I am a Protestant of course, so I take a different view on many matters than do my Catholic associates, certainly on many theological issues. Thus I must state at the outset that those who want to bash either Catholics or Protestants are asked to do it elsewhere. This post is not on the merits or otherwise of Catholicism, but simply a few brief thoughts on the new Pope.
He is of course the first non-European Pope in a thousand years, and the first ever Pope from the Americas (Argentina in South America to be precise). The 76-year-old Jesuit Jorge Mario Bergoglio was the archbishop of Buenos Aires. Known especially for his humility and his work for and amongst the poor, he is a theological and social conservative.
He is said to be keen on ‘social justice’. The question is, is that, and will it be, along the lines of socialist liberation theology, or more helpful and productive approaches to really helping the poor and eradicating endemic poverty? We will likely learn more about this in the coming days.
Of special interest is his cultural and social conservatism. This is vital because of some of the most momentous battles being fought in these areas, and the need for strong leadership in these areas when so many others are capitulating and compromising.
A remark attributed to Martin Luther is quite relevant here: “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battle front besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”
Thus we need firm leadership on the key battleground issues of the day, and Pope Francis has been quite resolute and outspoken on perhaps the two key issues of our time: the sanctity of life, and the sanctity of marriage and family. Both these areas are taking a huge hammering of late, and Bergoglio has been taking a strong stance here.
On the issue of abortion for example he is staunchly pro-life. As one write-up puts it, “While Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was Archbishop of Buenos Aires he defended the life of the unborn even in cases of rape, in very stark terms. In a 2007 speech given to a gathering of priests and laity on October 2nd, then-Cardinal Bergoglio issued a defense of life even in cases of rape saying: ‘we aren’t in agreement with the death penalty,’ but ‘in Argentina we have the death penalty. A child conceived by the rape of a mentally ill or retarded woman can be condemned to death.’
“Pro-life leaders in Argentina rejoiced at Cardinal Bergoglio’s elevation to the Pontificate. Nicholas Lafferriere head of Argentina’s Center for Bioethics, Person and Family told LifeSiteNews.com ‘Those of us who work for life and family in Argentina have always felt ourselves to be supported and promoted by Cardinal Bergoglio. On the one hand, he has promoted the dignity of each woman and especially of women during pregnancy’.”
And he is quite firm on politicians who call themselves Catholics yet are pro-abortion. “Moreover, on behalf of the bishops of Latin America, also in 2007, Cardinal Bergoglio presented the ‘Aparecida Document’ regarding the situation of the Church in their countries. The document, approved by Pope Benedict XVI in July of that year, made a very clear statement regarding the consequences of supporting abortion, disallowing holy communion for anyone who facilitates an abortion, including politicians.”
He is also quite strong on defending the natural family and the institution of heterosexual marriage. Another report says this: “In terms of homosexual ‘marriage’, Cardinal Bergoglio fought valiantly to have the law in Argentina continue to protect the traditional family.
“In July 2009, he called on the priests of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires to bring the faithful to an upcoming protest against homosexual ‘marriage.’ ‘Let’s not be naive, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God,’ wrote Cardinal Bergoglio in a letter sent to the monasteries of Buenos Aires. ‘We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.’
“To the clergy of the parishes, Bergoglio requested that all of them read from the pulpits a declaration defending the true definition and understanding of marriage. ‘The Argentinean people will have to confront, in the coming weeks, a situation whose result could gravely injure the family. We are speaking of a bill regarding marriage between people of the same sex,’ a bill that calls into question ‘the identity, and the survival of the family: father, mother, and children.’ The latter, warns Bergoglio, might also be threatened by homosexual adoption, which would be a true form of discrimination.”
Of course these are not the only vital issues around, but they certainly are two key issues which we need strong leadership on. I am not in a position to comment on how he will do on more exclusively Catholic concerns, and we must wait and see how his new role takes shape.
And as mentioned, I differ on many areas theologically, but that is not the point of this post, or a battle I think needs to be replayed on this site. I simply offer this short overview of the man in the context of the hugely significant culture wars taking place all around us.
On at least several major battlefronts we seem to have someone who will fight the good fight. Let’s hope and pray that he does.