aspects of the faith to come down to yes or no, black or white. They feel that by putting such a hard focus on mercy and forgiveness, the Pope is, at best, falling into relativism, or at worst, dismantling the long held moral truths of the Church.
But neither are true.
When discussing Francis, we have to remember two things. One, the Truth of the Church remains, no matter what. The Pope has not and cannot just change things. He cannot reverse what it is in place.
Secondly, and most importantly, we have to realize that the Pope doesn’t preach this message just to hear himself talk. He does so because he wants us to become more merciful. When he doesn’t respond to calls to “clarify” his points, it’s not out of spite or sin or error, it’s because he’s challenging us to actually think. To think beyond the binary of black and white. To not let an obsession with the rules blind us to those most in need of mercy, empathy, and forgiveness.
It’s uncomfortable and it’s complicated. Sometimes it can even be frustrating. But no one ever said this Christian thing was easy. Following Christ is full of challenges, and not always the ones we expect.