Sunday, November 16, 2014
More Pope than they bargained for. . .
But... and there is the rub. Francis is more papal than JP2 or B16. Both of them worked incrementally and acted more in concert with their forebears and collegially with their fellow bishops than Francis does. He appears to egalitarian but he acts more arbitrarily than either of his predecessors. He seems not to abide dissent while JP2 and B16 patiently endured the slings and arrows of the liberals (especially among the American crowd -- including one nun who presumed to tell the pope what to do with women and the priesthood). In contrast Francis has had it with people who won't go along with his agenda (I thinking here of his actions toward traditionalist Cardinal Burke and other papal appointments or demotions). He listens to the voice of the bishops without hearing and when they vote contrary to his desire, he ignores them and inserts paragraphs into the final report of the extraordinary synod that they rejected. He is his own man but not in the right way.
The public and press seem to be cheering him on but this pope is more autocratic and papal than his recent predecessors and he is too much a pope for me. Any pope who sees himself above his church, smarter than the bishops, willing to act on his own to get what he wants, unwilling to tolerate dissent from those whose worst criticism is to move more slowly and not to depart from the tradition of the church, well, that is too much pope for this Lutheran. In the end Francis acts more as a solitary figure than either B16 or JP2 and this is exactly the kind of pope which makes Lutherans suspicious.
I was warming up to B16 and thought this is one guy who understands more of Lutherans than those who went before him (including Leo X) but I am completely turned off by Francis. He is too papal for this Lutheran. Yes, he may dress more simply and live (at least in appearance) more commonly than other popes but his actions and words indicate he is more enamored with his power than I am comfortable with (and has made many with the Roman Catholic Church also uneasy).
Francis, like Obama, is a good talker but it seems he says what the people in the particular audience want to hear and does not necessarily betray much of his own personal convictions or intentions. He is like those in Missouri who want to separate substance and style, who think you can keep the theory but change the practice. As I have often said, if you act like an Evangelical on Sunday morning, you will end up believing like one. This is exactly what bothers me most about Francis. He wants his church to act differently and shrugs his shoulders if this means a break with tradition.
Now to be sure, as a Lutheran I have not invested much in the debate about what to do with so many divorced Roman Catholics. But I AM invested in the way Rome moves its weight around on the issue of homosexuality, on what side it falls on the worship wars, etc... Why? Because when Rome sneezes, Lutherans get a cold. We have invested so much in Rome's post-Vatican II ideas of worship and it has done some of the same damage to us as it did to Rome. We stand together against abortion and euthanasia and assisted suicide (among the many pro-life issues) but this is exactly the kind of divisive issue that Francis seems to want to find wiggle room within. We stand together against the redefinition of marriage and family but I worry what damage will be done to the Lutheran hold outs against the gay agenda if Rome seems to capitulate even a little.
Nope, I would rather take the Rome of Benedict and his little red had trimmed in ermine and John Paul and his awful chanting and even Cardinal Burke and his long red capa more than this blue-jeaned Francis who wants us to find a way to be nicer, friendlier, and more winsome. He is exactly the kind of pope that scares a Lutheran like me and I think he should scare more of those outside of Rome and this within.