A Protester’s Thoughts On Pope Francis I

Argentinian Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio was selected as the next Pope. He took on the papal name Francis, in part, as a foreshadowing of the theological lineage in which Bergoglio hopes to walk as Pope.  Like St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis I wants to preach the Gospel at all times, and use words if necessary (This quote is attributed to St. Francis but is not verified).

A couple of quick thoughts on the new Pope from a Reformed Protestor’s perspective (The National Review did a wonderful job highlighting some facts for us here):

Positives:

1. By all accounts, Pope Francis is a humble, Biblical, real-deal Christian kind of guy.  One evangelical leader told Out of Ur blog,

“He is much more of a Christian, Christ centered and Spirit-filled, than a mere churchman. He believes the Bible as it is written. I have been with him on many occasions and he always makes me sit next to him and invariably makes me take part and often do what he as Cardinal should have done. He is consistently humble and wise, outstandingly gifted yet a common man. He is no fool and speaks out very quietly yet clearly when necessary. I consider this to be an inspired appointment not because he is a close and personal friend but because of who he is In Christ. Pray for him”

He may not be an Evangelical Pope, that honor is reserved exclusively for John Piper, but he seems like a cool guy.  I wonder if he will continue his philosophy of living in an apartment, rejecting the vatican limo service, and spending time with local Roman citizens.

2. He is pro-Bible when it comes to the definition of marriage and when it comes to the way in which he handles the delicate cultural issue of gay-marriage.

Bergoglio said of Argentina’s gay-marriage laws:

“Let’s not be naïve, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.

He has also called the prospect of gay-adoption, “discrimination against children.” Even with these strong statements, his contemporaries describe him as gracious and loving (and somewhat liberal) on the way in which he talks about the gay marriage issue, unlike Benedict who routinely and publicly blasted the notion of gay marriage.

Not Sure About This:

1. Pope Francis is a participant in the Comunione e Liberazione (CL).  What is CL? There is still much debate about it’s distinctives, but at best it can be boiled down to Catholic small groups that help ease the burden for Christian community in places without official church leaders by providing ways for lay people to assume leadership of faith communities.  At worst – it is Liberation Theology, a theological belief in which God has a preference for the poor and hopes that social salvation comes through quasi-Marxist means (See redistribution of wealth and power, sometimes through violence). Most commentators point out that he distanced himself from Liberation Theology and peg him closer to the conservative CL.  I kindof get a Romero feel about his worldview.

2. He is a member of the Society of Jesus. These guys are like the Marine Corp of the Catholic Church.  Or as Elisa says on 30Rock, “Don’t tell me you’re one of those convenient Catholics who only goes to church on Sundays.” Bottom line – Jesuit theology can be bad (see Fr. Jon Sobrino, silenced Jesuit Priest to El Salvador) or good (see Xavier, Francis).  I am hoping that he is in the good Jesuit theology.

Causes for Concern?:

1. He has stated that the current task of the church is not doctrine, but social justice.  I would hope that this is a descriptive statement in need of further nuancing.  I have a hard time believing a Jesuit would not believe in the critical and essential primacy of doctrine.  That being said, I can understand that his context in Latin America would force his piety to express itself most publicly in social issues.  I hope that Francis I will stay true to the Jesuit value on the life of the mind as a beginning point of theology.

How I’m Praying For Him:

I am praying for the new Pope in the following ways:

  • I am praying that his humility would be a change agent in the Vatican.  I would love to see the Pope wear normal clothes, walk to events, take up a smaller residence.  Maybe even donate some of the funds to things like pregnancy crisis centers, cancer research, and Jesuit missions.  
  • I am praying that he continues to remain Biblical when it comes to positioning the Catholic Church on theological, moral, and social issues.
  • I am praying that he has the room to lead and that the church gives him his space.
  • I am praying for good health and a strong transition to a place of ultimate influence within his order.
  • I am praying that he grows each day in his love for and value placed on Jesus.

About Doug Hankins

Although not a Christian in his youth, Doug came to believe in Jesus during his teenage years. When not playing sports or pastoring Doug is probably spending time with his wife, reading a good book, or drinking some hot tea. Doug's first book Dawson Trotman: In His Own Words is available wherever books are sold. You can follow Doug on twitter.
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