The conversation proceeded to mention Pope Francis, a favorite among most of the participants for his gentle demeanor, charitable activity, and tolerance of seekers and objectors. This guy approves of public breast-feeding! What has the Pope to do with breasts!? And so forth. It took a humorous turn, such that I wouldn't mind a frank yet charitable conversation with these folks someday!
This panel favors Francis. I don't want to say "for the wrong reasons" (it slipped out), but then again, what are those reasons? I don't claim to know the inner hearts of any of these good people. Conversations of this sort reflect much of the current fascination with Francis. Further speculation into motives for this fascination might exceed my pay grade, but that never stopped me before:
- He gives Catholicism a good face (read: a better face than Benedict or John Paul did. As a late-model Gen-Xer, my peers and I don't go back much earlier than that).
- He's more open to those whose association with Catholicism is at best tenuous and at worst inimical.
- He is the "real deal," because he overtly shows love for the poor and marginalized and tolerance for seekers (again, unlike his predecessors, who could as well have been chaplains for the GOP).
As gentle and tolerant as Pope Francis is, I don't expect scads of "reverts" to the faith on account of him. He's already reaffirmed certain teachings as immutable, even while reminding (especially priests, 'cause we need it!) that Jesus' identity and mission undergird all the hot-button topics...at least for Catholics; and this no matter who wears the white skullcap. What kinda irks me is how Francis' immediate predecessors have been billed as authoritarian, callous, elitist, I'd almost say because of Francis' style and content. "[Thinking of Francis as] the real deal" insults his predecessors, and puts him on an unfair pedestal as well. Although he seems like the kind of person who is content to be himself, no matter what the public perception – and this may well be the key to his charm. In this and several other respects, I'd like to be like him when I grow up. [emphases mine, because Facebook doesn't use italics]Then it seemed that further development was necessary. Once salt is added, it's hard to remove.
..."Upon further review," as they say in the NFL, it's rather pessimistic not to expect some genuine conversions; and why not, because many things about him manifest the appeal of Jesus and, yes, of the Catholic faith, in ways that other popes may not have exhibited; or the signals weren't so clear (that's very much the Holy Spirit's domain). That's all for now.I've just about had enough defending Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II. But hey--they didn't ask for it, nor do they really need it!