Pope Francis not a basher’s model-A A +A
Thursday, March 14, 2013
CATHOLICS finally have a pope from the region of Liberation Theology.
No, I don’t mean the new pope, Argentina’s Jorge Mario Bergoglio, is doctrinally one with Peru’s Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez, who wrote the famous book, “A Theology of Liberation” that didn’t sit well with the then Pope John Paul II. To be sure, like many others in the Catholic Church hierarchy, Bergoglio, who has adopted the Francis name, fought the influence of liberation theology among the clergy.
But in battling an ideology, one ends up taking cognizance of some of its virtues.
Liberation theology, which calls for a more aggressive push by the Church to battle unjust economic and political conditions, was a legitimate movement especially in Latin America. Begoglio must have discerned its real intention wrapped in radical methodology. It was summed up by the phrase “preferential option for the poor.”
Some analysts have labeled the new Pope “moderate” as opposed to being radical or conservative. Others call him a “reformer,” although “reform” in this case may only apply to organizational rather than doctrinal matters. Reports say, for example, that he opposed the Argentinian government on such issues as same-sex marriage and free distribution of contraceptives. That doesn’t make him a reformer of doctrines.
But he is a Jesuit and took the name of Francis, which refers to either Francis Xavier, a missionary and co-founder of Bergoglio’s Society of Jesus, or St. Francis of Assisi, known as servant to the poor and destitute. Jesuits are known for their intellectual pursuits (think Fr. Joaquin Bernas) and innovation (think Fr. James Reuter). So Pope Francis is capable of solving creatively the major problems facing the Church.
But those points are, for now, mere conjectures. Potentials, even if these are owned by popes, are not often realized. What is easily discernible are the initial accounts of the former Cardinal Bergoglio’s humble lifestyle. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he reportedly took a bus to work and lived in a small apartment. He is viewed as a respected cleric, which contrasts heavily with the description of the clergy propagated by Catholic Church bashers.
Indeed, the indiscretion of a few priests and the scandals rocking the clergy has allowed the usual haters of the Catholic Church to hold sway the past several years. In the Philippines, ridiculing priests And Church practices have become the weapon of choice of those pushing for the adoption of liberal practices that clash with the Church’s conservative views.
Lost in the Church-bashing fad is the fact that many bishops, priests and nuns continue to follow the path that Jesus Christ cleared. Many of them still serve the poor and the destitute everywhere and do charitable works. Some are martyred while preaching the gospel. Others, like Cardinal Bergoglio, lead simple but model lives.
Electing Bergoglio pope can be considered as a subtle message by the College of Cardinals to bashers everywhere that the Catholic Church, while faltering here and there, is still largely the Good Church. In a way, having a “humble, authentic and credible” pontiff, as CNN described Pope Francis, allows the world to view the clergy in a prism different from what the bashers have been using the past years.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 15, 2013.