Both Sides of the Papal Coin

You can tell the importance of a visitor to New York City by how big a mess he makes of the traffic. By that measure, Pope Francis must be, well, the Vicar of Christ! The adulation with which be is met everywhere he goes is sincere. He is admired for his compassion, his humility, and his outreach to the poor, the disenfranchised, and the oppressed. As a former Catholic, I am not immune to the feeling that there is a Pope who may breathe some fresh air into the ancient institution over which he presides.

And yet, there is also a strange irony at play. At the same time that Pope Francis is being hailed for reaching out to victims of oppression throughout the world, he is still supporting the historical policies through which his own Church oppresses so many millions of its members. Women are still denied the right to become priests. Priests are still denied the sacrament of matrimony. Gays are still denied both matrimony and the right even to be themselves.

Rome was not built in a day, and I am sure that it cannot be rebuilt in a day, either. And it is certainly possible that the Bishop of Rome has his eye on deeper reforms within the Church than he has yet indicated. Perhaps he feels the need to point the way with some more general shifts in attitude before taking on the really tough specific issues. I can only hope that the specifics will come before too long. Because just as charity begins at home, so must change. If Pope Francis wants to foster freedom, justice, and equality in the world, let us hope that he will soon foster them in his own Church.


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