Random stuff on the new pope — partly from a political perspective


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.



  1. “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.”

    So far, I am very impressed with this choice.

  2. doc: As a lapsed Catholic, I have no stake in the matter, but I think the church only harms itself by standing its ground on the issues of priestly celibacy and women priests.

    The Vatican’s positions on those matters strike me as illogical and not solidly based on scripture. Big majorities of American Catholics disagree with the church on those issues.

    And as for contraception, most Catholics will continue to ignore what the Vatican says. The net effect is that the church’s moral authority is undermined.

    But again, it’s no skin off my nose (to coin a phrase).

  3. Milton Waddams

    I can’t help but think that he looks a lot like George Bluth from Arrested Development (Jeffery Tambor).

    I will ask this about the new pope: Will he remove the bishops and priests that molested children and turn them over to police if the statute of limitations haven’t lapsed? If the answer is no, the Catholic Church and this pope has NO moral authority. Period.

  4. Yawn. More hating homosexuals. More second-class status for women. More irrational denouncement of birth control. More future pedophile priests caused by decades of sexual repression.

    It is business as usual at the Vatican. He told his supporters to donate the money from their plane tickets to help the poor? Aww, how touching. How about he reverses the church policies that cause hundreds of thousands of Africans to get HIV or grow up as orphans every decade.

  5. Neftali

    Decades of sexual repression causes people to turn into pedophiles? really? So if you go without sex for a long time you start targeting children?? wow.

    Score another one for crazed left wing comments on this site.

  6. http://catholicism.about.com/od/beliefsteachings/f/Women_Priests.htm

    The Tradition Established by Christ Himself
    Yet even if we disregard the differences between the sexes, as many advocates of women’s ordination do, we have to face the fact that the ordination of men is an unbroken tradition that goes back not only to the Apostles but to Christ Himself. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (para. 1577) states:

    “Only a baptized man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination.” The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry. The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ’s return. The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible.
    Priesthood Not a Function But an Indelible Spiritual Character
    Still, the argument continues, some traditions are made to be broken. But again, that misunderstands the nature of the priesthood. Ordination does not simply give a man permission to perform the functions of a priest; it imparts to him an indelible (permanent) spiritual character that makes him a priest, and since Christ and His Apostles chose only men to be priests, only men can validly become priests.

    The Impossibility of Women’s Ordination
    In other words, it’s not simply that the Catholic Church does not allow women to be ordained. If a validly ordained bishop were to perform the rite of the Sacrament of Holy Orders exactly, but the person supposedly being ordained were a woman rather than a man, the woman would no more be a priest at the end of the rite than she was before it began. The bishop’s action in attempting the ordination of a woman would be both illicit (against the laws and regulations of the Church) and invalid (ineffective, and hence null and void).

    The movement for women’s ordination in the Catholic Church, therefore, will never get anywhere. Other Christian denominations, to justify ordaining women, have had to change their understanding of the nature of the priesthood from one which conveys an indelible spiritual character on the man who is ordained to one in which the priesthood is treated as a mere function. But to abandon the 2,000-year-old understanding of the nature of the priesthood would be a doctrinal change. The Catholic Church could not do so and remain the Catholic Church.

  7. As far as celibacy, this has always been the reasonable answer that I have been given when I asked. The more I get to know Catholic priests, and understand the breadth and depth of their duties, the more I agree.


    You ask if there is a Biblical support for this, and there is. Probably the most often cited is 1 Corinthians 7:32-34, where Paul writes, “An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided.” Growing up, this is what I was told about why priests couldn’t marry. The demands of shepherding a congregation and tending to their spiritual needs would be too much to balance with the demands of a family. One or the other would always be getting the short end of the stick.


  8. Neftali,

    You are correct, maybe that was a broad leap. Perhaps a larger percentage of population who is for some reason willing to give up sex with adult women for life are more likely to be pedophiles in the first place. Chicken or the egg, the fact is that a lot of priests are pedos and a lot of higher members of the church knew about it and COVERED IT UP. There is really nothing they can say to anyone on moral grounds EVER with that being the case. They should all be in prison.


    Yes, I don’t doubt that there is biblical evidence that supports every crazy and backwards ideas the catholic church holds. What does the bible say about electricity? Nuclear weapons? Pollution? Global warming? Privacy laws in an internet dominated world? Oh, ABSOLUTELY nothing? There is nothing in the entire text to suggest that it was written by anything omniscient. It all looks to be the work of a person or persons for whom a plow was emergent technology.

    If you want to base your life off of such things, be my guest. But it is not a cause for celebration, and the pope is NOT a force for good in this world.

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