Miracles happen: play and get St Peter views at Roma GC and spy

Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI when at Castelgangolfo GC

Papa_FrancisMonday 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

modern governance.

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.

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