Given that the Catholic Church has considerable influence on politics in America and around the world, the election of Pope Francis (above) is proper grist for this blog’s mill.
Here are some random gleanings from the Internet, in no particular order of importance.
– It should come as no surprise that the papacy finally has gone to a Latin American. After all, 41 percent of all Catholics — and half of those under the age of 40 — are from that part of the world.
– Francis seems to be a hardliner on contraception and homosexuality. Progressives who were hoping for a softer line from the Vatican on those issues are likely to be disappointed.
– Nor is the new pope likely to break new ground on the matter of priestly celibacy.
– Women priests? Don’t hold your breath.
– But there’s also THIS:
Stories of his humility abound. When he was appointed a cardinal in 2001, Cardinal Bergoglio persuaded hundreds of Argentines not to fly to Rome to celebrate with him but rather to donate to the poor the money they had raised for their airline tickets.
He declined to move into the luxurious archbishop’s residence, preferring a simple apartment nearby where he lives with an old bishop and usually cooks dinner.
He gets around town mostly by bus, often wearing the cassock of a simple priest rather than any episcopal finery.
In 2000, as John Paul apologised for the Church’s sins down the centuries, Cardinal Bergoglio had clergy wear garments of penance for sins committed during Argentina’s military dictatorship.
In contrast to many activist Latin American priests, Cardinal Bergoglio prefers to stress the spiritual side of his calling and urge the faithful to follow Christ’s example more fully rather than preach about the need for social justice.
– And THIS:
Back in 2005, Bergoglio drew high marks as an accomplished intellectual, having studied theology in Germany. His leading role during the Argentine economic crisis burnished his reputation as a voice of conscience, and made him a potent symbol of the costs globalization can impose on the world’s poor.
Bergoglio’s reputation for personal simplicity also exercised an undeniable appeal – a Prince of the Church who chose to live in a simple apartment rather than the archbishop’s palace, who gave up his chauffeured limousine in favor of taking the bus to work, and who cooked his own meals.
Another measure of Bergoglio’s seriousness as a candidate was the negative campaigning that swirled around him eight years ago.
Three days before the 2005 conclave, a human rights lawyer in Argentina filed a complaint charging Bergoglio with complicity in the 1976 kidnapping of two liberal Jesuit priests under the country’s military regime, a charge Bergoglio flatly denied. There was also an e-mail campaign, claiming to originate with fellow Jesuits who knew Bergoglio when he was the provincial of the order in Argentina, asserting that “he never smiled.”
All of that by way of saying, Bergoglio was definitely on the radar screen. Of course he’s eight years older now, and at 76 is probably outside the age window many cardinals would see as ideal. Further, the fact he couldn’t get over the hump last time may convince some cardinals there’s no point going back to the well.
That said, many of the reasons that led members of the college to take him seriously eight years ago are still in place.
– Meanwhile, Michael Potemra of the right-wing National Review offers THIS:
People who worry that, as a Jesuit, he might be too liberal, should relax: A very conservative Jesuit priest of my acquaintance, who is unhappy with the liberal direction of his order, has been telling me for weeks that he supports Bergoglio for pope. Bergoglio is a solid conservative on the hot-button social issues that agitate American laity, but that would have been true of just about any of the cardinals who might have been elected today. The story here is that he is an outsider who is the consensus choice to fix what’s wrong with the church administration, but all in a Franciscan spirit of love and humility, to wipe the face of the church so that its inner beauty can radiate. St. Francis was called to “rebuild the church” — Pope Francis will act in that spirit.