Honey Badger Pope Manifests His Conscience

The Pope has made headlines again with a long (about 12,000 word) interview published simultaneously yesterday by 16 different Jesuit journals. The lede is the bomb dropped on right-wing “restorationists”: stop obsessing about gays and abortion and focus on the heart of the gospel, which is mercy. Francis likened the Catholic Church to a field hospital: “I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful….I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else.” Elsewhere the Pope makes the same point more directly and literally, saying he knows some have reprimanded him for not speaking more about abortion, gay marriage, and contraception, but that “it is not necessary to talk about these matters all the time.” He continues his counterattack against the legalistic reprimanders: “the dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials…this is also what fascinates and attracts more….We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the gospel….The proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives. Today sometimes it seems that the opposite order is prevailing….The message of the Gospel…is not to be reduced to some aspects that, although relevant, on their own do not show the heart of the message of Jesus Christ.”

Francis wants to be like Pope John XXIII: “see everything, turn a blind eye to much, correct a little.” For liberal Catholics, the words of this interview are “rain in a parched desert,” as one National Catholic Reporter blogger wrote, and as another wrote, “my butt is sore from falling out of my chair as I read through the text.” Even before publication, Elizabeth Scalia warned in the Washington Post that liberal-minded people ought not to lazily make this pope into an idol (who will do all the hard work). The New Yorker, on the other hand, suggested that Justice Antonin Scalia (no relation, I believe) has formed a search committee to find a new pope! But Francis seems for the moment to be able to speak and breathe pretty well with just one lung. “Eventually people get tired of authoritarianism”: goodness gracious sakes alive, what is next?

Hat tip to a tweet on The Dish for “honey badger” description of Pope Francis

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