Monday, September 23, 2013

Pope or Protestant Televangelist?

A lot of people have heard about Pope Francis' recent interview with America magazine, but not everybody liked it. In response to the Washington Post's claim that Pope Francis is setting a new direction for the Church regarding sexuality in particular, one commenter complained:
God save us from Pope Joel Osteen [a popular Protestant televangelist]. 
...His Holiness sounds not so much like the leader of a 2,000 year institutions with a deeply complex theology so much as yet another politico bending with the trendy way the winds are blowing.  
 ...He can have it. If the Pope does not believe what his Faith teaches, why should I? If the Pope thinks it is all just nit-picky details, we can start picking all the nits to pieces until there is nothing left of the garment. Which is where this trendy and vapid Pope is headed.  
...The pope is NOT changing dogma, but in effect what he is offering is "have your cake and eat it too theology." Yes, we have all these rules, but we just won't talk about them if they get too inconvenient. The problem, of course, is that the rules are not an adjunct to, but rather are an integral part of, the Faith. 
Is Pope Francis really preaching the "God wants you to get rich" gospel of Joel Osteen or even the "God wants you to have great sex" gospel of Christopher West? Is this really a Pope who sees Christianity without the Cross?

Let's see what Pope Francis' interview actually said:
“Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” He stares at me in silence. I ask him if I may ask him this question. He nods and replies: “I ​​do not know what might be the most fitting description.... I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.
The pope continues to reflect and concentrate, as if he did not expect this question, as if he were forced to reflect further. “Yes, perhaps I can say that I am a bit astute, that I can adapt to circumstances, but it is also true that I am a bit na├»ve. Yes, but the best summary, the one that comes more from the inside and I feel most true is this: I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.”
Aren't we all, at heart, sinners whom the Lord has looked upon? Faith is a gift. Grace is a gift. Those of us who presume to be more Catholic than the Pope might want to ponder that. I'm not advocating papal idolatry here. The Pope isn't more important than God. But neither are our own preconceptions.

I've written previously about the disheartening battles between self-styled liberal and conservative Catholics in America. I did not convert from Protestantism expecting to enter a Church divided. Not all liberals are heretics and not all conservatives have forgotten God's mercy. We are simply blind men touching different parts of the elephant, unable to comprehend the whole without each other's help.

Pope Francis took a typical liberal approach when he said in the interview, “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. ... It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.” And yet he also reiterated the conservative position: "The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church."

Ironically, out of a more than 12,000 word interview, these comments about the "pelvic issues" have been reported on more than any others. This meme states it perfectly:

So, I encourage you to read the whole interview and form your own conclusions apart from anyone else's commentary.  And then fasten your seatbelts, folks, because we're in for a wild ride.


  1. Nice comments Karee! I find the conservative reaction to this surprising. In other places he's voiced his opposition to abortion, birth control, and homosexuality, yet they're saying these statements completely undermine everything he's said. I believe he's pointing out that we need to get to the root causes and quit dwelling on the symptoms of the problem with culture. We can't continue to fight point for point with the culture. It's a losing battle. Pope Francis wants people to understand that Jesus is the answer for the culture and conversion is the path to freedom. That undercuts all the arguments. We can't just be a Church that's about these points in a culture war. Counter arguments won't change people's hearts. We need to foster relationship and understanding.

    1. Thanks, Marc. In his interview, the Pope talks about laying the groundwork for historical change. In essence, looking beyond the present. No one who read the whole interview could call Pope Francis vapid and trendy, as that commenter did. The Pope presented himself as extremely knowledgeable on a wide range of topics. Extremely impressive!

  2. If the media think they can play the Pope like a cheezy cast member of the "vatican reality show" I think they will be sorely disappointed when he shows up on the set with a script written by Matthew Mark Luke & John .And that he wants to replace their 'Director' with his Creator.

  3. That's right, Karee. Enjoy the ride! Haven't read the article yet, but our pope might be hoping that some people might not talk so much about the wrong behaviors and have unfriendly faces, and when actually with people, focus on being a friendly and loving presence.

    By the way, God really spoke to me the other Sunday. It seems funny, sometimes, but, hey-this IS the word of God, isn't it? We hear that it is the word of God and hear it often for years, but it goes over our heads in this modern world sometimes. GOD REALLY SPOKE TO ME. He has provided a whole book for this reason! That was a great idea! Not that I don't want to hear his voice, but....sometimes, it is like an "aha" moment. Sometimes it is just at the right time that you need to hear it. Love it.

    Back to the issue: Remember to dine with the sinner, as Jesus did, as we were reminded a Sunday reading ago. Also, we should be merciful, too, as the first and second readings speak. Paul reminded us that he was arrogant and persecuting Christians at first, but God was merciful to him because he did not understand. In the first reading, God relented to Moses and did not wipe out the misbehaving Israelites in the desert, so we should be merciful, too. They were good readings that day, which I took to heart!

    1. Yes, I think Pope Francis really wants us to be a people of mercy.

  4. Thanks for this great post Karee. I have heard the most amuzing, sometimes hostile, comments about our dear Pope since the interviews. It is so sad that the media takes advantage of any opportunity to create a drama. I love our Pope and support him 100 percent. I agree, I believe he wants us to be a people of mercy. Again, thanks for covering this issue so nicely. I look forward to reading more of your blogposts. God bless you and your family.