Zig Zagging With Pope Francis

Did you hear what Pope Francis said about marriage over the weekend?

When you think he is going to zig, he zags. 

Two weeks ago the media was reporting with breathless anticipation that the Synod of Bishops on the family was on the cusp of changing the Catholic teaching on marriage to allow for same sex unions.  But did you hear what Pope Francis said about marriage over the weekend? It’s reported here.

“The family is being hit, the family is being struck and the family is being bastardized,” the Pope told those in attendance at the Oct. 25 audience.

He warned against the common view in society that “you can call everything family, right?”

“What is being proposed is not marriage, it’s an association. But it’s not marriage! It’s necessary to say these things very clearly and we have to say it!” Pope Francis stressed.

He lamented that there are so many “new forms” of unions which are “totally destructive and limiting the greatness of the love of marriage.”

That doesn’t sound a lot like the let’s throw the baby out with the doctrinal bath water kind of talk on which the media has been focused.  As it turns out, Pope Francis is a practicing Catholic.

Just when you think he is going to zag … he zigs.  What gives with this guy?  Is he liberal or conservative?  Is he a reformer or traditionalist?  Where is he going with this?  What is he going to do next?

Full disclosure: I don’t know Pope Francis personally.  However, so far this is the best article I have read to help me understand his motivations.

Let me summarize it for you.  Pope Francis was a young, up and coming, fast rising, doctrinally conservative star in Argentina. Yep, he is “doctrinally conservative”.  So much so that when a local bishop was ousted for leaning to far left and embracing liberation theology, Pope Francis (still known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio at the time) was named as his replacement.  But “doctrinally conservative” is not the key in understanding Francis.  The key is he was young.  Like many young people who rise early to positions of leadership they don’t really lead but rather just order people around.  This appears to be what happened to the young Pope Francis and apparently he made a lot of enemies.  So he too was ousted, replaced and “exiled” to jobs in Germany and Rome.  Eventually, he was allowed to return to Argentina and he was made Bishop of Córdoba.  There the Gospel met the poor.  I would guess that it was there that Bergolio became Francis. He went from being young and brash to being humble.  Jesus said that the poor will always be with us.  It was there that Pope Francis learned why, “He doesn’t see the poor as people he can help but rather as people from whom he can learn,” said Father Guillermo Marcó.  “He believes the poor are closer to God than the rest of us.”  For Francis, the poor are a gift to us.  With the poor is the place where the Gospel collides head on into the world.  We can see that in statements like this:

“A movement, a Church or a community that doesn’t go out, is mistaken,” he said. “Don’t be afraid! Go out in mission, go out on the road. We are walkers.” 

Francis does not see “going out” as some lofty ideal but instead as a necessary imperative.  Francis elaborated:

“Noting that there are many who cohabitate, or are separated or divorced, he explained that the “key” to helping is a pastoral care of “close combat” that assists and patiently accompanies the couple.” 

A medic who patches up a soldier is just as much a healer as the brain surgeon in the most prestigious hospital. Francis is saying we need more medics.  It’s the difference between the young Francis and the old.  The young would say, “this is the truth, conform yourself” the older says, “this is the truth, let’s work together to start and fix our shortcomings”.

What will this “new” way of articulating and living the Gospel look like?  No one can say exactly yet.  We must trust that it is the way the Holy Spirit wants the Gospel to be spread at this time.  With the world fast becoming a hostile place to Christians perhaps it is exactly the Gospel we need.

By the way, there was a certain carpenter from Nazareth that people always have a hard time pinning down.  Yeah, that guy also has a knack for zigging when everyone thought he was going to zag.

If you enjoyed this blog post please check out my novel, The Last Confession of the Vampire Judas Iscariot on Amazon.

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