Why the Pope Matters – Or Not!

Protestants and Catholics alike are talking about whether the new pope matters. Here’s why Suzanne and Adam think the pope matters. What do you think? Share your opinion below.

 

Suzanne says:

Pope Francis I appears on the central balcony at the Vatican. (Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Pope Francis I appears on the central balcony at the Vatican. (Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

The moment swamps my cynicism: the new pope on the balcony, greeting the people in the square who gathered in hope, daring to love him just because he’s the pope. It’s a moment that breeches the defenses of my heart and overwhelms my better judgment. From my Catholic childhood, I learned a deep love and respect for the pope as father and shepherd. In childhood it was so easy to believe that his love for me was pure and unconditional. I, of course, was unaware that others were excluded from that love. As an adult, the Church’s many small and large failures to love fully and completely all of God’s creation drove me from the fold. To tell the truth, having lived a dutifully adult, cynical and Protestant life for more than thirty years, I continue to miss being loved benevolently from afar. I can’t recapture my childhood innocence, and I do not wish to return to childhood ignorance, but on the day of white smoke, when the new Pope faces the people in mutual love, I am a child again, yearning to be loved completely, as I am, with my failures and faults. And I dare to wish that this human father will dare, as God intends, to adopt us all.

 

Adam says:

Pope Francis I. As a Protestant, why should I care about him? Well, he is the new leader of 1.2 billion of my fellow Christians – and he has a lot of work to do. Like the man he apparently models himself after, Saint Francis of Assisi, God is calling him to “rebuild my Church.” That’s a big job. And it’s not just Catholics that are counting on him to do that; this Protestant is counting on him, too. As far as I’m concerned, we are in this together. The sex scandal that tragically plagues the Catholic Church is bigger than the Catholic Church. It’s indicative of a tragic restlessness within every human heart and our need for transformation. Saint Francis was known for a radical transformation of his heart. He was born into wealth and struggled with the restlessness of human desire. He gave it all up for the love of God and of his fellow human beings, especially the marginalized of human society. The Early Rule of St. Francis claims, “They should be glad to live among social outcasts, among the poor and helpless, the sick and the lepers, and those who beg by the wayside.” I know Cardinal Bergoglio wasn’t perfect and there is some controversy about his leadership in Argentina. None of us is perfect, and I don’t expect Pope Francis I to be perfect, either. But I do pray for Pope Francis, that he will live not by a desire for perfection, but by faith. That he will faithfully pattern himself after Saint Francis and do the hard work of rebuilding God’s Church. In doing so, Pope Francis will model for all Christians the life of faith, love, and holiness that God is calling all of us to live into.

Does the pope matter to you? Why or why not?

18 replies
  1. Marie De Carlo
    Marie De Carlo says:

    I liked both Suzanne’s and Adams thoughts on the new pope! Though I was a devout Roman Catholic from childhood to adulthood, I have strayed in recent years.I think the humble new pope can do a lot in bringing the strays back!

    Reply
  2. Tiago Cadedo
    Tiago Cadedo says:

    As a catholic from São Paulo and James Alison’s friend (I guess he would allow me to say that, since i’ve been in his house once to talk about religion), i’m tempted to fall in a trap.

    You know, i’m a great fan of Alison’s theology, and i think several changes should be attempted by the magisterium in order to rethink the homossexual thing and all…The temptation to me now is to think that only a pope that would endorse such thing would be a good one.

    I do hope the chuch may come to reconsider sexual morality in the future, but i have to see the bigger picture, and this pope seems to me very appropriate in several aspects, mainly for his direct approach on the poor. (As a latinamerican, i consider this the higher of all priorities nowdays)

    All things considered, my answer would be “yes, the pope does matter”, and in this case, it matters for the best.

    Reply
    • Adam Ericksen
      Adam Ericksen says:

      I’m tempted by the trap, too, Tiago. I was hoping for a pope that would be more open to rethinking the Church’s stance on homosexuality. Who knows where he will go, but his past comments don’t give me much hope. This leads me to a question – how do you avoid falling into that trap? Is it by saying no pope is perfect – and emphasizing his leadership in his approach to the poor?

      Thanks for your comment.

      Peace,
      Adam

      Reply
  3. John Morley
    John Morley says:

    I can’t get that enthusiastic. They need the real St francis spirit to shine through they need someone who will be seen to take responsibly and show real humility on the world stage. The pope needs to do more than look after his own and protect questionable tradition. I’ ll be surprised if he does but I hope he does.

    Reply
    • Adam Ericksen
      Adam Ericksen says:

      Cautiously optimistic. That’s where I’m at, John. We could all use a little more St Francis, so in the short term I’m glad the name is drumming up renewed interest in the Saint. Given Bergoglio’s history of asceticism there’s hope Pope Francis will continue with humility and caring for the poor. As far as protecting questionable tradition, we’ll see what happens.

      Take care,
      Adam

      Reply
  4. Andrew Marr
    Andrew Marr says:

    If the new pope energizes the Church (that includes all of us Christians) in solidarity with the poor, this will be a great leap forward for all Christians and many more things (including areas where we’re hoping for changed attitudes) will change as a result. You can’t juggle the system and have ANY pieces fall back in their old places.

    Reply
    • Adam Ericksen
      Adam Ericksen says:

      That’s a great article, Andrew! Thanks for sharing it. Yes. I don’t know how the Church/Christians can stand with marginalized people while at the same time marginalize people! Seems like an untenable position to me.

      Reply
      • Emily Riemer
        Emily Riemer says:

        I agree with Tiago’s point about the need to address poverty around the world. Still, as you all say, there are 21st-century social and moral stances to consider, including the Church’s positions on homosexuality. Perhaps Pope Francis’s touted humility will lead him to quietly reconsider the viability of these traditional positions. Only time will tell — but I agree with Adam, I’m hopeful!

        Reply
  5. Katie ericksen
    Katie ericksen says:

    Love reading your thought Adam! You are much more optimistic than I am. The Pope seems so far removed from my own spiritual practice on a daily basis as a Catholic. I hold my breath and wonder if our new pope will lead much needed changes in our church. I know change is hard no matter what, and it is slow work at any level.

    Reply
    • Adam Ericksen
      Adam Ericksen says:

      I know, Katie. Carrie and I had a pretty long conversation about it yesterday. From my perspective, there are things to love about Francis. His concern for the poor and outcasts is genuine. But his previous statements about homosexuality/gay marriage/adoption is very concerning. His first homily as pope emphasized how the Church must carry a cross, otherwise, it’s not the Church. That I think is a powerful statement and could be a slight criticism of the past Church. The thing is, when you carry your own cross, your hands are full. You can’t put others on a different cross. In other words, you can’t identify with the marginalized while at the same time marginalizing people. I may be stretching, but there’s a pastoral presence about Francis that has me cautiously optimistic.

      Reply
  6. Andrew McKenna
    Andrew McKenna says:

    New pope/old news? I remember a remark from a very canny theologian of my acquaintance may years back, to the effect that the Roman Church would have had a much more difficult time with Saint Francis than with Martin Luther, had the former popped up in 16th-century Europe. So we can be hopeful about THAT legacy.

    Reply
    • Adam Ericksen
      Adam Ericksen says:

      Andrew – that’s a very interesting thought about Francis and Luther. Makes some sense. Hopefully the renewed interest in the man from Assis will continue. That in itself gives me some hope!

      Reply
  7. Fabio
    Fabio says:

    Yes, the Pope matters a lot. He matters because he is a huge model to be imitated – or not.
    He matters so much that even people who say he doesn’t matter at all are constantly trying to scapegoat him – which tells all there needs to be told about his actual importance.

    That he (and anyone else) is not perfect, well, should be taken for granted. But we should also be very cautious of controversies claimed by major news agencies (which have given many proofs of intelectual dishonesty in the past) and echoed by irresponsible or simply naive news outlets.

    If he eventually does scandalize our modern society values by calling some politically correct behaviour a sin, let’s not forget that it’s the behaviour that is being called upon, not the human being. Jesus expressed his love toward sinners even more than his love towards “right” people, and I’m pretty sure this Pope would do the same.

    Reply

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