Somewhere in 2013/14, my Landlord asked me, casually, my opinion of Pope Francis. I wasn’t in a mood to elaborate, so I shrugged. My answer would be the same today.
1) I am troubled by the things lots of others are troubled by, and there are plenty of red flags but also plenty to be happy about. Pope Francis is, ultimately, a typical “good” priest of his generation, especially a Jesuit, someone I’d probably admire as a pastor or bishop, but as Pope?
2) the current papacy challenges certain notions we have of what a Pope should be like, and I think that’s a good thing. For one,we really shouldn’t assess Popes as if they’re politicians even if they are.
3) It’s been two years. He is only the third Pope to have 24/7 scrutiny in the new media or even cable news. It’s interesting that sedevacantism only really became a “thing” with the rise of television. Suddenly, day to day papal activities that were previously ignored are international headlines. A casual Papal remark, like a movie star’s wisecrack on a press junket, gets dissected in the media. Would “Pio Nono” have worn a clown nose to amuse suck kids or accepted a photo op with an environmentalist group? I think probably, but we can’t know because photography as we know it didn’t exist then. Might Leo XIII have made a throwaway comment about not judging people who are sincerely trying to follow God but struggling with sin? Would St. Pius Zx have changed Eucharistic discipline? Oh, wait, he did.
Regardless, 2 years is a short time. Look at John Paul II in 1980 versus 1990 versus 20000. People expected Paul VI to permit contraception for like 5 years then were devastated by Humanae Vitae. Though comments from numerous cardinals are giving the appearance otherwise, I still expect a repeat of that.
4). What if he doesn’t? Either we go in with this muddled confusion till the next Conclave elects Cardinal Burke, or else he does something unquestionably wrong and shows all the antiPope prophecies are true, which means something really good would be coming after a short time if trial.
Nevertheless, what I find troubling most of all about the “Francis Effect” is that it’s affecting people. From top-down, regardless of where the proverbial buck stops, people are being told to stop talking about certain issues, that the pope has changed this or that, . . . It’s the 80s all over again. In the midst of all that, I see people who should be 99.999999% in agreement and uniting with common cause instead unfriending and blocking each other over things the Pope has said. Ultramontanist, the equivalent of “Papist,” is being used as a pejorative by people who once wore it as a badge of honor, who in turn are being accused of heres, not trusting the Holy Spirit, etc.
It’s very sad. “If they’ll know we are Christians by our love,” what does that tell us? Are love and peace and mercy flowing like a river through you and me?