Pope Francis is making headlines with his humility and good nature in the infancy of his papacy. The world is already praising his philanthropic ways and communication with the common people.
Those who are envisioning a more accepting Church will be severely disappointed. People should not expect much change in the Catholic Church at all.
Pope Francis may easily be the best man for the job. But people fail to recognize that this one man will not be able to advance the Catholic Church’s position on the hot button issues it is facing. The College of Cardinals elected Pope Francis- birth name Jorge Mario Bergoglio- but will keep most of the power.
Pope Francis’ election can be thought of as a smart PR move. The Catholic Church’s reputation has been in a blazing downward spiral over the last few decades. Entrenched in pedophilia scandals and cover ups of said pedophilia scandals, the Catholics needed a fresh and scandal-free face to lead their cause. They found the perfect man for the job.
The only blemish on Pope Francis’ record is a rumor of involvement in the kidnappings of two Jesuit priests during his homeland’s “Dirty War” several decades ago. There was a lawsuit. It was quickly dismissed. The rumors have been largely put to rest.
The main stories of Pope Francis’ past are ones of simplicity, humor romance, though he turned down domestication for the clergy. Born to an immigrant railway worker, Bergoglio was first educated as a chemical technician. He went on to seminary school and worked hard, slowly and steadily rising through the ranks.
He is the everyman’s Pope.
He’s also the first in several papal categories. He is the first Latin American pope, which aids the image of the Church, often thought to be too European-focused. He is the first Jesuit, a religious order known in the Christian world for their emphasis on caring and aiding those less fortunate. He perfectly fit the bill for what the Catholic Church needed.
The relationship between Pope Francis and his cardinals will be something to watch. Argentina became the first South American country to allow civil unions between gay and lesbian couples. This nation-wide decision came in July of 2010, while Pope Francis was Archbishop of Buenos Aires. There are debates on the Pope’s stance on same sex marriages. It is clear that he is far more tolerant than his cardinals. The Catholics pride themselves on keeping with tradition. Seeing how much change one man can do to rid some of that tradition would be interesting, though the public will never know. Debates on topics like same sex marriage may easily occur in the coming years, but will all happen behind closed doors. Again, his election was largely motivated by the need for a cleaner image.
The College of Cardinals recognized their slipping number of supporters. The number of ordained priests in America has been cut in half since the 1960’s, when the Church’s bad publicity began.
His promotion to top dog may have been in the interest of image, but I do believe that Pope Francis wants to reconstruct several aspects of the Church. Everyone was talking about Maundy Thursday, when Francis washed the feet of twelve juvenile prisoners, two of whom were female, instead of twelve cardinals. Many Catholic traditionalists were appalled by the action, but this is the exact type of publicity the Church needs.
The change in leadership is no doubt an overall blessing. But people should not be expecting too much to change in Vatican City. Pope Francis must work with the College of Cardinals on any religious reform. While the college may have given him the head title, they will let him attend to the poor and neglected, while they stick with their traditional values.
We will be disappointed by the lack of change the Catholic Church will take on over the next few years. Pope Francis may have pure intentions, but we should not be expecting the Church to change any of its stances any time soon.