But when Pope Francis talks about the problems with Catholics and believers, when he chastises the faithful, when he warns of those who are making a mockery of the Gospel and are the reason there are so many problems in the Faith, it always seems - at least to me - that he is speaking of 'those Catholics' over there. And that certainly seems how many, especially his most passionate fans, appear to read it.
Most don't say 'woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips.' Most articles, most editorials, most blog posts are 'Look how awesome Pope Francis is! He's finally calling out 'those Catholics' over there!' Whether he is nor not, that is how it seems to play out whenever he talks. There's a certain 'us vs. them' that has come from this. As if, unlike Pope Benedict and JPII, the problem is not the faithful of the Church per se, but certain people in the Church. For better or worse, that message will often end up falling on ears that are willing to believe it's 'those Catholics' over there that he is talking about rather than us sinners.
The other problem isn't really his fault, though it could be exacerbated by his rebel style. His tendency to look at traditions and teachings and be willing to toss them aside in the name of finally reaching out to the disenfranchised might be what has added to this new trend. And what is this trend? The trend is to accept the secular media's narrative that we finally have the first pope of awesomeness. After 2000 miserable, lousy years of evil, hate, bigotry, sexism, homophobia, greed, right wing extremism, apathy, and disconnect, we have the first pope since Jesus who has taught us to care about he poor, the environment, avarice, and the whole person beyond the womb.
Fact is, the Church has always taught those things and has always been about fighting for those things. Not that there haven't been problems. There always are. And if stories are to be believed, there always will be. Fallen world after all. But it's almost maddening that so many - not just secularist, but Catholics - have adopted this notion that because of Francis, Catholics are finally stepping out and caring about the poor and about the suffering and about trees and pretty flowers.
Catholics always have. Catholics have long been about helping the poor, worrying about the environment, warning against Capitalism run amuck, resisting unbridled total war, reducing capital punishment, curbing gun ownership, reaching out to women who have had abortions and those who are homosexual. This isn't new. It's been going on for decades. In some ways, it's been going on for generations. And yet you'd think to hear not just the secular media with all its agendas, but a growing number of Catholics as well, that the Church labored in darkness for 2000 miserable, wicked years but God finally gave us the first pope of awesomeness to fix the problems.
|I won't be coming home tonight|
My generation will put it right
Why the change? If Popes JPII, Benedict, and every modern pope encouraged these things that we're being told have only been enlightened by Pope Francis, why the disconnect? I don't know. I don't have the gift of reading hearts and minds. What I do know is that Pope Francis is the first pope to take the sins of the Left and set them aside. He doesn't say they are right. But he more or less says they are lesser issues that only need mercy, or at worst, they're irrelevant in the bigger scheme of things. That alone might be the difference. Previous popes, no matter how open to mercy for the sins of the Left, and critical of things like abusing the environment or the poor, still called those things of the Left sin, emphasized their sinfulness, and called for nothing short of repentance. Is that the reason? Could be. It could be a combination of things. But whatever the reason, a growing narrative is that Pope Francis has come to save the world, not for Christ, but from the historic Church.