Tuesday, October 06, 2015

A Pope of Hope

Pope Francis has come to these shores and gone. The evening news can return to over-emphasizing other stories. What did the papal visit mean to Catholics and others in the U.S.? That was the topic of a lively discussion this weekend by a dozen friends.

Our group included one person who grew up as a Catholic, has left the church, and is unlikely to return. Another was once married to a Catholic and has many Catholic friends, although she is an Atheist. The rest of us had various religious backgrounds that did not include Catholicism; most now are Unitarian-Universalists.

Very few negative words were spoken about Pope Francis or his visit. What's not to like about a charming man who champions causes dedicated to helping the poor, reversing economic inequality trends, and living in harmony with our natural environment? And this Pope practices much of what he preaches, living modestly unlike some of his predecessors who favored regal splendor for themselves while telling others to sacrifice.

Now the question is what, if any, lasting positive effects will the papal words have. Our discussion group members advanced several ideas.

One with considerable expertise on environmental matters thought the Pope's statements that global warming is a fact and human activities are a principal cause would help move reluctant members of the U.S. Congress to see the light. Another said any advances toward more humanitarian and less dogmatic characteristics in the Catholic Church were welcome, and Pope Francis is steering the church in that direction.

I thought the most insightful comment was that Francis' appearance at this time in America was a masterful stroke of public relations. The church as been hard-hit by membership and financial losses in the wake of revelations of priestly misconduct. Exposure to a new leader who exhibits personal warmth, tolerance, and a gentle spirit was a positive thing for an organization very much in need of some warm fuzzies.

I agree that Pope Francis, with only a few minor exceptions, rather expertly delivered the right messages at opportune times. There is hope that some of his words will promote lasting changes.


Alan G said...

I have to agree for the most part with your assessment of the Pope’s visit here to the United States, at least for the time his boots were on the ground here.

But I remain a bit more pessimistic as to any long term effects from the visit. To invoke an analogy; I’m sure having been in the military you will recall if you were stationed stateside that on those long holiday occasions such as Thanksgiving and Christmas when a large majority of the troops would be traveling home to visit family and friends, the week of the holiday they would require all the troops to show up at the base theater where they would show very horrific and gory state police videos of horrendous automobile accidents. In those days military personnel had a very bad driving reputation and seemed to always be involved in road accidents due to high speed or reckless driving.

In the immediate aftermath of watching these state police videos I think for the most part the point was well made and it did have an immediate effect on a percentage of the troops who probably exercised a bit more caution with regard to their driving habits during those holidays and their time on the road.

However… it had no lasting effect whatsoever and within a month the status quo and NASCAR mindset was back in place with most if not everyone which is why they showed them time after time. I think with the Pope’s visit, it will be much the same case. Out of sight – out of mind.

Dick Klade said...

Quite possible, Alan. I've observed earlier visits by Popes preaching "peace" to our nation's leaders, and peace did not come. I'm hopeful of a few small gains this time around, but not another Reformation.

Jhawk23 said...

This Pope at least appears to realize what so many religious leaders fail to: That "their" brand is but one of dozens, or even hundreds of faiths, some huge like the RCs, others tiny. If Francis can effect any slight shift toward ecumenical tolerance in the world, that would likely be his greatest achievement.

His visit here was also a good public relations move for the Church, and more power to him for trying to instill a sense of urgency about climate change, but I doubt he changed any minds on that issue.

Tom Sightings said...

Agree the visit was a positive one. And I agree he'll move the needle ... a little bit.

Phil Kramer said...

Good job reviewing our Pope discussion . . . bad job with your dental work . . . and maybe next time it will be a nickel!

Anonymous said...

Interesting post Dick. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. As for Francis, one can hope he has become enlightened about the US as he had never been here before, and grew up and spent most of his life in Argentina where the politics are very different as is the theology of the church.

Francis is very political it seems. He thought about entering politics before he became a priest, so he had something for everyone. Certain commentators on the Fox network, which was founded by five Catholics, were looking for those items that supported some of their more conservative ideas, while comentators on other more left-leaning networks emphacized the points they found appealing. Something for everyone it seems.

Basiclly the Catholic Church has not changed its position on prolife matters. The pope met with the Little Sisters of the poor who are suing the ACA owing to itw irth control regulation (their case is before the Supreme Court this term). And he met with Miss Kim from Kentucky and gave her a hug and two roseries, and suggested she stick to her beliefs.

NCmountainwoman said...

I fear the Pope's words may not be lasting and fell on deaf ears of some of the more conservative American priests. The Newark Archbishop sent a letter this week to all his priests instructing them not give holy communion to any Catholic who supports gay marriage. Guess I'd have to step out of the line in NJ when it came time for communion.