So, Pope Francis has spoken and, once again, progressive Christians have swooned over how forward thinking he is. An article from LiberalAmerica on his latest interview gushes “…this new Pope reveals refreshingly candid, humble, and open-minded views on many subjects.” Everything Francis has said falls into the moderate category at best, so why are we losing our shit over these “refreshingly candid, humble, and open-minded views”?
I guess it’s due in part to the fact that the last Pope was…, oh, let’s say a bit of a reactionary. I mean, Bennie was so conservative he made Pat Robertson look like a hippie. After that, I can see where a middle of the road view would be refreshing, to say the least. But, I think we need to keep some perspective here.
Sure, Francis is saying some nice things, things that need to be said. But, there are things he’s not saying that also need to be said. Things like an apology to the victims of sexual abuse by priests or, as the voice of the Church, taking responsibility for those heinous acts. Yes, Francis has made moves in that direction, but after all that’s happened, they are far too tentative. And, sometimes, he doesn’t seem to get it. In one of his early moves to deal with the scandal, Francis declared that combatting that sexual abuse was important “for the Church and its credibility”. Right, because the Church’s credibility is the important thing here.
Francis has also talked about the way the Church has dealt with women, the LGBT community and sexuality in general. Again, he’s saying good things, but they don’t go far enough for me to swoon. Until the Church begins to fully include women and LGBT people in leadership, steps away from the belief that the only sexual relationship sanctioned by God is between a man and a woman who are married and abandons its archaic beliefs about birth control, I’m withholding my admiration.
That’s not to say I don’t like Francis, or think he’s a breath of fresh air. If there’s one thing this Pope gets right, it’s his take on poverty and our responsibility as followers of Christ to people who are poor. Considering he’s a Jesuit from South America, his advocacy makes sense. That much of what he says has a ring of liberation theology also makes sense; until he became Pope and moved uptown, the man’s life was spent in the same region (and religion) which gave birth to that theology. And, I love the way he’s rejected many of the luxurious trappings of his office for a simpler life. In this respect, he’s pretty radical.
And, that’s what bothers me about all the praise we’re throwing Francis’ way. The steps he’s been making are definitely in the right direction, but they are agonizingly slow and small. If that’s considered radical and worthy of such effusive praise, then we’ve set the bar mighty low. Mighty low, indeed.