“A radical traditionalist Pope.” Pope Francis drew this oxymoron of a headline in a column written by Mary Ebstat in the Oct. 7 issue of Time magazine.
Pope Francis deplores the Church’s obsession with sex-related issues such as contraception, abortion and homosexuality, an obsession that’s fodder for hip-shooting and sensationalist media, and eliciting jeers from social scientists of the irreligious breed.
The obvious symptoms of the Church’s outmoded moral authority and devalued spiritual currency have resulted in a steady stream of Catholics migrating to the burgeoning Evangelical sects in the countries of North and South America.
Pope Francis: “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.
“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 proposal of the gospel must be made more simple, profound and radiant. It is from this proposition that moral consequence flows.
“I dream of a Church that is a mother and a shepherdess (looking for lost sheep).”
Unlike his predecessor John Paul II, who labored to be the global shepherd, doctrinaire teacher and Vicar of Christ; and Benedict XVI, philosopher-theologian and Magisterium guardian, Pope Francis the mystic wants to inject a Christ-like charism to the ministry.
His solution is to conjure a “judo effect”—straight to the heart, miraculous, a healer like Christ, performing confessional miracles and teaching in the streets of the world.
The Jesuit Magazine America summarizes the interview with Pope Francis as “A Big Heart Open to God,” while the Sept. 23 Inquirer headline says it more sharply: “Pope Francis: More Love, Less Doctrine.”
Pope Francis explained that his re-evangelization praxis will be emphasized by the hierarchical, clerical and lay members of the Catholic Church. It’s not a game-changing scheme, but more of an attitude shift.
It begins with love—“For God so loved the world He sent His only begotten son.”
It is apparent to Pope Francis that the crisis of the Church today stems from its failure to use its imagination to be culturally visible, proactive and participative in the performance of the most fundamental, most powerful and the greatest commandment of them all—to love.
“The Church sometimes has been locked up itself in small-minded things, in small-minded rules,” he said.
The most important thing is the first proclamation, that Jesus has saved all of us. And the ministers of the Church must be ministers of mercy above all, to take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the good Samaritan who washes, cleans and raises up his neighbor, or Simon of Cyrene, the bystander who helped Jesus carry his cross when He fell.
During the Middle ages, another holy man named Francis expressed with moving words the thoughts of Pope Francis today.
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred let me sow love, where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy; Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
To Pope Francis, the centerpiece and moving spirit of God becoming man in Jesus Christ is the salvation of sinners.
“I am a sinner.” That’s the gut reply of Pope Francis when asked who he is and why he was probably chosen as the new Pope. It’s crystal-clear to him that the God who created us is our Father, and a God of love and mercy.
The confessional, thus, is not a torture chamber but a place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better.
In the gospel, Jesus Christ is basically known to the people as a healer, a teacher and a savior of sinners. The most awesome parables deal with big sins and their big forgiveness—the prodigal son, the adulterous woman to be stoned to death, the thief on the cross who asked to be taken to paradise by Jesus.
A lover of paintings, literature, music and opera, Pope Francis has a visceral empathy for the ravages of sin on human beings, and his view is highly visual. He likens the Church to a hospital after a battle. He sees sins as ailments. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds, he insists. His insights on human frailty is in-depth.
However, it’s clear from the interview that Francis knows he’s not free to tinker with the teachings of the Church Magisterium.
“I’m also a son of the Church,” he said. Or, as his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI used to say, “It’s not us. It’s God.”
On discarding doctrines, “it would be self-defeating to do so,” wrote Ebstat. “The mainline Protestant churches all tried throwing out the unwanted baby of the traditional code with the theological bath water, yet they’re still drowning.”
Pope Francis does not hesitate to reveal his doctrinaire side. In his speech to a medical group, he described that the unborn, too, have the face of Jesus. Then, he presided over the excommunication of a priest who violated Church teaching on gay marriages and female priests.
We in the Philippines who, by the tens of millions, stood our ground as faithful Catholics and spoke out against the evil of birth control and abortion, simply did our Christian duty. Pope Francis is on our side. Like him, we are children of the Church.
We celebrate the call of Pope Francis to focus on loving and serving our fellowmen with a Christ-like love, as he is Christ’s Vicar on earth and the good shepherd looking for lost sheep.
The Pope today might as well be standing on top of a hill, healing wounds and spreading beautiful truths, just as Jesus did when He delivered the Beatitudes before a huge crowd.
Blest are the poor in spirit: The reign of God is theirs.
Blest are the sorrowing: They shall be consoled.
Blest are the lowly: they shall inherit the land.
Blest are they who hunger and thirst for holiness: They shall have their fill.
Blest are they who show mercy: Mercy shall be theirs.
Blest are the single-hearted for they shall see God.
Blest are the peacemakers: They shall be called sons of God.
Blest are those persecuted for holiness sake: The reign of God is theirs.”