From the moment he stepped onto the balcony at the Vatican the first time, Pope Francis has changed the image and tone of the papacy and the Catholic Church. Most people both inside and outside the Church find this refreshing and long overdue, but not everyone. Right-wing Catholics are “not pleased.”
Francis broke with tradition by choosing the name Francis—a name chosen by no other Pope. He picked Francis after St. Francis of Assisi a champion of the poor, compassion, and kindness to animals.
That same night he declined the Vatican limousine and rode a bus with fellow Cardinals to have dinner, checked out of his hotel, paid his own tab, and carried his own bags. He refused to live in the luxurious papal apartment and instead chose to live in small, modest quarters. His car is a 5-year old Ford Focus, not a Mercedes limo.
In nearly every public address Pope Francis has spoken about the need for the church to address the needs of the poor including their need for love and compassion. From his first day as Pope, Francis has visited more ghettos and slums than he has temples of prosperity.
He has kissed every baby and hugged every disabled person he sees showing not only great compassion for those who are the least of his brethren, but his connection with them.
These sincere actions have been accompanied by stern messages to the Catholic hierarchy and clergy that they needed to toss off the trappings of comfort, leave the comfort of their mansions and rectories, and talk to people where they live whether it is a ghetto, slum, squalid tent city, or wealthy suburb.
He shocked many when he told reporters that gay people were our brothers and who was he to judge them. He overturned Pope Benedict’s decree that openly gay men should not be priests they should be judged not by sexual orientation, but by their live of God.
Pope Francis looks more like Jesus than any other Vicar of Christ in modern history both as a Bishop and as Pope. “He is restoring credibility to Catholicism,” said church historian Alberto Melloni.
The world has been touched and impressed by the new Pontiff. He has not only set a new standard of behavior for Catholic clergy, but for religious leaders of all faiths. Not all in the Catholic hierarchy are pleased. They prefer the pampered, divisive, and exclusionary ways of old.
A group of conservative Catholics who want to bring back the old Latin Mass from the pre-Vatican II era are unhappy with the Pope’s decision to forbid priests from celebrating the Latin Mass without explicit authorization.
In a recent interview with the “National Catholic Reporter,” Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said right-wing Catholics “generally have not been really happy” with Francis.
Chaput, former Archbishop of Denver, once warned Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry not to attend Mass on a campaign trip to Denver in 2004 because he would be refused communion due to his support for contraception and the right of women to choose.
Some pastors in Denver appointed by Chaput have become actively involved in Republican politics going so far as to give political speeches from the altar.
The Latin-Mass Catholics and religious leaders like Chaput do not like the tone and the direction of the new Pope. They would prefer someone more like Chaput himself. They are also concerned about a few other things the Pontiff has said. He said the church’s judicial system of annulling marriages must be “looked at again” because church tribunals simply aren’t up to the task.
They do not approve of his hint of an opening in church teaching which forbids a divorced and remarried Catholic from taking communion unless they get an annulment, saying: “This is a time for mercy.” Right-wing Catholics disagree with Francis’s move to create a parallel government for the church alongside the Vatican bureaucracy consisting of: a pope and a cabinet of cardinals representing the church in each of the continents.
For those not in the Chaput wing, however, a Pope like Francis is long overdue. He returns the enthusiasm Catholics felt during the reign of newly designated St. John the 23rd and in the early years of the papacy of now St. John Paul. One person’s joy is another’s despair.
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