Francis tough to figure out
Pope Francis I already has proven himself to be someone the world can’t quite figure out.
A humble man who rose to the highest point of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. A man who would take the bus instead of the ornate limousine, who would live in an apartment with a simple heater instead of the palatial surroundings one might associate with a prince of the church.
A man who wants outreach to the poor to be the mission, while knowing how to work with the powerful.
Cardinal Jose Mario Bergoglio is a different sort of leader, and it should prove to be that he will be a different sort of pope.
The firsts of his papacy are surrounding him. First pope from the West. First pope from Latin America. First pope from the Jesuit order. First pope to take the name of St. Francis of Assisi.
Under the simplicity – the man who rode the bus with the rest of the cardinals after he was named pope, and who paid his hotel bill on Thursday – there is a complex pragmatism, a man who knows right from wrong and who takes steps to achieve the work of the church, even when those steps are unpopular.
Head of the Jesuits in Argentina during the brutal rule of a military junta in the 1970s and 1980s, he was faulted for some of his moves, as the Catholic Church was seen as not standing up strongly against the brutality. Bergoglio is even accused of taking actions that sent two priests into the hands of the junta. However, there is evidence to support his work to free the two priests behind the scenes, as they were among very, very few to be released instead of executed.
He criticizes the unequal distribution of wealth, having seen it in ways much of the world does not, firsthand in his homeland. He rails against the damage of runaway capitalism, but Francis never moved into twisted liberation theology, which mixes religion and Karl Marx.
And while it will be interesting to watch the Catholic Church move away from dogma and into action, the basic tenets of the church remain: Family, controlling the base appetites of man and serving others. Pope Francis is a man of strength in traditional values, taking strong stances against abortion, homosexuality and birth control. Yet, he is a man of gentle support, urging his brother priests not to be hypocritical in dealing with people who have made mistakes.
He is a man unlike most in the world today, neither all the way on the left, nor all the way on the right, a man led by belief and faith, not by power, pomp and circumstance.
In Pope Francis I, perhaps people can learn, despite the weeks of mistaken coverage since Benedict XVI resigned, that the Catholic Church isn’t a democracy, nor is it shiftable with the winds of popular trendiness. It is a 2,000-year-old institution that stands for something beyond this world and its ways are not of this world.