About the Pope

Earlier this year, my wife and I made a decision.  I am (or was) a “Cradle Catholic,” but henceforth we will belong to the Episcopal Church.

This was before Pope Francis was installed this spring.

Pope Francis – Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

I have to say that despite the fact that I am no longer a practicing Catholic, I was excited to hear that a Jesuit had been elected Pope for the first time.  Once upon a time I had considered the priesthood and the Society of Jesus seemed to be the order that was the most natural fit for me. I was a little afraid that the Pope would just be a reflection of the current conservative magisterium.

It seems that those fears were not justified. In case you’ve been in a coma the last couple of days, here is an article of what I am talking about.

Without enumerating them, there are positions the Church has that I agree with, and those that I disagree with. But it seems that for too long the Church has been putting the sin ahead of the sinner.

Jesus talked about sin. That is irrefutable. But the essence of his message was that we are loved and forgiven, and we are called to love and forgive. For too long, that is not the vibe that the Church has been sending out. Instead of “Come and be transformed,” it has seemed as if the Church has been saying “Be transformed, then come.” As much as Catholic commentators are trying to spin the Pope’s comments into “He is just saying what has always been,” it just isn’t true. One only has to go back to thing that Benedict said and wrote to prove otherwise.

One of the most important parts of the Mass for me was the Nicene Creed. I would proudly state “I believe in one holy Catholic and apostolic Church.” I still say those words, I still believe them, although in the Book of Common Prayer, the word printed is catholic rather than Catholic.

But being a Christian is more than belonging to the Church. I realized one night that my perspective on the nature of humans and sin had changed one night when I was driving around late, looking for a used car. As I drove through a lot on the edge of town, I saw a woman ducking down the aisles, talking on a cell phone. I am sure she was a prostitute. So I prayed for her. But instead of praying that she would repent of her sins, I found myself praying for more practical matters: That if she really needed the money, her john would show up. That she would be safe from violence or disease. That she wouldn’t be arrested. That whatever desperation that was driving her to sell sex would dissipate. That her hooking would provide for her until that time.

Jesus ministered to tax collectors (i.e. thieves,) prostitutes, and others on the margins of society. That seems to be what Francis stands for. He makes me want to return to the Catholic Church. But I won’t until I see evidence of the rest of the Church will follow his lead. Until then, I am a man, a sinner, a child of God. And an Episcopalian.

 

 

“We need saints without cassocks, without veils – we need saints with jeans and tennis shoes. We need saints that go to the movies that listen to music, that hang out with their friends (…) We need saints that drink Coca-Cola, that eat hot dogs, that surf the internet and that listen to their iPods. We need saints that love the Eucharist, that are not afraid or embarrassed to eat a pizza or drink a beer with their friends. We need saints who love the movies, dance, sports, theatre. We need saints that are open, sociable, normal, happy companions. We need saints who are in this world and who know how to enjoy the best in this world without being callous or mundane. We need saints.”

Pope Francis, 2013

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