I am not a Roman Catholic. My mother became a Catholic after she married my stepfather, and she was very devout. But as a child our family was Anglican. Two of my father’s uncles were Anglican clergymen in Jamaica, and I can still recall the sedate services at Stanmore Anglican Church with Parson Emmanuel delivering those comfortingly soporific sermons that Anglicans seem to enjoy.
I have never been able to accept the idea that a human being is Christ’s representative on earth, as I understand the Pope claims to be. And I wince at the notion that, as Christ’s spokesman, the Pope is infallible.
They say the Catholic Church was founded by St. Peter, and he certainly wouldn’t have presumed to make such a claim. Peter, Christ’s “rock,” was subject to human frailty, and he was well aware of his own fallibility. According to historians, Peter even demanded that he be crucified upside down as he felt unworthy to be executed in the same manner as Jesus.
As a non-Catholic, I still concede the Pope’s vast sphere of influence, and acknowledge his ability to make the world a better place. God moves in mysterious ways, I am told, and He uses diverse vehicles to convey His Word.
The new Pope seems to be doing just that. According to an article by Keith Wagstaff, in The Week:
He is focusing heavily on problems that Catholics have traditionally cared about — namely, alleviating suffering and poverty — but which have fallen out of the spotlight due to a few divisive, hot-button issues.
Pope Francis has not backed away from those “divisive, hot button issues.” Wagstaff notes that:
To concerned Republicans (and especially Republican Catholics): No, the Pope isn’t advocating that priests start marrying gay couples in Catholic churches. In fact, for all the praise he has received from liberals, the Vatican’s official positions on abortion, gay marriage, and contraception are no different from when Pope Benedict XVI was running things.
But he doesn’t see why Roman Catholics have to be so “obsessed” with such issues. Here’s what he is quoted as saying in an interview published in Jesuit journals worldwide:
It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time. 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 new Pope’s populist message is welcome at a time when closely held beliefs have so many people at each others’ throats. Surely, if Jesus walked the earth today, He would be advocating love and tolerance, not hostility and dogma.
Photo shows Pope Francis kissing 8-month-old Victoria Maria Marino from Sicily after delivering his blessing in St. Peter’s Square during Palm Sunday Mass.