Pope Francis – The Surprising Choice For the New Pope

I am about half way through the book that I mentioned the last time. I want to report to you what I found so far.

But before I do that I want to put out one major criticism of the book. The average word length of a sentence probably exceeded fifty words, and I swear some exceed a full page in length! That makes it difficult for me to read as he just doesn’t seem to want to come to the point in his thoughts. I checked out some of his columns in the New York Times and found them to be the same. Since it is very contrary to my “get to the point” style of writing I often find myself running out of proverbial breath before getting to the end of a sentence. Regardless of that I am committed to finishing the book and to try to hash it down to it’s basics. 🙂

The biggest revelation so far from the book is that the Catholic church, like the US in general, is in the middle of a pretty dramatic struggle for control. The progressive and conservative type agendas pretty much mirror what we find in our current political processes. It seems that each side is convinced that the other side will mean the doom of the church.

What lies at the deepest level of this divide is on fundamental disagreements about the purpose of the church, the authority of the Bible, the nature of the sacraments, the definition of sin, the means of redemption, the true identity of Jesus, and finally the very nature of God. In other words, almost everything. The conservatives are primairily about preserving the traditions and practices of the past at all costs and the liberal wing was primarily about helping the poor and the downtrodden and putting the words of Jesus into practice in today’s world. The liberal wing sees the conservative wing as more ready to exclude than to include and the conservative wing sees the other as “throwing the baby out with the bath water. That sounds kind of familiar doesn’t it?

The part of the book about the ordination of Pope Francis was very interesting. Those of you who were around in the 1960s probably remember how the US political conventions used to be. No one was the inevitable nominee going into the convention, but eventually the field was eventually weaned down to one person. The way of Francis was apparently chosen very much mirrored those conventions.

Remember this papal conclave took place in 2013 when the church was going through the sexual predator scandal. The conservatives tried to handle the scandal by turning inward in a protection mode and of course that proved to only make the situation worse. During this papal conclave it seems they saw that things had to change to prevent a dramatic meltdown. It took five ballots before they selected a Francis by the required two-thirds majority of 203 cardinals voting. I’m sure there was a lot of hand-wringing going on during those sessions.

Since Francis was the first pope to be chosen from outside of Europe and outside the inner circle there must of been a serious level of panic among the conservatives about the very future of the church. Almost all the cardinals who voted in that election were installed into office by very conservative popes, so the conservatives assuredly held the majority in the conclave and could have selected one of their own. But they, I think wisely, didn’t.

Next time I will talk a little about the general view of the Jesuit and Franciscan orders and how the conservatives viewed them and then I will finally get to the first days of Pope Francis.