As promised, here are my thoughts on the new pope! First off, let me explain why I care. I’m Missouri Synod Lutheran, not Catholic. We do actually have a president of our own, but he’s much lower profile (I’m fairly religious, and I still don’t know who he is. Although he did make it into the papers a couple months ago for forcing an LCMS pastor to apologize for participating in an interfaith service after Sandy Hook. I get where he was coming from, but really?!) Anyway, I look to the pope as sort of a defender of the Christian faith. My Lutheranism makes me skeptical of giving one man that much power, but my quarrel is with the papal office itself, not the man who fills it.
His selection of the name Francis is an excellent sign, I think. With connections to both St. Francis of Assisi and Francis Xavier, this signifies a commitment to simplicity, humility, and outreach, all of which appear to have been integral to his Argentine ministry. And the novelty of choosing a name no pope has ever borne hopefully indicates that he will be willing to clean up the corruption in the Church and finally take decisive action to deal with the sexual abuse crisis by showing compassion for the abuse victims and bringing justice on the pedophile priests.
Now onto my qualms:
I’d like to know more about what he did during Argentina’s “Dirty War.” I’ve heard claims that he cooperated with the military dictatorship as well as that he worked to protect those the regime targeted. I don’t know which is correct, so I’m withholding judgement on this area. I’ll assume he’s innocent until proven guilty, but I’ll be watching as more information comes to light.
Also, I find his comments on women and gay marriage disturbing. His quote about how women are inherently unsuited to political office creates a disturbing precedent. I’m not denying men and women are different, but saying that one gender as a whole is unsuited to a particular profession seems wrong. Where does it end? Does the fact that I’m a woman make me worse at computer science? Or does me being a computer science major somehow make me “less of a woman”? As a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field, this comment particularly disturbed me.
As for the gay marriage comment, that was also disturbing. I don’t think anyone seriously expected him to break with the Catholic Church’s historical condemnation of homosexuality. However, I believe that gay people should be allowed to legally marry. I believe it’s a civil right. If the Church wants to forbid holding Church weddings for gay people, no one can stop them. I would agree that there’s a difference between religious marriage and civil marriage. But Francis seems to have conflated the roles of the two, which doesn’t seem to respect the separation of church and state (which Argentina also has, for those who aren’t familiar with Latin American politics).
In conclusion, I’m slightly wary about Pope Francis’ election. I believe he’s a sincere Christian who will do his best to spread the Gospel and promote social justice for the poor. At the same time, I would like more information about his actions during Argentina’s Dirty War, as well as what exactly he believes about women and gay people. Although I am somewhat apprehensive (and missing Benedict a little) I believe all of us who are Christians should pray for him, that God may give him the strength and wisdom to carry out his new role.