Time’s Person of the Year: an illustrious award given to the individual who created the biggest stir in that particular year. Last year, such an award was given to Pope Francis, heralded as the “People’s Pope” in this article for his open address of common social issues. Pope Francis has made notable changes in the way he addresses the media’s criticism of the Roman Catholic Church, but is he moving from a purely altruistic perspective?
As news reports of the Catholic Church generally feature child molestation scandals and corrupted clergy, Pope Francis couldn’t have been a better decision for the papacy, nor for the distinguished “Person of the Year” title. Pope Francis’ distancing himself from the practices of previous popes sets him apart in a way that removes him, and the Catholic Church by relation, away from the scandals and corruption that seemingly defined what modern Catholicism was known for. Media reports of the pope’s compassion in action, whether he be openly embracing the disfigured form of a man or speaking publicly against the corrupt ways of his fellow clergymen, have won him the love of many across the world, theist or not. However, his commitment to traditional Catholic beliefs despite his outspoken comments on modern interpretations are considered disappointing to more liberal Catholics who had hoped for more tangible proof of change. One example of this is the recent criticisms of his inaction (prevention and protection) with regards to victims of sex abuse. (See more at http://tinyurl.com/jvh4tpv). To those who have not looked closely enough, his doctrine follows the paths of his predecessors: staunchly conservative. Despite his humble demurs that “he is no one to judge”, many have pointed out his views towards lesbians, gays, the transgendered, abortions, contraceptives, the female would-be priests, etc have not strayed from the strict and archaic views of Catholicism. Despite his attempts to be more publicly inclusive of the “lesser people” in society, in reality those belonging to marginalized groups will find themselves still shut out.
It’s clear that Pope Francis’ move away from traditional secrecy to transparency has won him a few favors with the public. But despite the transparency, still there are no actual changes in policy in addressing the problems that plague the Catholic Church.
Perhaps Pope Francis’ focus on social justice is just a “rhetoric” used to inspire “good feelings” (Douthat, 2014). Nothing more.
Chua-Eoan, H., & Dias, E. (2013, December 13). Time’s Person of the Year. Person of the Year . Retrieved March 10, 2014, from http://poy.time.com/2013/12/11/person-of-the-year-pope-francis-the-peoples-pope/?iid=poy-main-lead
Douthat, R. (2014, January 15). Catholicism and Cognitive Dissonance.The New York Times. Retrieved March 11, 2014, from http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/15/catholicism-and-cognitive-dissonance/
Wooden, C. (2013, July 31). CNS STORY: ‘Who am I to judge?’ Pope’s remarks do not change church teaching. Catholic News Service. Retrieved March 11, 2014, from http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1303303.htm