, Salem, MA


December 9, 2013

Column: The pope — what he says, how he says it

Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about the pope. You know which one I’m referring to: that breath of fresh air from south of the equator who set the world atwitter (and a Twitter) with his commentaries on life, love and the human condition. Not since Evita has someone come out onto a balcony to mesmerize the world and, not unlike Juan Peron’s blond consort, Pope Francis is doing it with inimitable style.

And that’s the point. The thing that is so revolutionary about this Jesuit is not that he’s changing centuries of dogma and doctrine. I don’t expect to see any female priests in my lifetime (and since I just turned 52 on Wednesday, we’re talking a few decades). Catholics who think abortion is a moral “choice” won’t get a pat on the back from this fellow, who likens the termination of pregnancies to killing Christ. (“Every child that isn’t born, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ, has the face of the Lord.”)

Faithful who heard the pope ask for a more compassionate treatment of homosexuals shouldn’t expect to see him at any rallies for marriage equality. In 2010, then-Cardinal Bergoglio made his views about same-sex marriage clear in this letter he sent opposing Argentina’s push for them: “At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.”

No, Francis isn’t writing a new blueprint for what it means to be Catholic. What he is doing is simply repackaging a message that has existed for two millennia, one that people on both the left and the right have conveniently ignored. Hanging out on the starboard side of the Fisherman’s boat, I tend to think that liberals are the ones doing the most damaging spin when it comes to Catholic theology. They take compassion for acceptance, and therefore think that the man who refuses to judge gay priests is giving the Holy “See-al” of approval to homosexual relations. They think that Francis has taken theological lessons from Nancy Pelosi, who once famously declared that the Catholic church is unclear on when life begins. (As an aside, and completely off topic, I hope the FDA is seriously looking into the effects that prolonged use of Botox has on reasoning capacity.)

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