Catholicism is exciting. A few weeks ago, many Catholics awaited their new leader because of an unexpected retirement. Pope Benedict XVI stepped down as the Vicar of Christ because of his weakened health. The last pope to resign was Gregory XII, 598 years ago due to the Great Western Schism.
The Catholic Church experienced a lot more firsts as well. Pope Francis, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, is the first latin American pope, first Jesuit pope, and the first Pope to pick the name Francis from Saint Francis of Assisi, who lived a simple life and died in poverty. Also, Pope Francis’ installation mass is the first to ever be attended by an Orthodox Christian leader, Bartholomew I.
For many like me, these are amazing historical events. For others, Pope Francis is merely a new face promoting the same old problems. Critics have already attacked Francis for his views on Catholic social teaching and his personal life story. They are out there to defame him instead of actually understanding him.
Pope Francis does espouse conservative cultural beliefs. He holds views that don’t mesh well with today’s secular world. Yes, he’s against gay marriage: in fact, he clashed against Argentine President Cristina Kirchner when she legalized same-sex marriage. However, his political approach is less dogmatic and more pragmatic. Pope Francis is privately known to support civil unions, a much more politically-driven solution that doesn’t conflict with the Catholic teaching of holding marriage between a man and a woman.
But his critics don’t bother to look at his past. They keep harping on him with unrealistic demands and want Pope Francis to be of this world. They want him to adopt the spreading secular values that the Church is against. Just look at the The New Yorker: the publication insinuates that Pope Francis needs to enact new reforms that align more and more with current social changes. The writer, Jane Kramer, argues that the election of this new pope means that “you will not see women in the priesthood anytime soon; or married clergy; or an end to the bans on divorce, abortion, and contraception; or a reprieve for the nuns in trousers who go froth to give food, music, and solace to the poor, or even an acknowledgment that ‘unrepentant’ gay and lesbian Catholic men and women, might conceivably, get to heaven.”
The New Yorker also dared to mention an Argentine falsehood. Kramer’s article cited the accusation that then- Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio worked with the Argentine military dictatorship by turning in two priests to be tortured and accepted the military’s initiative to send babies from the desaparecidos–dead revolutionary parents–into military families. Such accusations against Bergoglio are embarrassing.
The problematic part of these accusations is that they were made in Argentina. Pagina 12 is the leftist newspaper that keeps funneling articles that make Bergoglio look like a boogeyman instead of a genuine person. They perpetuate falsehoods instead of reporting that Bergoglio actually persuaded Argentine Dictator Videla to release the two priests he supposedly turned in. There is actual testimony from 2010 which shows Bergoglio’s frustration and his 1976 demand that the priests be released. Bergoglio also helped many to hide away from the vicious regime and helped them to leave the country. Pope Francis will actually canonize one of the assassinated priests, Carlos Murias.
Of course these genuine stories don’t sell in extreme liberal newspapers. Bergoglio could have been executed for helping any rebels from the government’s opposition.
Shame on these individuals. As an Argentine and Catholic, I am appalled by these accusations. Instead of actually celebrating, these people, along with President Kirchner, are unhappy about Pope Francis’ election since he is well-known for disagreeing with leftist policies. Congressman De Narvaez points out that then-Archbishop Bergoglio was on Kirchner’s Nixon-styled enemies list. That is no way to treat a new pope or member of her opposition; however, Kirchner has been quick to ask the newly anointed Pope Francis for favors. She recently asked him to claim British Falkland Islands to be Argentine.
Argentina is ruled by a bunch of ignorant and opportunistic secular leaders that are disinterested in Bergoglio’s life. They want to use him for political reasons instead of helping the Catholic Church.
The bottom line is, Pope Francis is a good man. He’s a compassionate Catholic. As strong as some of his ideas may be, have any of his critics looked at his actual life and experiences? Do they know that Archbishop Bergoglio went to an HIV/AIDS and drug victim hospice to bless them and wash their feet? Do they know that he opted to live in a small apartment instead of a mansion for the archbishop of Buenos Aires? Do they know that he rode the public bus instead of using a limousine? These are acts of austerity and kindness that contrast with a Church that festers with consumerism and opulence. This is an average man like Father Francis of Assisi.
But Bergoglio’s critics don’t want to hear or learn these facts. They are out there trying to suck any kind of excitement from the Catholic Church and trying to kill it or turn into a secular safe haven. “The Catholic Church will only be embraced by its critics if it becomes pro-gay marriage, pro-choice, pro-contraception, anti-celibacy, pro-female priests…” etc. You get the general idea. But why should the church change this way? Why should the Church listen to The New Yorker or to Pagina 12?
The Church should listen to the Holy Spirit. There are several aspects of the Church that need to change, and the Church is already on the path to changing them by electing Pope Francis. The only thing Catholics like myself can do is pray for him as he asked on Twitter.
With defamation like this already mounting, he needs prayer. He needs our blessing.
Alex Uzarowics | Knox College | @AUzarowicz