One of the reasons Pope Francis remains an enigma is because few people are really interested in what he has to say. People prefer to project their own agendas onto him in pursuit of a political ideology.
Hence the media has invested so much in spinning the story of “Francis the Reformer” – the enlightened fluffy Pope to lead the Church into a new era. One at peace with the sexual revolution. One that bows down to worship at the altar of modern political correctness. A far cry from those wicked dark repressive leaders of old. The ones that were ever hounded and painted in the worst possible light. The flip side of the game currently being played.
It is a story which delights cafeteria Catholics the world over. For it suggests great change is round the corner. The Anglicisation of the Catholic church no less! Great news for those who dream of “total inclusion” based, not on God’s terms but your own. Light on sin but heavy on mercy with no questions asked nor demands made of the sinner. Hell is empty in this reality. Crosses need not be picked up.
This projection of modernist values was obvious from the start. Consider how the “gay times” made Pope Francis its cover boy. Loudly praising his views focusing on half a sentence-“Who am I to judge?”- but ignoring the other half “if a person seeks God and has good will”. The half which rather implies a need to be open to the teaching of the Church.
If you doubt that Pope Francis does stand by the teaching of the Church I suggest you put down the media imagined Pope for just a second or two in order to read the words and message of the real Bergoglio Hmm not quite fitting the media image is it?
And after the recent Synod the press again clamoured to sell us “Francis the Reformer” The Guardian hilariously suggesting he had “got with Guardian thinking.” What arrogance! Yet not one mainstream newspaper reported his words post Synod. You have to go to Catholic websites for that. His claim that the Christian family and marriage have never been so attacked as they are nowadays because of growing relativism over the concept of the sacrament of marriage have been mysteriously airbrushed out.
And then there was the ‘revelation’ this week that Pope Francis believes scientific teaching on creation is compatible with Catholic teaching. Another hint to the populace “this is the enlightened Pope” What a contrast to the dinosaurs before him who imagined Genesis was a literal scientific manual. All well and good- only Pope Pius XII was saying all of that in 1951!
Nor was Pope Francis the first Pope to show compassion to the disabled. Or adore little babies. Or to reach out to the homeless. But you would be forgiven for thinking he was because that is part of the projection. Through such suggestion the world attempts to paint the Pope into their corner. Then hopefully, swayed by all the adulation and headlines he will be a good boy and embrace the thinking of the world. And to be fair the pressure to do so must be enormous. Who would want the alternative. The vile sneers and lies that were ever spoken about dear Pope Benedict?
The point here is not, of course, to suggest Pope Francis doesn’t care deeply about people outside the church or, in his words, who are in need of the field hospital. He does. As do all who are Christian if living in accord with God’s will. The point is that this compassion and desire for mercy is not going to lead to a changing of Catholic teaching. Not least because such teaching is not a hostile list of rules intended to damage people, but an attempt to convey truth that leads to a fullness of life, a more humanising vision.
It has all happened before of course. In the 1960’s the world played the same game with Pope Paul VI. And everyone was certain, absolutely certain, that a relaxing of teaching regarding artificial contraception was around the corner…but instead the Pope produced Humane Vitae- that prophetic document cementing Catholic teaching. He was hated for it and never recovered from the ensuing nastiness. But he stood firm and proved himself a true son of the church. I end with his words that stillresonate today:
It can be foreseen that this teaching will perhaps not be easily received by all: Too numerous are those voices — amplified by the modern means of propaganda — which are contrary to the voice of the Church. To tell the truth, the Church is not surprised to be made, like her divine Founder, a “sign of contradiction”, yet she does not because of this cease to proclaim with humble firmness the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical. Of such laws the Church was not the author, nor consequently can she be their arbiter; she is only their depositary and their interpreter, without ever being able to declare to be licit that which is not so by reason of its intimate and unchangeable opposition to the true good of man.