I’m hopeful about the selection of Francis I. Maybe I am being naïve given that he had to, at the very least, cut a deal with one of the more brutal governments in this hemisphere to keep his job and his life.
It is worth noting that no less than Adolfo Pérez Esquivel has come to Francis’s defense on that matter. Still, his silence during that time, when so many in the Church and among his Jesuit brothers chose not to be quiet, makes his record murky at best.
Two important facts make me hopeful. One is that he is a Jesuit. It makes him an outsider, despite his status as a cardinal. Yes, he no doubt had to get the votes of insiders to get elected, but there are plenty on the inside who have been embarrassed by the rot at the heart of the Church. He is a member of an order that was founded by a man and his companions that knew that the way to grow and strengthen the Church was to widen its horizons.
A side note to that: the Jesuits have historically been involved with the sciences, and Francis himself is a chemist. The last few popes have embraced science, but to have one that is a scientist and comes out of the Jesuit tradition is an important sign that religion and science can coexist. This guy won’t be visiting the Creation Museum anytime soon.
The other is the selection of the name: Francis. This has been written about to death, but it is an important signal. The guy didn’t seem to have much time for the trappings of his previous office. Reports I’ve read are that former cardinal would have rather ridden on the bus and discuss his beloved San Lorenzo than ride in the limousine provided by the archdiocese.
Yes, despite his advocacy on behalf of the poor, he has the same retrograde views on homosexuality and women’s rights that the church has had for decades. But, I wonder if the humility of St. Francis will allow him to at least get a discussion going on the topics. Maybe he’ll know to work to make those of us who disagree feel more welcome. His clash with his country’s president over gay marriage, where his tactics helped him lose the fight, may have taught him a few lessons too.
So many of the troubles in the Church right now can be traced back to arrogance: the burgeoning financial imbroglio, the alienation of younger Catholics and, worst of all, the sex abuse scandals. Maybe putting on that brown robe and wandering the countryside and learning from ordinary folks is what these guys need.
Hasta la proxima. Do zobaczenia.