We are trying very sincerely to understand and appreciate Pope Francis. He has said many things which have caused conservatives to wince. That's really okay; once you begin to think that you're 'all that' you might also fail to fully adhere to God's will and God's call. You may find yourself not being merciful and compassionate. Even when mercy and compassion may not seem, on the surface, to be merited, well, is that the point? We ought to be merciful and compassionate anyway, even when the objects of those noble virtues by their own actions reject them. Further, we ought to be humble even within what is right and just, for such are not right and just by our decree but by the will of God. The truth is what the truth is; we are not lords of the truth, only guardians of it.
We can accept also that God loves everyone, and so too we should love everyone. We must love even those who willfully and arrogantly do wrong yet assert it is right. We do ourselves at times. Maybe ours are not, indeed they certainly are not, their sins. But we must take care that we are not even inadvertently substituting the shame of our sins with any inordinate disdain for the sins of others. At some point we must realize that St. Peter will not be asking us about what others did in their lives but about what we did with ours. This is most certainly not to say that we ought not work against the ills of the broader society despite our own illness. Love, mercy, and compassion do not and cannot mean that we should not speak and act against a recognition of gay marriage in our nation. They simply mean that we should not demonize the person when condemning the action. It is a tightrope; it is, as the old philosophy teacher said, splitting hairs. Sometimes we must split them, and very finely.
But this latest interview, between the Holy Father and Eugenio Scalfari of La Repubblica, an atheist writer and editor, has us wondering whether Pope Francis needs to be more considerate of his words than he has been. It runs from the sublime to the ridiculous, and seems to us somewhat disjointed and, perhaps, confused.
The Pope says that 'The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old.' With all due respect to His Holiness, and we hold the Chair if St. Peter and Francis himself in high esteem, we have a difficult time accepting these as the most serious issues we face today. To be sure, we want young people to have hope in tomorrow and we ought to venerate senior citizens. But the worst? Even arguing, and we are extrapolating here and not meaning to put words in anyone's mouths (especially the Holy Father's) that evils such as abortion and euthanasia arise from such issues, surely an actual abortion and the culture of abortion do not come solely from youth unemployment, do they? It just sounds as though the Holy Father was being flippant, a little too off the cuff; we hate to say it, but such blithe comments seem shallow. They seem to relegate the great issues of our times, indeed of all times, to the level of the catchphrase. Make people happy and evil will go away. We're not convinced that saving the world is all that easily done.
Pope Francis later asserts, “Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us." To the latter point, yes, we need to listen. But we need to listen so that we can understand people and help them, not because their view may be right. To cut to the chase, if we as Catholics don't want to convert others to our Faith, what does it say of our faith? If he means that we ought not hit people over the head about it but prayerfully explain and cajole folks towards the truth of the Church, okay. But he should say that. As it is, he sounded very relativistic even as he explained his point (the interview can be found here: http://www.repubblica.it/cultura/2013/10/01/news/pope_s_conversation_wit... ), and relativism works against everything the Church supports.
This is especially disconcerting when the Holy Father says “Each of us has a vision of good and of evil. We have to encourage people to move towards what they think is Good. … Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.” Will it? There is simply no way to ask that question except boldly and bluntly: will it? We hope to find out that the Holy Father was taken out of context. We will let you know if we do.
We are only addressing certain parts of the interview. There are points where the Holy Father says very important things very well, and we encourage everyone to read the entire article for the sake of that. Not everyone, and especially not those who only want to hear what they want to hear of Pope Francis, will do that. The trouble is, it is those people who will make of the Pope's words more than there is to make, and for their own selfish purposes.
This is a man we must respect. This is a man chosen by God to be where he is because we need him right now, for whatever reasons God wills. Yet we have the right to question even the Pope so long as we do so charitably and in search of explanation and guidance rather than to chastise him. On the surface, we feel that the Holy Father must learn to choose his words more carefully. The world will not be so considerate of the big picture as he is apparently attempting to be. That will only work against him, and his work, in the long run.