‘Transitional’ pope could radically reform the church
Francis will not change core church teachings, but he may have new priorities
Did Dr Who borrow one of its key memes from the papacy? For those unfamiliar with the flagship BBC programme, every so often the doctor “regenerates”. In other words, the role of doctor passes to a completely different actor, but there is a radical continuity in the character that is very important to the fans.
Some people interpreted this as a “snide liberal swipe”, according to Stanley. However, Stanley explained that he meant “the paradox as a compliment. Francis’s election will hopefully turn out to be an example of how to revitalise an institution without changing its core values”.
Of course, the resemblance between the papacy and
ends with the
idea of revitalisation of an institution without sacrificing central beliefs, but
the analogy may help to explain the astonishing fact that the pope is always a Catholic.
This appears to be a source of shock to some mainstream media, which seem to cherish a dream that a pro-choice, condom-distributing candidate will somehow slip through the selection process.Oddly enough, this tends not to happen.
Any change will not be on the level of core church teachings and practices, but in approach and priorities. Yet even this level of change can be radical.
After all, Pope Francis is a man who has lived in a huge city with enormous social problems and low levels of religious practice.
The Latin American church also faces significant challenges, both from people who would like to banish religion from the public sphere, and from aggressively proselytising fundamentalist Christian movements. His response has been to try to live according to gospel values by maintaining a modest lifestyle among his people.
In a 2007 interview with Stefania Falasca, he said a number of striking things. The first was that to be faithful is not, as the traditionalists or fundamentalists seem to believe, being faithful to the letter (of the law),
Instead, he said, if one is faithful, there is always change, blossoming, and
Second, he spoke about the need to go where people are, to serve them there. He encouraged his priests to “rent a little garage somewhere”, and if a layman is willing, “Let him be with those people a bit, do a little catechesis and even give Communion if they ask him.”
One parish priest protested that if they did that, the people would not come to church, to which the then Cardinal Bergoglio replied, “Are they coming to church right now?”
Faith in laypeople
He seems to have great faith in laypeople. In the same interview, he spoke of Japanese Christians, who underwent great persecution and were separated from contact with priests for 200 years, but managed to preserve valid baptisms, marriages and Christian funerals.