Friday, February 14, 2020 - Updated: 3:53 pm
QUESTION: At work, in the neighborhood, even at social events, I hear people talk about Pope Francis. I am surprised to hear how many people just do not like him. That seems odd to me and I wonder why that is?
ANSWER: Pope Francis is from a culture different from that of Europe or North America. His experience in South America has given him a world view that is sometimes not aligned with ours. He sees some things differently than we do and we don’t feel comfortable with that.
We seem to remember recent popes speaking about “church issues” like dogmatic questions or matters of pastoral practice and we are comfortable with that. While recent popes have spoken on controversial issues, we seem to have no memory of that.
What we recall are the teachings of popes that agree with how we feel. These are the areas identified with Catholic thought that seem to provide us with a kind of “comfort zone.”
Pope Francis, however, feels that those issues have been discussed and proclaimed sufficiently that there should be no doubt where the church stands on them. So, he has turned his attention to different issues that he believes are also central to the teaching of the Catholic Church.
Some of his major efforts include teaching on the joy of the Gospel (“Evangelii Gaudium,” 2013), care for our common home (“Laudato si,’” 2015), family life (“Amoris Laetitia,” 2016) and youth (“Christus Vivit,” 2019).
In these writings as well as other exhortations Pope Francis has turned his attention to issues such as capitalism, immigration, the death penalty, ecology and nuclear war. These are flashpoints for some and uncomfortable for many Catholics because their own personal views are at odds with the views of the pope.
Because of this, some Catholics say they disagree with the pope. However, if one asks about specific issues, many cannot identify them. Others argue that the pope should not be talking about “social issues.” Pressed about what the pope has said or written that concern them, they are unable to say. What is most distressing is that those who claim they disagree with the pope or simply “dislike” him have not read or heard almost anything the pope has said or written.
The depth of many people’s knowledge of the pope is what they vaguely recall from what they have heard on the radio or read on the internet. Is that fair?
In general, the pope is asking us to look at things from a different perspective. For example, what is it like to be a fifth-generation farmer with no hope of a future? What is it like to be on death row? What is it like to be a parent who has lost children to drug cartels? What is it like to be unable to feed your children where you live?
What Pope Francis is asking is that we reflect more deeply on issues that are complex and uncomfortable. What he says and writes, he feels are critical implications of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Shouldn’t we be considering the thoughts of the successor of Peter as we consider our own accountably to the Savior?
Father Bober is administrator of the grouping that includes St. Kilian in Adams/Cranberry townships and Holy Sepulcher in Glade Mills.