“To depict the pope as a sort of superman, a sort of star, seems offensive to me.” — That was the main pullout quote in a Reuters interview last week.
What has emerged so far in the course of his papacy is an exquisitely defined sense of justice, particularly for the disadvantaged and those society has traditionally shunned. Francis’ embrace of a simple life, his discarding of the trappings of power, and his groundbreaking comments on a raft of sensitive subjects manifest a purely Christian view of his relationship to his fellow mortals, and what he in turn believes their relationship should be to one another.
Over the centuries, the Catholic Church has become a top-heavy bureaucracy, weighed down by wealth, intrigue and a deeply embedded instinct for perpetuating its own survival. If the Church is a moving aircraft carrier, Pope Francis is up on the bridge, striving mightily to alter its course through the force of personal example. If he has accrued overwhelming popularity in the process, as the polls show, he employs it not to feed his own ego but to strengthen his guiding grip on the ecclesiastical tiller.
Since his election, Francis has used his bully pulpit in an effort to persuade his flock (and those outside it) to accept and embrace gays as members of the world community. Evidently, he doesn’t view gays’ orientation as a “lifestyle choice,” and does not judge them.
Some may view Francis’ latest remarks on the topic of sexual orientation — that he will “explore” civil unions as a practical matter of property distribution — as insufficiently forceful. In fact, they represent an evolutionary stage — something not unfamiliar to Americans in this context. While Francis — unlike Barack Obama — doesn’t face another election, he must by necessity move in increments. One suspects that he will pause, take a breather, and proceed afresh when the institution he heads has had time to catch up with his own humanity and loving-kindness.
Francis is right when he says he’s no superman. That he knows it — and is offended by the comparison — gives us all hope that this man of humility and vision will someday prevail in his mission of bringing light to the benighted.