Is the Pope still relevant?

September 21, 2015

Kind eyes, kind heart.

I was raised Catholic, although the religion never resonated for me. I’m no longer Catholic or even Christian, even though I think Jesus was a great man. That is, if he existed. Religious scholars seem to disagree on that. Some say there’s historical record and others say there isn’t, pointing out that the Romans documented EVERYTHING and there was no record of any of the miracles, or the crucifixion, or the resurrection.


Even as parables or allegory, the Jesus stories are effective teachers. Too bad more people don’t actually live as he asked us to. Including so-called “Christians.”

But back to the Pope.

I like this guy.

The Papacy became corrupt early, with Popes ordering killings, having mistresses, fathering children and so on. You know, the kinds of sins that go on today. Some of those popes were experts at them.

And then there were the punishing popes. We saw a few in the 20th century. The ones who focused on our sins and gave us heavy lists of “do nots.” The ones who loved their fancy robes and red shoes maybe a bit too much.

Then, in some crazy twist of fate, Pope Francis was elected, a guy who wore orthopedic shoes instead of the traditional fancy red ones. Who took the bus back to his residence with all the cardinals who elected him instead of being chauffered. Who elected not to live in the ornate Papal apartments but in the simpler Vatican guest house.

He’s a man with kind eyes and a kind heart. A humble guy. A man who cares about poor and marginalized people. A man who is outspoken about a broad range of social and environmental issues.

How did he even get elected? Some say a group of cardinals plotted to elect a reformer Pope. If that’s the case, hats off to the cardinals! (Or should I say “mitres off!”)  After all, plots have long been a Vatican staple. Why not a plot that actually benefits Catholics? One that puts into office one of the most Christ-like (if not the ONLY Christ-like) popes ever?

Refreshing comment for a Pope. Shouldn't be, but is. He approves all his tweets, BTW.

Refreshing comment for a Pope. Shouldn’t be, but is. He approves all his tweets, BTW.

Not too long ago, M and I were talking about the criticism this Pope has faced for not doing more to bring the Church into the 21st century. I expressed my surprise that anyone could think that any leader could just snap his fingers and change centuries of religious tradition and strictures.

“Critics like that have clearly never run a huge organization,” M. pointed out, “so they have no idea of what it takes to make shifts of that magnitude.”

I agree.  And if you have any doubt, here’s a story about the current intrigue at the Vatican–the disturbance this Pope is causing among conservative Catholics in the Vatican and church leadership. You know, the ones who have been responsible for a lot of the unethical financial shenanigans and who have covered up the many, many molestations. You know. THAT crew. They’re just not happy with the Pope acting in a Christ-like manner. Not at all.

Some say his allowing absolution of the sin of abortion during the Jubilee year is arrogant.  No. Not if you’re Catholic. In the Catholic religion, abortion is a sin. The fact that this Holy Father decided to let women be absolved may seem crazy to non-Catholics, but to those who have agonized over their abortions and their faith, it’s huge. HUGE.

Although I’m no longer Catholic, I admire this Pope. He lives the Christian faith in a way Popes haven’t done in a very long time. He cares. And slowly, but surely, he’s chipping away at the old, conservative, elitist structure of the Vatican.

On the eve of his arrival in the United States, I ask: is the Pope still relevant? This Pope is making sure the papacy is in touch with its faithful. Yes, this Pope is relevant, more relevant than any Pope in a very long time.

So, you go, Holy Father!  I’m happy you arrived in my lifetime.

And those who actually believe in and live by Christ’s teachings agree.

How about you? Your thoughts?



28 comments on “Is the Pope still relevant?
  1. Carla says:

    as a Jewish woman who is a tremendous fan of this Pope I found your post so interesting.
    I’m not sure how much my opinion… Not matters but how much weight it really carries but I would say this Popw is more relevant than many in a long time.

  2. I, too, was raised Catholic but do not identify as Catholic. However, I really, really like this Pope. I truly believe he is the best example of the teachings of Jesus that may have ever sat at the head of the Catholic church. My hope and prayer is that he sticks around for a very long time, or at least long enough to bring about lasting change.

  3. Haralee says:

    This Pope is breath of fresh air. I think he is really making a positive impact around the world.

  4. I’m a huge fan of this Pope. I’m not catholic or religious, but he seems more spiritual than religious, to me. He walks the walk and it makes many people nervous. That’s a good thing.

    We had a private tour of the Vatican several years ago and learning a lot of the History there is eye opening. Francis would have never gotten in with the old boys network of the past!

    I’m glad we left center city Philadelphia last year because the Secret Service has turned the city into a ridiculous fenced-in prison yard. I understand security risks, but it is way over the top. I’m looking forward to his address to Congress most of all.

  5. Mary says:

    For me, I do see some good in our current Pope, but as a practicing Catholic, I also see some things I’m not a fan of.

  6. Estelle says:

    I like him for the most part, but I don’t like that he “forgave” women who had abortions just during a specific time. It is the paternalistic attitude that I find abhorrent–as if men get a say in what we do with our bodies.

    • But that is the faith, Estelle, as i point out in my blog. The faith is paternalistic and if you adhere to the faith, then this is a very big move. Penance, confession and forgiveness of sin are very important aspects of how the faith is practiced. There is no question that Catholicism in its most conservative form is paternalistic. There is no way that he is going to change overnight what took centuries to develop. The faithful wouldn’t have it, for one. But this is a huge step for Catholics who practice. Every traditional faith has its paternalism–isn’t it Judaism that has a prayer that goes ‘thank G d I am not a woman?” That’s why I met this Pope on Catholic ground in this post. There is no other way to assess him.

  7. Kimba says:

    What I love about this Pope is his message: heal the sick; feed the hungry; take care of children and the elderly. All the other judgement stuff – leave that to your maker.

  8. Anyone followed by millions is relevant. I have no idea how he was elected…he is the anti-Pope! He still follows some of the hard line things against women and gays and etc, so I couldn’t be a Catholic, but hey, the Church has to start somewhere, right?

  9. Ines Roe says:

    I am not Catholic either but grew up in a Catholic country (Mexico) so Catholicism has been part of my life. I have not been able to identify with the religion because of the stand on social issues. I however can respect people’s passion about their beliefs. I agree with you about this Pope. As a man he has a charisma that the papacy has not had for a few years. He also appears to be willing to be forward looking in views by taking the controversial stand on abortion and making annulments easier to get.

    I live relatively close to Philadelphia and have seen the excitement and preparations for his visit. I am excited for the people who views this as a once in a life time opportunity to be close to the pontiff.

  10. Yes. The pope is still relevant. I agree, this pope is a great example. And as far as change goes, any change has resistance… as long as there’s change, the seeking for enlightenment will continue.

  11. Roz Warren says:

    “They’re just not happy with the Pope acting in a Christ-like manner.” Well said! And that pretty much sums it up. I like this guy too, even though as an atheist feminist tree-hugging, gay-rights supporting Jew, I am well aware of the many ways in which he does not support my own values.

  12. I agree Carol. I think that he is saving the Catholic religion from imploding on itself in the long run. It was a religion so cloaked in secrecy and deceit and he is trying to fling open the windows and shed some light as the religion as a whole. While I am in no way Catholic or even religious for that matter I think that he is trying to change public opinion of the Catholic religion at a time when they needed it most. The ones bickering the loudest are often times the ones with the most to loss or the most to lose if it was brought up in the light of day. Great piece, I read both.

  13. Let’s be real – Jesus’ contemporaries didn’t like it when he acted in accordance with his own teachings, but then the Pharisees (Religious Establishment) were the only folks Jesus ever condemned. As for His Holiness, I’m not surprised that he’s open to discussion and debate – he’s a Jesuit. That’s part of that order’s charism or gift. Nor do I mind that he doesn’t support all of the things I’d like to see. He’s willing to allow for other perspectives – and while that terrifies the hard-liners – that is also what the Church desperately needs. I’m a little bummed that the abortion forgiveness is only for one year. According to the Gospels, there is *no* unforgiveable sin.
    As for those same conservatives, they were the ones pushing total agreement with the pope when Cardinal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict, was pushing his conservative agenda. Now that they don’t like what the current pope is saying, funny how fast they backed off on that line.

  14. I’m not and never have been Catholic (I’m close… a Lutheran) but I do admire this pope. Shaking things up a bit is admirable and it seems to be bringing some folks back to faith. If nothing else, he’s sparking real discussion on important matters. So, yeah, I do believe he’s relevant.

  15. As a heathen — never baptized, nor brought up in any religion — I find it hard to comprehend the frenzy that Catholics feel about this Pope. But I have to admit that, for the believers, he seems to have reignited confidence in and commitment to the Church. He is a breath of fresh air — and certainly more relevant than any other Catholic Church leader in my memory.

  16. Christian Leon says:

    For those who aren’t Christian, I think this pope exudes the humility, simplicity, and spirit of compassion and love that people expect from a ‘christian’. For Protestant Christians, I think this pope’s authenticity disarms their usual skepticism of all things Catholic. For Catholics, I think this Pope exposes the philosophic (theological) divisions in the church. But his Franciscan spirituality and Jesuit intellect are for me a beautiful combination of the best that the Catholic tradition has to offer, because I think that they come closest to an authentic search for truth using heart, mind, and spirit (not that there are other amazing branches of spiritual journeys within the Catholic tradition).
    In just a few hours, he will be in the states and surely speak very critically about unregulated capitalism and its effects. He will be called a leftist/socialist, etc. etc. etc. by many. But if you think that the Catholic Church’s position is different than the pope’s (or that in some way he’s straying from what is Catholic), just start by reading Rerum Novarum (1891) and you’ll see the that there is a very long tradition in the Church that he speaks for. Super interested in how this will go…

  17. Joy says:

    I am Catholic and among the Popes I’ve known, Pope Francis to me is the most Christ-like. He prioritizes the values (forgiveness, service to the poor, generosity, love, etc) over the institution. And that, I respect!

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