By Nani Lawrence
Pope Francis has changed what it means to be Catholic, at least in the eyes of the Vatican.
Since accepting the papacy, he has spoken out about climate change. He’s condemned wage inequality. Most importantly in my eyes, he has even seen to it that bishops who covered up molestation charges resigned.
Personally, I’m a recovering Catholic. By nature I am especially critical of the Vatican. And I must say, I love this man. Actually caring about fellow human beings? Isn’t that what this whole “Christ-like” thing is supposed to be about?
I have irreligious friends who swear up and down that this whole situation is a gimmick. Pope Francis is just some kind of distraction to take our minds off the scandals that have occurred over the years.
More than that, there are other people who think that because he doesn’t hold progressive views on their certain issue, that means he’s no better than Lord Vader AKA Pope Benedict XVI. It’s bothered me for quite a while. I do care a lot about this particular issue, but I also know how religion works.
I know people can never be perfect, no matter how much you want them to be. Pope Francis has, in the past, supported the innate humanity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, but he is still of the belief that marriage is strictly between a man and a woman. I understand and share the frustration, but his stance on marriage does not invalidate all the good he has brought to the Catholic Church.
Francis is a very humble man. On his recent trip to the United States, I saw an everyday car, not a “pope-mobile.” I saw basic white robes and a head covering. I read that he forewent a meal with Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner, and other lawmakers to have lunch with the homeless. I avidly watched the news as he stopped his convoy to bless disabled children.
I may not necessarily believe in God, but I truly believe that Pope Francis embodies many of the good, loving, and truly forgiving qualities Jesus is said to have possessed.
Along with his amazing charity here in the States, of course, came some controversy.
In the news forever –and ever, it seems–Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis weaseled her way into headlines again. She claimed that she and Pope Francis had a secret meeting in which he commended her for denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
When I read that, I must admit, my heart broke a little bit. I can’t stand Kim Davis and the mockery of local government she’s made. Although, as progressive as Pope Francis is, he is still Catholic. He can’t be perfect on every matter, and he definitely isn’t. He’s still firmly against abortion and artificial contraception, he believes in traditional marriage, etc. Plus, if it came down to social issues and worshiping the way you chose, it’s not a stretch to assume he’d choose the latter.
As it turns out, and as I suspected (because Davis just loves attention), it was mostly a big, fat fib. The Vatican has since denied her version of events, saying their “meeting” was actually the same brief greeting he gave most people. Actually, according to many news sources, the only person Pope Francis visited with at length was a former gay student and his partner.
I can’t help but equate the more-liberal reaction to Pope Francis to the liberal-critical reaction to President Obama. I think both are doing a hell of a job, even if I don’t always agree with them. They are imperfect men, but they are doing as much as they can. Just as our president is nudging Congress to do something, (to paraphrase one of my favorite “memes” on the subject) Pope Francis is trying very hard to teach Catholics how to be Christian.