December 5, 2023

I’ve Tried to Warm Up to the Pope, but He’s Left Us Behind

In recent years, he has launched himself fully into political attacks.

On March 13, 2013, Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was elected by the College of Cardinals to succeed Jozef Ratzinger as pope.

Pope Francis was the third non-Italian, after Karol Wotyla of Poland and the aforementioned Ratzinger, to lead the church in over 500 years. There was a great deal of celebration and expectation at his elevation to the papacy, including from this columnist.

Unfortunately, the honeymoon didn’t last very long.

Fairly early into his papacy, Francis began to do and say things that sent up trigger warnings to those of us in the American church who didn’t like his “who am I to judge” stance. We thought that if he, the leader of the church, wasn’t prepared to make judgments on sin and virtue, good and evil, who was?

We were accused of being mummified traditionalists who didn’t understand the needs of an evolving society.

That usually means two things: the church needs to lighten up on the sexual issues and start hiring women for the white (as in Roman) collar jobs.

And Francis began to give the progressives in the church reason to think he was one of them. In recent years, he has abandoned the nuance of his earlier comments and launched himself fully into political attacks.

He initiated a mini-feud with Donald Trump, calling his immigration policies “anti-Christian,” something he’d never mentioned when Obama was earning a reputation as “deporter in chief,” and suggested that Trump’s anti-abortion efforts were hypocritical because of his opposition to DACA.

It’s fine to criticize politicians because of their politics, but consistency would be nice from the gentleman occupying the rock of Peter.

For example, accusing a Republican U.S. president of being anti-Christian while expressing sorrow at the death of a pretty bad Cuban dictator seems a bit tone-deaf.

When Fidel Castro happily expired, the Pope sent a telegram to his brother Raul lamenting the “sad news” and offering “my sentiments of sorrow.”

Given the fact that this pope grew up under the various Peron regimes in a country that gave Cuba one of its greatest heroes, the murderous Che Guevara, you’d think he’d want to dial back the matcha tea and sympathy for bloodthirsty dictators.

I tried to be open-minded over the years.

When Francis visited Philadelphia in 2015 during the World Meeting of Families, I helped with the preparations and was appointed by our local archdiocese to act as a liaison for immigrant issues.

I wrote several columns praising his efforts on behalf of refugees, including one where I observed that he was “reminding us that the immigrant experience helped create the dream that we hold as our birthright.”

And I went on to praise his dedication to unborn life.

Why am I quoting myself?

I think it’s partly to convince you that I haven’t always been opposed to this pope and his agenda, and partly to convince myself of the same thing. It’s been such a long time since this man has spoken for me.

His embrace of pro-abortion public Catholics like Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi is just the most obvious insult. But it goes beyond that.

Pope Francis seems, I almost hesitate to say it, mean-spirited.

He silences critics with surprising speed, given the normally glacial moves of the Vatican.

He has a particular dislike for traditional prelates, like Bishop Strickland and Cardinal Burke. He gave no support to Cardinal Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco when he censured Pelosi for her pro-abortion advocacy, and has basically taken the same old “who am I to judge” approach on this crucial human rights issue.

He’s also been dismissive of Catholics who embrace the Latin Mass, making it seem as if they were knuckle draggers from pre-Vatican II.

And then he comes out with morally relativistic comments about the suffering in Israel and Palestine, ignoring the fact that all of the victims can be attributed to the terrorism of Hamas and their radical brothers.

When I was in Rome last week, I talked to a few Italians who candidly told me this pope was too political for them.

It felt good to know that this wasn’t just an American phenomenon and that even some of his neighbors weren’t happy.

It’s so easy to write this off as a liberal-conservative problem, in the simplistic way Americans tend to view conflict.

It’s more than that. It’s about feeling alienated from the very person who is supposed to hold you in his embrace.

Ten years on, that embrace seems terribly lukewarm.

Copyright 2023 Christine Flowers

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