Tonawanda News

Columns

September 25, 2013

For the Vatican, pope and change

(Continued)

Tonawanda News — He’s the kind of pope you’d want to have a beer with.

Like Obama, Francis personifies the kind of moral change his followers were craving.

He’s a break from the longstanding image of a pope as doctrinaire-in-chief, sitting on a throne somewhere silently — and sometimes not so silently — judging us as sinners. People are rarely evil and we know that. Rather, most of us doing what we have to do to get through the day and if that guy in the funny hat doesn’t like it, well, who died and made him pope?

I’m not a Catholic but it’s heartening nonetheless to view our world’s single most visible messenger of a higher power as something other than, to borrow Francis’ term, small-minded.

As with Obama, for Francis, the devil is in the details. Rhetoric can only take you so far. Actions are what count.

I don’t expect some granola-eating liberal revision of centuries of church doctrine. I realize I’m still going to be on the other side of social issues — all of them, I think — than Francis.  I highly doubt Francis — or any pope in my lifetime, for that matter — will be a force for change on abortion rights, gay rights or access to contraception.

Differences aside, I greatly respect someone forsaking all the trappings of wealth and power. It’s an impressive and humble commitment to God.

For too long, the Roman Catholic Church, as an institution, has presented itself as nearly the opposite of everything I find holy. Religion and faith aren’t about messianic golden statues in towering cathedrals or a brow-beating, guilt-driven dogma. It was impossible for me to respect an institution whose self-proclaimed mission is preaching a gospel of morality and justice while simultaneously raping little children and covering it up.

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