Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pope Francis

Just a few comments on the new Pope. Bear in mind I am not Catholic, though there are Catholics in the extended family, it wasn't a faith that I was raised in or that I am intimately familiar with, beyond what pretty much everyone knows about the Catholic Church.

First, the previous Pope, rather than wait to die, stepped down. On the one hand, I have a certain amount of a respect for a man who has the humility to recognize that maybe he isn't the best man for the job, and step aside to put the good of the Church first. On the other hand, being the first Pope Emeritus in something like six hundred years brings it's own level of fame and notoriety.

No one knows why the Pope Emeritus stepped down, for sure, other than he himself. Regardless, knowing what I do of human nature, I can guarantee that he had some curiosity about who his successor would be. What part that played in his decision, who knows?

As for Pope Francis, the first Pope from the Americas, and the first Pope to take the name Francis, I wish him luck. He's assumed a leadership role over a tiny country, and the entire world, all at the same time. He'll set the tone for millions of faithful Catholics in a time in which a lot of people really need their religious leadership to be strong and sure of itself.

Not being Catholic, I'm not sure I'm technically supposed to have an opinion, but I can't help but hope that he takes more after Pope John Paul II than Pope Benedict XVI.

Pope John Paul reached out to the faithful and non-Catholics alike. His personality, demeanor, and behavior while Pope endeared him to the common man.

I have a general distrust of the leaders of organized religion. Too often they seem to be more worried about their own prestige and accomplishments than the welfare and care of their congregations. Either they focus on the honors they are due or they focus on the number of souls they can "save" (because if they convert or recruit more followers, they become more powerful).

Don't get me wrong, there are exceptions. I know several pastors that I sincerely like, who are truly and deeply concerned with the care and welfare of their congregations. I also know one former priest that, at every poor turn in my life, has offered his support and experience to help. The fact that I haven't taken him up on it is not his failing, but my own. I'm not very good at asking for, or accepting help in those kinds of situations.

In general, though, with my interactions with the leaders of organized religion of any stripe that I've encountered, there was always an impression that either I didn't count, because I didn't follow their creed, would go to hell anyway, and it didn't matter, or that they had this burning drive to convert me, to save me. For my own good of course.

So I tend to take any action or advice from religious leaders with a grain of salt, and look for that ulterior motive.

But Pope John Paul II carried himself and presented himself in such a manner that, if I had met him during his lifetime, and had a chance to chat, I think I would have liked the man, and respected him enough to take his opinions and advice under serious consideration.

I think the Catholic Church needs another Pope that outsiders like me can respect. So I hope that Francis is up to the job, and I wish him all the best in his time as Pope. It would be nice to have a leader in the world that is worthy of respect.