A reader writes:
I may be overly cynical, but the selection of this “First ever non-European” pope is underwhelming me. It feels almost too well-crafted. It is a perfectly sized micro-step towards progress that will keep the world’s press buzzing for some time. It’s also about the safest pick you could imagine for a non-European. It is still an old white guy from an Italian-influence Catholic country with a mature congregation.
Is this a big head fake? The kind of seemingly, but not really, substantive move that is calibrated to allow the church to say “See! We modernized and became more inclusive! The rest of you (women, gays) are just being churlish now. Bask in our progressiveness!”
Best comment on the new pope that I’ve heard so far: Pope Francis – because when you need to hide a German, hire an Argentinian.
I think it is fair to assume Pope Francis is unlikely to change the Church’s teaching on birth control, gay rights, et al, but doesn’t bother me as a frustrated modern Catholic. The new pope’s humanity (something so lacking with Ratzinger), his opposition to clericalism, and the belief that he is an outsider ready to reform Vatican governance, suggests he could radically alter the make-up of the College of Cardinals during his tenure. Francis may not be the modernist reformer so many Catholics desperately wish to see in the Vatican, but he may be the pope who aligns the chess pieces so such a reformer to follow him. That prospect alone gives me great hope for the Church.
There is one symbolic move Francis could make to greatly and quickly restore the Vatican’s credibility: Send Bernard Law home to deal with the consequences of what he let happen in the Boston Archdiocese.
I can deal with a church that is still behind the times on birth control and gay rights, as you’ve stated American Catholics are quite adapt at ignoring such doctrinal bollocks. What is unacceptable is protecting and enabling criminals who use the Church to torment children. Whatever else, if Francis can set a precedent that protecting pedophiles and protecting those who protect pedophiles will no longer be tolerated and can shift the College of Cardinals’ balance of power, his leadership will be a great leap forward for the Church.
Here’s hoping. Another:
I find this comment from a reader telling:
The Pope is the successor of the Apostle who was graced with faith, and still denied Christ, cowered in fear with the other male apostles in the upper room after Jesus’ death, and would have us still circumcising boys and eating kosher. Yet managed to serve God.
That is exactly the attitude that is the problem with the Catholic Church. “We are all sinners who are doing our best to humbly serve God.” I haven’t heard enough to pass judgment on what Bergoglio did or did not do during the Videla regime, but I do know that this sort of casual response makes it much easier for a non-believer such as myself to comprehend how the disease of child rape has become so pervasive inside the Church. The charge of colluding with fascist dictators to help inconvenient dissenters vanish into thin air is not to be shrugged off with fatuous comparisons to Peter the Apostle, and the suggestion that denying Christ for the sake of self-preservation is in any way comparable to what Bergoglio is accused of doing is insulting to human dignity.
I don’t know for certain if Bergoglio assisted fascists. I do know that the Catholic Church was very tolerant towards rightist regimes during the 20th Century: Franco in Germany, Salazar in Portugal, Pinochet in Chile, the Ustashe in the Balkans, not to mention the celebrating of Hitler’s birthday from the pulpit right up until 1945 in Nazi Germany.
Some of Hitch’s most convincing work was illustrating the direct link between Fascism and the Catholic Right, and his chapter on his time visiting Videla’s Argentina in his memoirs seems worth re-reading today. I wish he were here today to give us his take on Francis.
I can only speak for myself, but I think your reader’s dismissive attitude towards past misdeeds is precisely what the Church doesn’t need right now. I’m not big on infallibility, but I was hoping for the Catholic Church to put forward someone who could make a clean break from the hideous crimes and cover-ups. It’s early, I know, but right now I am not impressed.
I have to say my own skepticism is growing. But I do not want to pre-judge. The Dish will, however, try to get to the bottom of who he is and what he has done, in particular in relationship with the fascist junta.
(Photo: White smoke emits from the chimney on the Sistine Chapel as a new Pope is elected on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. By Joe Raedle/Getty Images)