Friday, March 15, 2013

Addition by Subtraction

We have a new pope!

Cardinal Borgoglio, a Jesuit from Argentina, took the name Francis and now let the analytic games begin.  First religious elected pope since 1831, first Jesuit, first pope from the Americas, first pope not from Europe since 7

Interestingly enough, even John Allen Jr. didn't quite have Francis as a likely candidate.  A pope-maker, but not a serious candidate.  Folks, when Allen misses, the rest of us are WAY WAY off.  Thank you, Holy Spirit.  We aren't divine--YOU ARE.

And with this surprise comes, in the first 48 hours, all sorts of assessments:  Francis is too liberal, too conservative (especially for leftists in Argentina), even too similar to John Paul I (Allen tweeted this on Friday March 15).  Over at Catholic Moral Theology, Charlie Carmosy cheers Francis as a "magenta pope" (neither red nor blue, liberal nor conservative), but then adds "he's no Paul Ryan pope."  David Brooks, always a go-to source for Catholic commentary (uh...), got the Donatist controversy involved and, chutzpah!, sides Francis with St. Augustine.  (Now if that article ever gets into the hands of Pope Francis, I'm sure the Holy Father will have a very good, very hearty  LAUGH.)

But Pope Francis has, already, generated a different vibe than Pope Benedict.  He BOWED for the crowd's blessing before he pronounced his own Urbi et Orbi blessing.  He rode the bus with the other cardinals back to Domus Sancta Marthae.  The next morning, en route to Santa Maria Maggiore, he stopped to pick up his suitcase and pay his bill at his pre-conclave hotel.  He chose the name Francis to honor St. Francis, Italy's patron, the great medieval reformer whose ministry stemmed from his imitation of Christ's poverty and humility.  While archbishop of Buenos Aires he had chastised his Argentinian clergy for not baptizing the children of single-mothers.

So...a breath of fresh air.  Dare we dream again of aggiornomento???

Uh, no.  Settle down the bleep down, people.  Brooks and Carmosy's blogs embody the problem:  immediately we try to shoehorn the new pope into our prearranged categories.  Brooks needs to read a bit more about the Donatist controversy.  Yes, Augustine eschewed--THANK GOD--the "church of the pure" vision pursued by the Donatists.  But that included a decided move away from the local church, so there goes your American pro-gay marriage, pro-abortion, etc. "that's the way we do it here--deal with it" argument.  The universal Church teaches something different, so get in line, y'all.  And this antipathy toward Paul Ryan really needs reconsideration.  The virtues of Ryan's budgetary argument rest on solid ground:  we need to curtail spending or there will be a day when the bills come due.  Like Margaret Thatcher once said "the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of somebody else's money."  In like fashion a number of Pope Francis's left-leaning American boosters will find there's a day when the Holy Father requires of them a "St. Thomas More moment" of choice, be it on sexuality, marriage, whatever, that requires obedience just as much as the free-market William F. Buckley-type Catholics will find themselves challenged by Pope Francis' willingness to take seriously the poverty of Christ.

And maybe those challenges--to both ends of the ideological spectrum--are good things.  After all, it would further emphasize and illuminate the Church's unity, catholicity, apostolicity, and, *gasp*, holiness.

Because as Pope Francis himself said, without Christ the Church basically becomes a very nice NGO.

1 comment:

  1. I think because there is quite a bit we Westerners don't know, we tend to project our best hopes for the Church on the man. Having said that--being one of those "I'm not conservative, I'm not liberal, I'm Catholic" types--I have great hopes for his papacy. You can see how his humility has captured the world's attention. In my opinion, THAT is the new evangelization.