A Collection of Thoughts on Pope Francis

by Courtney C Horne @FireezDragon

The night before the new pope was announced I was playing around on The Guardian’s pope selecting web app where one could pick traits and see which cardinals fit them.

They had one cardinal classified as progressive, just over a dozen moderates, and the rest conservatives or ultra conservatives. Of the moderates, only two were viable pope candidates. One of those was a 55 year old from the Philippines who I was casually pulling for.

The other? Cardinal Bergoglio -The now Pope Francis.

Thinking of him as a moderate is, of course, a relative term. He is anti-choice, anti-gay marriage, etc. That being said- all the cardinals who were viable Pope choices were. On the other hand, he did famously publicly call out priests for refusing to baptize the babies of unwed women. His very public outrage with those priests gives me hopes that he may appoint cardinals who will start the church’s slow shift on social issues that it needs to make to stay relevant in a changing world. Hopefully with his appointees the number of moderate cardinals picking the next pope will be far more than a dozen.

In more immediate issues, the Guardian did also mention in their pope selector that he viewed condoms as sometimes permissible in order to prevent the spread of disease. It’s a tiny bit of wiggle room but this departure from a super strict stance on condoms could be very important in Africa where both the Catholic church and HIV are very prominent.

This isn’t the only thing that makes me hopeful that he will help the Catholic church do better work in the developing nations.

The new pope smells like Liberation Theology to me. Liberation Theology is a (mostly Jesuit) radical social justice movement in the Latin American Catholic church.

He disavowed the movement early in his career and quite frankly couldn’t have become a Cardinal with any public dedication to the movement. He is however connected to the movement by both his region and his Jesuit order. And by his choice of name. Many consider St Francis to be the unofficial saint of liberation theology.

More importantly, his statements on poverty evoke a connection to the movement. He calls extreme poverty and unjust economic structures violations of human rights. He refers to social debt as “immoral, unjust, and illegitimate.” He refers to homelessness as structural slavery. In short, his statements on poverty and economic injustice smell of the Liberation Theology he has disavowed.

I think this could be a very good thing. For the church to go in a direction of zealously advocating for the poor… I can only hope that his zealous speeches about poverty don’t evaporate now that he has Papal authority.