The people’s pope has been making waves ever since he rode back to his hotel on the bus and tried to pay his bill. False modesty? A swipe at those who came before him in office? Refreshing humility? Inverted pride? There have certainly been no shortage of critics, nor fawning, uber-liberal commenters who have weighed in on the new pontiff.
Are we seeing a shift in teaching, or perhaps a different set of priorities from below the equator? Watching Francis, it has become clear that the Jesuit sitting on the Chair of Peter has jolted the exposed fault lines in the post-Vatican II church. Specifically, by claiming that we don’t need to discuss the issues of sex, abortion, and homosexuality all the time, the pope has carved out awareness of other equally pressing issues, such as the grinding poverty that characterizes life below the equator that affects the world from whence he comes.
In the process, he has accentuated the differences between orthodox Catholics and the liberal/anarchic wing of the church above the equator. The liberal/anarchic wing adopted the issues surrounding global poverty, hunger, homelessness, etc. Not surprisingly, these are the issues championed by the socialist left, which also promotes radical feminism, abortion on demand, gay marriage, and sexual licentiousness: issues near and dear to left-leaning Catholics.
The orthodox tend toward traditional families, pro-life ethics, and a conservative political agenda. If there is a problem with the orthodox, it is that we have allowed concern for the poor to become “their” issue, and not “ours”. The criteria that will be used in our judgement were outlined by Jesus in Matthew 25. The corporal works of mercy are not options.
The truth is that our Catholicism is somewhat bifurcated in the Northern Hemisphere. Essential elements and obligations of the faith have been politicized.
While this bifurcation is very real, the issues of sex, family, marriage, and abortion have a far greater catalytic power at tearing down Weatern Civilization than the issue of grinding poverty, which was omnipresent throughout Western Civilization’s rise. It’s difficult to adress the issues of poverty in a culture where raging hedonism is the new civic virtue.
If there was one nuanced perspective missing in the Pope’s highly nuanced and controversial interview, it is that.
So, when Francis demonstrates a humility whereby he eschews the trappings of office, when he says that we need to expand our focus, he offers us the opportunity to reflect beyond the very real issues that we champion within orthodoxy here in the north. He also offers us the opportunity to reclaim something that has been lost along the way.
However, when we are addicted to tearing our brothers and sisters apart in the womb, using our brothers and sisters as objects for pleasure, and spitting on the natural order created by God, it’s a tough sell to get people behind an authentic vision of being our brother’s keeper.
Perhaps by speaking from within the issues coopted as issues by the left, maybe… just maybe… this pope may be able to break through. Let’s hope so, and let’s lift Francis up in prayer as he tries.