Miracles happen: play and get St Peter views at Roma GC and spy
Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI when at Castelgangolfo GC
Monday 18th November 2013 - by Kyl Chatwaal
A strange and—dare we say it—miraculous transformation has
occurred in the Catholic Church in the last eight months. An
institution that for decades has been plagued by sexual abuse
scandals, and accusations of unbending conservatism, has suddenly become an unlikely
source of hope for an unlikely group of people: the world’s dreamers and idealists.
The Guardian newspaper recently ran a piece called “Why even atheists should be praying for
Pope Francis,” arguing that the Pope, who took over the Vatican in March, now occupies the
position Barack Obama did in 2008—a figurehead for those in search of a more
compassionate, humane world.
Recently, Sarah Palin even criticized the Pope for being “kind of liberal.” But she’s missing
the point: his appeal (or its opposite) has nothing to do with political branding, or even
politics. His stance on things like gay marriage and abortion is pretty standard as far as
Popes go. It’s not his novel take on social issues that makes the difference with Francis.
It’s, for lack of a better phrase, his human touch. He has called for a Church less obsessed
“with small-minded rules,” and that invests its energy instead in compassion and outreach
to the poor. He may not be blessing gay marriage any time soon. But as he demonstrated in
recent comments to reporters, he will not go all fire-and-brimstone on homosexual union
either. “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?” he said. In
other words, the Church has bigger fish to fry than agonizing over people’s private lives.
Overhauling the entrenched wealth and power of the Vatican for one, and replacing it with a
“poor church, for the poor,” something St. Peter himself might’ve recognized.
Sin may be sin, but in Francis’ view, the Catholic Church should not be dogmatic, unfeeling,
and cruel with regard to so-called sinners. Recently, an unmarried woman wrote the Pope
complaining that no Catholic priest would baptize her unborn child. He phoned the woman
personally, told her he would baptize the baby himself.
Francis seems to have that magic quality every politician in the world tries to fake (and
in faking, inevitably, spoils): authenticity. At a gathering of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square
recently, he was approached by a man suffering from neurofibromatosis, a disease that
covers the skin surface with large, bulbous tumors. While most of us would stare, morbidly
curious, or turn away, repulsed, the Pope embraced, kissed, and blessed the man. These
days, it would be easy to conclude that the whole thing was a contrived PR stunt. After all,
ours is a world where a concept like “spin”—essentially a euphemism for lying, and a word
that perfectly enacts what it describes—has somehow been normalized as a basic tool of
But with Francis, we are ready to believe that this is not the case. He’s a Jesuit, he’s spent
his life among the poor, he’s genuinely humble. Whatever we tell ourselves, the fact remains
that we want—need—to believe in the authenticity and essential goodness of this man. This
probably says more about us than him. But for anyone with an idealistic bone in their body,
it’s a sign that warms the heart and restores the faith.