The new pope, Pope Francis, came from out of the blue as a meteorite that happened to fall by chance in Rome, Italy. Kinda like Superman. Pope Francis has shown himself to be a kind of Superman in that he has stood up to multiple centuries of tradition moving away from the gospel in a steady progression to the point of the Church standing on the verge of losing its credibility by clinging to medieval traditions too long. The world changed around the church, the scientific method for one thing, and our modern tendency for fact checking. Until Francis, it appeared to me, on the outside with no experience on the inside, the Church was bracing itself against the people rather than paying attention to them. Francis comes along, applies the teachings in the gospels, and sends a shock wave through the church, welcome to some, and a horror to many. Overnight, the Church went from sheltering child-molester priests and public denial to open recognition of a problem and doing something about it. To some points of view, they don't punish enough, but that's the fundamentalist belief in a God of fear and punishment. It tells me the God Pope Francis appeals to is the God of love and compassion.
I've paid attention to the popes in my lifetime, not close attention, but to see who they really represent. Money, like every position of power on earth. I was disposed toward John 23rd for his apparent humility, but he turned out to be another apologist for the forces that beat people down. Frances enters the scene and right away is saying the American fundamentalists, who call themselves Christians, are "ugly pagans." Just last week he noted that people who make their money in the arms industry are hypocrites and can't call themselves Christian. He had something to say about the rich taking resources to themselves. A rich American Catholic publicly threatened him with putting his tithe money elsewhere. The pope the same as said, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. He stopped the use of the Vatican Bank by the Sicilian mafia for money laundering. He was warned it could be a fatal decision. He responded, what's he got to lose? Shortcut to the City of God. He doesn't like to wear silks or gold or red shoes. He doesn't want a gold throne. He doesn't want a papal suite of dazzlingly expensive furnishings. He wanted a small room with a bed, a desk and a lamp. He came on so true to the spirit, I've watched him out of curiosity to see if it's an act or from the heart. I've become convinced it's from the heart.
Now I like to watch a man with big power of influence among the Roman Catholic people of the world talking something besides bureaucratic smokescreen. He is a relief to the eighteen year olds of the world who grow up being taught about honesty and good behavior, aghast at the hypocrisy in the adult world they're stepping into. Some cut their wrists, shoot themselves, OD, over inability to commit to a fake life in a world that rewards hypocrisy. I don't mistake the pope for having too much influence. American fundamentalists think the pope is the devil himself. The pope says global warming is a serious issue and they dig their heads deeper into the sand. He is a negative influence. The pope says God is in the heart, it confirms for the fundamentalists that God is on the other side of the clouds. The pope says God is love, it confirms for them God is fear. I imagine some Catholics are freaking out, the ones who have given their lives to greed and want justification. He points at the needs of billions of really poor people around the globe, drawing attention to them in a time of turning backs to the poor. American police brutality is reserved for the poor and black, the people without recourse, too poor to hire a lawyer. If one can get a lawyer, the cop will lie in court, the judge knowing it, and that's the end of it.
Perhaps the most interesting part of his influence I see is that he is inspiring the people who take the church traditions for granted to think about what they believe, think about it in relation to how they live their lives. Do you live what you believe? Like somebody living on stock dividends of munitions corporations, he'd recommend they sell the stocks and put the money in business not so destructive, like solar. I've an idea it will mostly amount to something else to feel guilty about, like birth control. Pope is, after all, a bureaucratic role. I'm sure he's had his fill of it by now and has learned how to flow with it. Francis has turned out to be a pope I admire unreservedly as I admire the Dalai Lama. I like seeing that Christendom has such a figure. The fundamentalists who usurped the word Christian to themselves have given all other Christians a bad name. I've wondered how long Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Roman Catholics, would put up with the gross misuse of their own identity as Christian. So far, I suspect it's been a matter of ignore them and maybe they'll go away. One thing about it, the fundamentalists are so far off the beam of what it means to be a Christian that I feel like they are inspiring the other people who figure as Christian to question their own commitment to love, compassion, understanding. Pope Francis has stepped forward to remind the whole world of Christendom, both Catholic and Protestant, that helping the poor is what Christians do. My feeling is il papa has caused serious thought to echo through Christendom for some time yet to come. Ultimately, he could be the cause of a welcome reformation inside the Catholic Church. He inspires people outside the church as well as inside. I can't help but find it curious why such a pope came forward in this time.