The Thing That’s Shocked Me Most About Pope Francis (Or Why Protestant Pastors Need To Pay Attention To This Pope)

Vatican Pope Youths(H/T)

This will probably come as no surprise, but I’m a fan of Pope Francis.

A big fan.

I’m under no illusions that he isn’t without his flaws, but when it comes to the Christian faith and in particular being Christ-like he just seems to get it, probably more than any other major Christian leader I know.

From rejecting the luxurious papal apartment to washing the feet of a Muslim female inmate to his theology that seems more concerned with loving the poor and defending the oppressed than drawing lines of exclusion to that time last week when he put a kid on the papal seat during a talk at St. Peter’s or just the other day when he embraced and kissed a man stricken with a disfiguring skin disease Pope Francis never ceases to wow me and, more often than not, bring a few tears to my eyes.

I’m not Roman Catholic, but he’s the sort of leader I would gladly follow, the kind of Christ-like example I want to follow.

But incarnated grace aside, the thing that’s really shocked me the most about Pope Francis is the response he’s received from those outside the faith.

And I don’t just mean non-Catholics.

I mean those of entirely different religious traditions, but especially those with no religious affiliation at all and those who oppose religion altogether.

If you spend enough time on the internet, you can just about predict the sorts of comments that will appear under religious news stories, particularly stories about the Roman Catholic church. To say the comments are typically not kind would be an understatement. Even calling them irrationally hateful doesn’t quite capture the vitriol spewed in those comment sections.

Which is why I’ve been so blown away by the comments left on stories about Pope Francis.

I expected to find cheap shots about the child abuse scandal, dismissals of his actions as a PR stunt, or at least a bizarre rant about how helping the poor is actually evil.

But I’ve found almost none of that. And trust me I’ve tried to find it.

I winced in fear the first time I scrolled down to the comments section under a Pope Francis story that really moved me, knowing the internet trolls would be there waiting to gleefully destroy my happiness. But they weren’t there. So I kept scrolling. And still nothing. Then I went to another site thinking surely they’ve got to be hiding out over there. But they were virtually nowhere to be found.

Instead, over and over again I keep finding comments like this….

“I’m not Catholic, but man do I love this Pope!” (Buzzfeed)

“Agreed. I’m a Recovered Catholic, born-again pagan- but this is one cool dude!” (Buzzfeed)

“I’m an atheist, but I am really starting to like Pope Francis. He really seems like he understands that the church should be focusing on doing what Jesus said- helping the poor, needy and undesirables. If more Christians would actually live their life like this- Christianity wouldn’t get such a bad reputation. I truly hope Pope Francis continues on this path. I know he will do great things in his time for the church.” (Huffington Post)

“Though I am not Catholic or even religious, my respect for Pope Francis continues to grow. He strikes me as a true man of Christ.” (Yahoo)

“Makes me want to rethink my atheism. What a kind, good hearted, loving human this pope is.” (Yahoo)

“This Pope is crushing it. I’m an atheist from a very religious family, but I’m so pleased about some of Pope Francis’ actions and stances. He gets it, and the church needs it.” (CNN)

“I have long held a grudge against the Catholic Church (and the Christian faith) for the hypocrisy and intolerance so often exhibited by its practitioners. In no time in my life have I liked a Pope or felt that they embodied what Christians and Catholics proclaim is the essence of their faith. That is, until Pope Francis. I’m thrilled to finally see a religious leader so full of love and compassion. Though I am not Catholic, I truly believe that Pope Francis is a wonderful human being and actually deserves the respect he is given.” (Washington Post)

“I am certainly no fan of the RCC and there is a lot of work they need to do in order to clean up their act, but this pope? Is a class act. Shine on, Your Eminence, shine on.” (Huffington Post)

Now, I’m not dumb. Well, at least not that dumb. I’m well aware of the fact that there are some not so nice comments out there in these comment sections too, but they’re usually hard to find and even when you do find them, they’re lacking the usual sting you expect to find.

As someone (a blogger) who spends an absurd amount of time on the internet and an equally absurd amount of time reading through comments, I’m telling you this is a big deal. I’ve never seen anything like it and I don’t think I’m likely to see such a near universal outpouring of love, support, open-mindedness, acceptance, and grace again anytime soon – if ever.

That’s just not the way the internet works. The internet breeds cynicism and hate. It’s like it’s in its DNA. Even in the most warm-hearted stories you’ll find somebody making a cynical, hateful, or smartass remark just because they can.

But with Pope Francis it’s just not there and its absence is incredible.

Maybe even more incredible is the fact that Pope Francis hasn’t just silenced his critics.

He’s won them over.

Which makes me really hopeful.

Not hopeful that everyone is suddenly going to see the light and become Christians. I’m just hopeful that maybe, just maybe some old wounds can begin to heal, wounds that too often the church has inflicted. And if that can begin to happen, then maybe, just maybe Pope Francis’ example and the goodwill he’s engendering will allow us all, both Christian and atheist, agnostic and Catholic, to beat our swords into ploughshares and find a way to coexist peacefully.

Which is why I really, really hope other Christian leaders, especially the celebrity pastor kind who wield enormous influence among Protestants, are taking note of Pope Francis and the response he’s receiving.

As a Church we lose so much sleep over millennials leaving and our inability to reach those outside our community of faith, particularly those who are antagonistic towards religion. So, we create elaborate programs. And spend fortunes on buildings and worship bands and stage lighting and multimedia experiences. And when that doesn’t work we try hitting people with some good ole “turn or burn,” God hates you and you’re going to hell preaching.

But it’s not working.

People are leaving in droves despite our fancy graphics and despite our best efforts to literally scare the hell out of them.

And yet here is this humble man from Argentina who doesn’t seem to care at all about outreach programs or marketing campaigns or cutting edge worship. He’s shunned the luxury house that came with his celebrity status, stopped battling over theological issues that aren’t worth fighting over, and instead of trying to scare people into heaven with words about God’s wrath, he’s chosen to embody God’s love to the least of these with his actions.

And the world is loving it. Young and old, he’s being embraced everywhere he goes. Even those who have no love whatsoever for religion, love this man and what he is doing.

As the Church, we would describe it this way, “They’re loving the incarnated love and grace of Christ unfold before their eyes.”

Which means in his simple humility and compassionate servitude, Pope Francis is succeeding where our best programming and marketing efforts have failed – he’s reaching those who don’t want to be reached.

So pastors, if you’re out there and you’re listening and you really care about reaching the people in your own community, stop listening to the ministry gurus tell you how to grow your church. Stop funneling money into the latest fad program or worship trend. Stop trying to be like the celebrity megachurch pastor you follow online and start trying to be more like Pope Francis.

If nothing else, it’s cheaper and the results speak for themselves.

But more importantly, it’s a much more Christ-like way of leading and living than most of us have seen in a very, very long time. The kind of example the Church needs now maybe more than ever. The kind of example all of us need to embody whether we’re the pope or a pastor or just somebody sitting in the pews.

As Pope Francis seems to be reminding us each and every day, if Christianity is going to have any credibility it has to be to lived out, not just talked about.

He’s doing a lot to restore some of that credibility.

I can’t wait to see what he does next.

 

Grace and peace,

Zack Hunt

 
UPDATE: I added links to where I found those quotes. However, because so many new comments were coming in on the post where I found them I couldn’t find some of the original quotes. So, I switched out a couple for similar quotes just for the sake of people being able to see where I found them. Hope that helps.

 

  • http://www.lauraljohnson.wordpress.com/ Laura Johnson

    I think my fav thing you have ever written. btw, good luck with that baby- it sounds like you guys are at the same stage of the waiting game that we are!

  • Joshua Shope

    I love this Pope too, and I honestly do think he heralds a new direction (although, rightly, not a new theology) in the RCC. That may be due more to his personal humbleness and Jesuit roots being different from Benedict’s personality, but I think it’s the kind of thing that’s needed at a time like this (what a shock that the right man for the times would be elected Pope, huh? Almost as if there’s some larger thing at work…). Francis is probably the best example of Christ from a worldwide religious leader that I’ve ever seen (and I loved Archbishop Williams, a large part of why I felt so comfortable with being confirmed as an Episcopalian)

    Here’s what the celebrity Christian leaders so enamored with turn-or-burn theology are going to say, though: The Pope is Catholic, so he’s wrong. And that’s obvious because “the world” is falling in love with him. And we’re not called to make the world like us, we’re called to save them from hell, etc., etc. When you’ve got a group of people who read the Bible in a way that tells them Catholics are wrong and bound for hell, and that the world needs to be shocked into fire insurance, as the Chick tract you posted the other day says, they’re not going to see any truth coming from someone like this.

  • Jon

    Love it.

  • CKPS63

    It’s so simple. Human beings respond to that which moves and inspires them, and
    they respond to tangible demonstrations of how things CAN be far more powerfully than they do to unproven, self-righteous assertions about how they’re SUPPOSED to be. “Possibility” is the fountainhead of all hope, and Francis literally overflows with it.

  • Brittney

    Great works that we need to exemplify, but he believes these works are the source of salvation for all- not faith in Christ. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/22/pope-francis-good-atheists_n_3320757.html

    • http://www.lauraljohnson.wordpress.com/ Laura Johnson

      From reading the article you posted I bet he would say that Christ’s redemption is the source of salvation for all, and that those whose hearts are leaning toward God will eventually find faith in Him. Perhaps they are beginning to know Him without even realizing it?

      I dunno, just my random thoughts.

    • Joshua Shope

      How exactly does Pope Francis believe that works are the source of salvation? The article you linked doesn’t say that, and the Catholic church doesn’t teach that.

      What Francis is saying is that Christ died for everyone, and everyone on earth has a responsibility to do good, and when people on every side of an issue start to do good there is a meeting point for starting dialogue. He is saying that doing good is not a Christians-only concept, something that Jesus teaches in the parable of the Good Samaritan and expanded on in the story of Peter’s vision of clean and unclean animals.

    • Jon

      Not even remotely true Brittney. The Pope is Catholic right?

      Catechism 161 Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation.42 “Since “without faith it is impossible to please [God]” and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life ‘But he who endures to the end.’”43

    • Kevin Irakoze

      I think I get your point Brittney. He is definitely not saying that works are the source of salvation, but yes, he says that we all have the duty do do good and that can bring us closer to God. Indeed God is the source of all good, by doing good, we are welcoming him in our lives. In that way he comes to meet us and and gives us the salvation we need. This salvation does not come from works but is a gift by divine grace.

    • Michael Hengelsberg

      While I agree that works alone do not gain us ultimate favor with God, but only Faith in Jesus Christ and belief that he died for our salvation. That being said, it also is stated clearly in the bible (From James 2: 14-26) “14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and
      one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but
      you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

      Works go hand in hand with faith. It is the embodiment of our faith and the outpouring of our love. What we do in worship, what we do in society, what we do to evangelize is ALL part of the equation…

    • Steve

      It is Catholic dogma that no good work can be done without God’s grace. Many are ignorant of this. The implication of this teaching (based on the words of our Lord e.g. “Without Me you can do nothing” etc. etc.) is that salvation is not earnt. Rather, it is a gift, but we can forfeit our inheritance through serious sin. God bless.

  • Ryan Niemeyer

    I’ve never read this blog but a friend posted this post on FB.

    I agree that there is less negativity about this pope I tend to agree that he is a breath of fresh air for Christianity as a whole. But I had one interaction with a guy from northern Italy with a different view. I’m a grad student in natural/environmental resources at a university in the pacific northwest and I was at a grad student mixer a few weeks ago. I was in a group of five (with some people I knew weren’t Christian) and a friend introduced me to an Italian guy – I’d heard there were some Italian grad students in a different department. After a couple questions I risked awkwardness over religious conversation and asked what he thought of the new pope. I expected positive comments since he was catholic. His english wasn’t great, so some of what he was saying might of got lost in translation, he said he thought the pope’s theology “wasn’t deep” and that the previous pope “had a deeper theology.” He also thought that the pope was a populist and just doing what the people wanted him too. Interestingly, one of the non-Christian grad students asked him what he meant by “deep theology”, but you could tell it was hard for him (the italian guy) to communicate what he meant. I’d hope to talk more with him some time but I haven’t had the chance.

    So he did provide an interesting point of view on the pope. Not that I agree with him, just a view I haven’t heard before.

    • Kevin Irakoze

      Yeah, try find out what he meant by “deep theology”. Pope Francis himself believes the entirety of the teachings of the catholic church. As of the depth of his theology as compared to Benedict, I am not sure if that’s the case considering he recently completed “Lumen Fidei”, the encyclical that Benedict had started. They are just the same in essence: it is very true that Benedict’s papacy focused a lot on Faith teachings, without which there would be no church; and Francis choses to focus on the practice of the same Faith. It just so happens that the public eye is more likely to pick up on the practice rather than the teaching. But without the teaching, there can be no practice. I don’t think Francis aims to please the world but certainly to proclaim God’s love to this world in the best way that he can.

  • Kyle Weaver

    nice post…

    regarding your comment: “Stop trying to be like the celebrity megachurch pastor you follow online and start trying to be more like Pope Francis.”

    Actually, readers would do better to stick to the Bible and follow the Man the Bible is about – Jesus -. Being like Pope Francis or Miley Cyrus or Ashton Kutcher will eventually disappoint you…As Paul says, life is but a vapor…God Bless!

    • Joshua Shope

      So far following Ashton Kutcher has been pretty good for me…

  • Paul Griffiths

    Just to clarify, the papal apartments are not luxurious. They’re simply very large and the Pope found them isolating. He said so himself. It’s not as if all those popes who preceded him were somehow attached to luxury. Farm from it: it’s a matter of personality.

  • pastordt

    AMEN. Thanks for this, Zack – and I’m with you on every single point, beginning with deep appreciation for this Pope.

  • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

    I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. I don’t get it. I just don’t. Why is it so admirable that Francis has a good PR team? What is so laudable about being able to play the part of a saint on earth? It doesn’t matter how many babies Francis kisses, or humble platitudes he mutters. None of that changes what Pope Francis is. He’s the head of the largest criminal syndicate on earth. And there’s no getting around that.

    Would you celebrate a mob boss who gives generously to a children’s hospital?

    What about a preacher who encourages men in the church but beats his wife at home?

    Is the man who runs a drug cartel above criticism if he doesn’t do drugs himself and never personally buys and sells them?

    If your answer to the above questions is ‘no,’ how can you give Francis a free pass. As much as Christians try to watch each other’s backs (even if they’re only preparing to stab them at a later date) Francis is not above the law. Neither is the organisation he heads. I shouldn’t even have to list the crimes of the RCC that are still ongoing, still being hidden and the people who are still in danger.

    What good are some pretty words against that?

    You don’t stab a twenty centimetre knife into someone’s back, then withdraw it ten centimetres and call it ‘progress.’

    • flashstick

      The thing is, Francis didn’t stab the knife. Historically the pope has been doing that, but Francis took over and he’s doing all he can to withdraw it- which I do call progress if you can oust the bad and replace it with good.

    • Jim Heleringer

      You are an idiot and a jackass! If you can’t be attracted to true love on earth then you are unreadable & untraceable! You need to get out of your own intolerant head!!

      • Hunter Stevens

        Please read your comment and explain to me again about “true love on earth”…

  • BrinaHarwood

    I too have discovered this shift in the comments section amazing. I don’t know if I happened to read the same comments that you posted or if there are just so many people that fall outside of the Church that love him. I know that I love him!!

  • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

    And as a subnote, there is not a ‘child abuse scandal’. A scandal is when a politician is caught with a couple of prostitutes in a dirty water closet. What the Church is guilty of is the systematic, aggressive, and widespread cover up of the rape and molestation of thousands of young children across the world. It is guilty of placing child rapists in contact with children knowing that they were repeat offenders. It is guilty of destroying thousands of lives, indirectly causing hundreds of cases of suicide or deep psychological scaring.

    That isn’t a ‘scandal.’ And pointing that out isn’t a ‘cheap shot.’ Again, I have to wonder why you give Francis such a free pass. I guess that just proves that charisma is a powerful tool.

    • Chase Padusniak

      While there is no excuse for covering up child abuse, you are picking on an organization simply because of what seems to be a grudge.

      I have no problem with atheism nor with theism. I try to be respectful of different faiths. But do you wish to ignore the crimes of other organizations both secular and religious? That US public schools suffer more child abuse than their religious counterparts (educational and otherwise).

      While the Church is far from commendable in much of what it has done recently, you would do well to not pick on it for its sins and ignore the sins of others.

      Jesus said not to cast the first stone unless you yourself are sinless. Religious or not, that’s a pretty profound thought.

      Such overbearing accusations simply give atheism a bad name, just as molestation mars the spirit of the message of a wonderful Nazarene.

      • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

        You bet I have a grudge against the Catholic Church. It’s called “The Troubles.” What I don’t understand is why you think such a grudge is a bad thing. It’s that sort of ‘grudge’ that brought peace in my homeland for the first time in decades.

        Please point out where I have ignored the crimes of other organisations. This post was about Pope Francis, so I focused on the Catholic Church. In my own blog, I have criticised Martin Luther, Protestant terrorist groups, the LSD, and others.

        I am well aware of my own failings, but I have to wonder what Jesus would have said if Sean Fortune had been thrown before him and not a woman caught in adultery.

        • Chase Padusniak

          But every organization you just named is religious. While it may have been unfair to assume (not that I meant to) no critiques of other churches, I also meant secular organizations. My point is I detect some kind of “religion is the enemy” ethos in what you’re saying and I think that is harmful to a truly open mind. Richard Dawkins is as dogmatic as the worst of Christians. And that is saying something.

          As for your homeland, I am no Irishman and admittedly I am under-educated in Irish history, being an American. What I can say is that the history of peoples and religions is never easily reducible to one cause or problem. America’s foreign policy and the dilemmas it has created can attest to that.

          As for Jesus, I see him as a man of peace, regardless of the sinner. It is the recognition of that that, sadly, makes Pope Francis so remarkable.

          • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

            Yes, every organisation I named was religious. While imperfect people exist in every demographic, I am focusing on tribes like your own that claim to have absolute moral authourity over the rest of us. That demands that I hold them to an absolute moral standard, as I have stated before.

            Dawkins is aggressive and hostile to be certain, but putting him on the level of conservative Christians like Pastor Charles Worley, who advocated for putting every gay man and woman in America in concentration camps, seems rather extreme.

            The Troubles refer to the terrorist activity of militant Christians in Ireland for about three decades. I dislike plugging my own work in replies – it seems rather self-serving – but my own account is here and may give some perspective of my ‘grudge,’ as you call it.
            http://theirishatheist.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/omagh/

            Even Jesus said he had come to bring a sword.

          • Chase Padusniak

            Yes, but the difficulty of interpretation makes figuring out what that “sword” is quite difficult. I’m not scholar of Greek, but I’m sure it has been dealt with at length between the deep minds and diverse times of men such as Origen and Benedict.

            Haha, I am not in a tribe. And yes, the Church has fallen short of its standard, for sure. It is an institution run by men. The same can be said for other institutions, secular and religious, some of which have done much less good, others much less bad.

            While it may be true that Dawkins does not advocate violence, it was simply the extreme inability to be open-minded that I was referring to.

            As for the Troubles, I am familiar with them, but admittedly not as much as I should be. I suspect religion and politics were hopelessly intermingled. I am sorry your people had to endure such a time. That may not sound genuine, but violence is never a good thing. Thanks for the link.

          • Jim Heleringer

            The Irish Atheist. LMAO!!! What about your Irish baby killing bombers. You should rename yourself: the Irish Idiot, or: The Irish Hater!!

          • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

            Thank you for your Christian love.

  • westbrandy

    Zack, love this post, as I do everything you write. And I REEEALLLY don’t like to criticize…but…this line was very difficult to wrap my brain around: “I’m under no illusions that he isn’t without his flaws…” I THINK I know what you’re saying, but…

  • NancyEW

    I’ve noticed this, too–and the ugliest comments I have seen have been from conservative Catholics. I’m Baptist (open-minded), and I pray daily for protection, long life, and stamina for this man. Who he is and what he is doing ARE important for all Christians.

    • Jim Heleringer

      Please give example of these “ugliest comments from conservative Catholics..” Didn’t you read this man’s column that he scours the internet & finds no such examples?? I believe this is wishful thinking on your part my friend!! Please give examples or quit spewing your dogmatic, inaccurate dribble!

      • Andrew Wifred

        You need to read some of the articles after the Pope said nice things about the gays and people who aren’t Christians can still see the kingdom of God.

      • HermitTalker

        JH The tone of your remarks suggests you are quite capable of being un0Cathlic Christian yourself. I have personally into into ugly in the USA and Europe from SSPX. They just disrupted an annual t favoured by the then Cardinal Bergoglio in his former Buenos Aires Cathedral trying tor]reconcile Jews and Christians. The Devil wore; Prada and can speak Latin to show his [pretend hatred for a Church than never existed or exists today,

      • ZeeAzul

        I agree with NancyEW. There were ugly comments posted regarding Pope Francis, and they’re from conservative Catholics because I’ve read them too – of course to my dismay because I’m a huge admirer of a Pope Francis (I’ve read just about everything on and about him since his election, almost to the point of obsession, including all the comments made by readers). But the vitriolic comments made by some conservative Catholics (and atheists too) will not be easy to find now considering the sheer number of articles and corresponding comments on and about Pope Francis since he became Pope.

    • Lamar Carnes

      He isn’t a Christian. He is a Roman CAtholic and they don’t follow the word of God at all. Study the Bible and you can find so much off base with this sect it would make you faint if you had any reasonable ability to understand language – even Greek, Hebrew and English reveal this!!

      • Wonder

        let me guess- only people who belong to churches following the thology of your preferred reformation-era theologian count as real Christians? or can nobody really be sure that they’re saved but it’s easy to tell who’s not…

      • Ianna

        Um, you DO realize that Catholics were the first Christians, right?

      • Ann

        Actually, Roman Catholics publicly proclaim the Word of God every single day at Mass (Sundays and Wednesdays just aren’t enough for us!), ponder it every night while meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary (which center on the life of Christ), and pray with it throughout the day in the Liturgy of the Hours. If you really want to get drenched in Scripture, attend an Easter Vigil sometime. We also have a much easier time explaining John 6, the book of James, and the book of Revelation, among others, than Protestants do. Love your Bible? Thank the Catholic Church for compiling it, choosing the books in it, translating it, copying it (over and over and over), interpreting it, and preserving it for 2,000 years so we can all have a copy on our nightstand.

  • Andrea Winter

    Everyone extolls the good deeds of a pope as though the works are foreign to us, but we see them as good because they so closely resemble what we feel in our own human spirit – love for humanity. It’s not foreign to us at all. What he does hits home and moves us because it reflects what we already are. But the reason why human decency is such a big deal when it comes from the pope is because it’s uncommon to see it manifest in religious leaders, especially in the papacy (from the overall historical perspective). Where it’s more common is in every day, average people not in the limelight.

    Perhaps as one last good work, a grand finale through a gesture that carries real hope, the pope can set down his mitre, essentially putting an end to the papacy, itself, (assuming he has the power to do so.) Hierarchy in Christianity is very unbecoming, no matter how much you dress it up with good works. The top-down order of the religion, in Catholicism and reflected in Protestantism’s mini-popes, is reasonably why Christianity hasn’t been the light to the world it should have been. If people need to follow a single man representing Jesus, the pope ending the position he holds may lead people to realize they need no one to lead them in what is available already inside of them.

    • Steve

      I certainly agree with some of your words, but it is unfortunate that people reject the Catholic hierarchy, considering that it was insituted by Jesus. A brief study of early Church history reveals Bishops, a Pope etc. Sadly, people are often ignorant of the past, and/or they expect impeccancy from religious authorities.

      • Andrea Winter

        I agree that Jesus instituted a priesthood- I just don’t believe the priesthood truly exists in a neat and easily traceable succession of men. It seems like Jesus meant the Kingdom of God to be a kingdom of priests, as in all of its citizens. I don’t understand why Christianity thought it was ok to take on the same mentality as the Children of Israel did when they rejected God in favor of human king. We’ve done the same thing with the priesthood of Peter. We’ve insisted on having one man to rule us all. I think the inherent need for a king is a human sickness and we’ve projected this onto the priesthood, turning Peter’s predecessors into priest/kings. History is a painful testament to the mess the Church has made because of it.

        When the Bride of Christ insists on being led by one, she doesn’t shine any brighter than that one man. If our King and High Priest is not Jesus, then the priesthood of believers tends to resemble the man taking the seat, for better or worse.

  • marckohler

    Question: If the Pope is doing do much good, how do we explain this? http://www.newslo.com/pope-criminalizes-the-reporting-of-sex-crimes/

    • James

      You do realize that is a parody website? That you have to click the “Show Facts” button at the bottom of the website, to see what was made up and what is fact, right?

      I’m not sure why critical thinking goes out the door when Catholicism is involved, or critical reading and discern skills.

      • marckohler

        “….Not hopeful that everyone is suddenly going to see the light and become Christians. I’m just hopeful that maybe, just maybe some old wounds can begin to heal, wounds that too often the church has inflicted. And if that can begin to happen, then maybe, just maybe Pope Francis’ example and the goodwill he’s engendering will allow us all, both Christian and atheist, agnostic and Catholic, to beat our swords into ploughshares and find a way to coexist peacefully. – See more at: http://theamericanjesus.net/?p=11084#comment-1116754734..” Not sure if I see this as parody. Sorry, it seem sincere, but if it is parody, I guess you have to tell me what it is parody of? Or, more appropriately, what is the write parodying?

        • Katherine

          theamericanjesus isn’t the parody site, the site you linked to is the parody site… only four sentences in the whole article you linked to are actual facts. if you click on “show facts” at the bottom it will highlight them for you…

          • marckohler

            THANKS! I am sure that if I could find the bottom, I would click on it, but I cannot find it. I will just have to assume you are right. jut, there’s no “show facts” on my copy that i can find..

  • Guest

    Interesting article. Of course, the ones that are upset with Pope Francis are the Catholic traditionalists who thought they had it in black and white. More at http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/conservative-catholics-question-pope-franciss-approach/2013/10/12/21d7f484-2cf4-11e3-8ade-a1f23cda135e_story.html

  • lexlibris8

    Well said.

  • Steve Zodiac

    @the_irish_atheist:disqus : I don’t for one moment wish to defend or excuse the child abuse which was perpetrated by priests in the church, nor do I wish to belittle the damage it will undoubtedly have caused those who were victims of it. But it is unreasonable to tar the whole church with the same brush.

    When it comes to the mobs of which you speak, criminal activity is often at the heart of the reason for the mob’s existence. When it comes to the Catholic Church, sexual abuse is not at the heart of the reason for the church’s existence, or what it stands for.

    The fact is, no-one – not even you – is perfect. Most of us, thankfully, have not committed atrocities, but it should not be surprising that in an organisation so large there are people who have got it wrong. Of course, the sad thing in this case is that things went so wrong at the level of church leadership. You ask the question “what about a preacher who encourages men in the church but beats his wife at home?” and I have to say that I would have some real issues with that preacher. I believe that leaders need to be exemplary and that someone like that needs to be held accountable.

    There have obviously been some failures of accountability in the Catholic Church, which have to be addressed throughout, and it would be only fair to give the new Pope time to do that before passing judgement.

    In the meantime, I would advise you to be very careful with your sweeping statements. To refer to the Catholic Church as “the largest criminal syndicate on earth” is as logical as my reflecting on the IRA bombings of the 1980s and branding you as a terrorist.

    • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

      I’m going to assume you had no idea that I survived an IRA car bomb in Omagh when I was 10 nor that my aunt and uncle were murdered by IRA enforcers, so I will take your jest about me being part of the IRA as it was: a jest. But I’ll advise you not to make light of the Troubles to someone who actually survived them.

      In no way did I assert that all Catholics are pedophiles, nor did I imply that all priests are. But I stand by the fact that the Catholic church is a criminal organisation, and your mention of the IRA is actually another subject that I could use to support that, since much of their funding came from Catholic congregations.

      Incidentally, you’re right. I’m not perfect. But neither do I claim absolute moral authourity. Since the Catholic Church does, it is only right that I hold it – and Francis as its head – to an absolute standard. Their abject failure to meet that standard, and their complicity in crimes around the world of all types (child rape, terrorism, slavery) is my standard for referring to them as a criminal organisation, and I stand by that. After all, not everyone who worked for the mob was a criminal, and neither is every Catholic priest a pedophile, but that in no way diminishes the systematic crimes of the Catholic Church.

      I expanded upon this subject here if you wish to read further:
      http://theirishatheist.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/why-im-not-a-pope-francis-fanboy/

      • Adrian

        I’m sorry but I don’t think you understood what Steve has said. It doesn’t matter what you think, it doesn’t matter what you’ve gone through life, it doesn’t matter anything else but the fact you are Irish. And with the deeds done by the IRA in the 80s, would have essentially branded you as a Terrorist. Same with Iraqis, Afghans and etc.

        What Steve is saying is, just coz 1 egg is spoilt, doesn’t mean the whole tray is. Don’t make sweeping statements. It takes time to change. Really. How would _you_ change the Catholic Church? 360 degree change in a single day. Man … you’ve obviously never heard of Change Management.

      • Jim Heleringer

        Nobody wants to read your hate filled dribble Irish idiot!! Why don’t you work on your Irish bombers before you come out and take on the Catholic Church? You’re running on hate filled fear and nobody wants to read your stupid wordpress blog! I suspect you’re a very lonely man because no one is attracted to a hate filled idiot that makes consistently hate filled dribble. I also suspect that if you revealed your blog Analytics we’d all see that no one cares what you have to say because your a heartless raging idiot!!

      • Karen

        Dear Irish Atheist,

        My family moved from the U.S. to live in Lisburn in Co. Antrim when I was six, and we left when I was 10 to return to the U.S. That was in 1966-1970, and in the early part of that period we used to take the train into Belfast to go shopping, so I know a little about “the Troubles.” I saw the graffiti, and the ugly barricades separating Catholic and Protestant ghettos. I heard Ian Paisley’s hateful rhetoric on TV newscasts and Bernadette Devlin’s impassioned rejoinders. One of my three closest grammar school friends was working downtown Lisburn at a sweet shop when a bomb went off (this was when we were 14 years old, and I learned about this in a letter from her), and she ran outside to find a policeman lying on the sidewalk in a pool of blood with his arm blown off.

        These are traumatic experiences to be sure. They are traumatic for adults, much less children. Today just watching what is happening in the Middle-East (where my fellow Orthodox Christians are being slaughtered and driven into exile by violent Muslim extremists) is enough to shake to the core anyone’s faith in any kind of ultimate goodness at the root of the universe, much less the personal God revealed in Jesus Christ.

        Recently, here in the U.S., during the Boston marathon a couple of troubled brothers, emigres apparently, planted bombs that exploded to maim and kill several people, including children. My brother, young nieces, and father were spectators at that race, separated from the bombs by a matter of perhaps an hour or so and a mile or so.

        Then about ten years ago, a gunman (a disgruntled former employee, who had just been sentenced for stealing from the company) forced his way into the plant where my husband worked and opened fire in my husband’s department, killing four of his coworkers and seriously injuring three others before he took his own life. My husband happened to be off-site for the day at a training session, but he was as traumatized by the reality of what happened as those who were present, and we will never forget attending the funerals.

        I don’t believe for a moment the suffering and violence that occurs in this world (the worst of it arguably the result of human choices to disrespect the needs and rights of others, we should note) is willed or sanctioned by God. Why it is permitted by Him I am convinced is not something anyone can (or should) accept apart from an encounter with Him in His power, goodness, and love and the resulting inner conviction He will put everything right in the end and all suffering (except perhaps for that which is persistently willfully self-inflicted) healed and all evil made to cease in the world to come, and that ultimately the words of Romans 8:18-39 are true. The down payment on that hopeful expectation is the historic fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. While in this light, the suffering caused by evil in this present world can perhaps be borne on a certain level, it can never be properly understood by anyone who is of sound moral reasoning. This is because, by Christian definition, all evil is moral nonsense. It is completely without intrinsic meaning and totally unnecessary from God’s perspective, and only occurs because God has given his sentient creatures the capacity for true freedom of choice and to will something that is contrary to God’s desire, and for a limited time in and in limited ways God allows those choices to play themselves out.

        The best written explanation I have ever found for a genuinely Christian understanding of and posture toward evil and suffering is David Bentley Hart’s little book The Doors of the Sea. I can’t tell you that you will find that genuine NT perspective compelling, but I venture the hope you might at least find Hart’s debunking and castigation of the weak and ultimately unbiblical explanations professing Christians frequently offer in the face of suffering comforting and satisfying on some level.

        I can completely empathize with your feelings, but I cannot draw the same conclusions because I can find no satisfying explanation for the existence in this broken world of people like this: http://everyday-saints.com/fatherjohn.htm apart from the truth made known in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

        • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

          Karen,

          While obviously, as you have said, we came to different conclusions about suffering and the Church’s role in it, I appreciate your well-drawn out response. I have a suspicion that we would have lively discourse if our paths were to cross.

          I also find it rather interesting that you were in Antrim at the very start of the Troubles, and I was in Omagh at their very end. Interesting how things come full circle like that.

          • Karen

            “I have a suspicion that we would have lively discourse if our paths were to cross.”

            Only if you offer to buy me a Guinness first! ;-)

          • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

            Harp. Always Harp.

          • Karen

            Okay, then, you’re on. (Sounds more like it, actually–not a big fan of dark beer, myself. My husband and I prefer amber.) :-)

          • J

            It was really refreshing to see two people discuss something with different opinions and not bag each other out or resort to swearing or insulting. Actually having an intelligent insightful conversation. Thank you to the both of you! (Karen & TIA)

          • Karen

            Thanks, J. You’re welcome.

            Why is it so many people seem to believe finding someone’s logic unpersuasive on some point (especially when it comes to religion or politics!) is a reason to trash their person? It seems to me totally repulsive (not to mention counter-productive) to come to the defense of Christ or the Church in a way that is completely contrary to the way He has shown us. Besides, it seems to me it would be really hard for a person whose moral sensitivities are formed in reference to the life and teachings of the Jesus Christ of the Gospels (properly interpreted) to disagree with most of what Irish Atheist writes–particularly given the experience out of which he has formed those convictions.

            It also helps tremendously that the Christian tradition I embrace (Eastern Orthodox) emphasizes God’s extreme humility as the purist expression of His completely merciful and compassionate nature, rather than trying to explain the Cross in terms that makes it sound like God’s primary concern is to “satisfy” His own “honor” (as if He is anything like a feudal landlord–God forbid!) or balance the cosmic scales of “justice” in a retributive tit-for-tat sort of way, rather than freely offering forgiveness to repentant sinners (even before they repent if the actual words of Jesus on the Cross are any indication) as the Scriptures, Old and New, teach. Orthodoxy also provides insight that the moral indignation against hypocrisy and evil IA expresses is evidence of the Image of God in him and of his listening to and attempting to follow the Voice of the Holy Spirit in his conscience. The latter is, I believe, the only form of “faith” that will really count in the Final Judgment. Matthew 25 describes the basis of that Final Judgment, and you don’t find God checking people’s affiliations or professed beliefs in that scene–all the more significant, it seems to me, in light of His warning to professing believers and disciples in Matthew 7:21-22).

            I would worry about anyone who has an image and understanding of “God” and the Church similar to the IA, who does not get angry enough to rebel against and challenge it in the strongest terms (yet without inflicting violence themselves–either physical or otherwise).

      • Brendan

        Where on earth did you get the idea that the Catholic Church claimed absolute moral authority, because it doesn’t. The only time that the Catholic Church claims something is infallible, to my knowledge, is when the pope makes a statement through his office of the pope, basically excathedra. That does not mean everything the pope says or does is infallible, much less the entire church, but rather a tiny minority of statements, made by the leader are to be taken as moral absolutes. I admit I am unsure about the fallibility of Cardinal Elections for the pope, although these would only regard the selection of the pope and no actual statements. Anyway, the point is the Church does not claim absolute morality all or ever most of the time. Rather it is a collection of individuals, (priests, bishops, ect) who spend most of their time trying to figure out WHAT the right thing to do is, not pretending like they know what that is.

        • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

          We have apparently met very, very different priests and bishops.

          • Erik

            From a theological standpoint, the Catholic Church does only claim the Pope’s words to be infallible when he speaks excathedra. I believe the last ex-cathedral (not sure that’s the correct term) statement was in 1964.

            I’m a protestant and have only studied this briefly, so I don’t want to say too much.

            But what I really want to say is that it sounds like you have met some terrible priests and bishops, Irish Athiest. To the extent that I can be on the internet, identified by only my first name, I am genuinely sorry about that.

      • Dano 50

        I think you are a liar

        • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

          Thank you for your Christian love.

  • A Guest Here

    This article is very intriguing and it is encouraging to see such a humble, Christ-like Pope. However, I wonder how much of this trend is the result of articles that mischaracterize what the Pope is really saying. Liberal news headlines often promote what they want the Pope’s theology to be, rather than what it actually is.

  • Nicholas

    Zach, Pope Francis was chosen to become Pope as a PR move to clean up the dirty and scandalous image of the church. While the things he does in the public eye appear Christ-like, I see it as ‘politically motivated’ to fix the broken image of the CC.

    Besides, didn’t Jesus say NOT to do your good deeds to be seen by men?? But rather don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing??

    It’s a PR stunt.

    • Phil

      And who said that he was doing good deeds to be seen by men? And why do you assume that it is politically motivated?

      What happened to innocent until proven guilty?

      • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

        No one has ever been hurt by being too suspicious of the Catholic Church.

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  • Nicholas

    I have some questions. Why isn’t he launching a full fledged investigation into all the crimes of child rape done by those within his own hierarchy? Why doesn’t he release the Vatican secret archives and share all of the lost and stolen knowledge with the rest of the world? Why is his organization still the wealthiest in the world with riches so great, they cannot even be calculated? Why won’t he sell even half of the art in the Vatican which has an estimated value at over a billion dollars and feed the poor?

    If Christ was in the flesh today he would tear his clothes, cry out in anguish and address the RCC:

    “Why do you cling to all this wealth?!! Behold, the Great Wealthy Harlot of Revelation 13 who rode upon the Beast of Rome to acquire such power and wealth! See! You became drunk with the blood of my Saints during the Dark Ages. Even today you continue bathe in gold and rule as kings and lords over humanity. You turn a blind eye to corruption! You elevate men above woman, disregarding the equality of all humanity! You cause your priests and bishops to act as mediators between God and humanity! You have turned me into an idol to be worshiped rather than obeyed! You gain converts through fear of eternal torture. You have given birth to Protestant and Evangelical daughters who do the same. Behold the Woman who Sits on Seven Hills! The Woman who was created by the Man of Sin in 313 AD. COME OUT FROM AMONG HER AND HER DAUGHTERS AND BE YE SEPARATE SAITH THE SPIRIT.”

  • Raven

    Pope Francis has begun the drive to clean house and he is walking the talk. I hope in Singapore the CHURCH has the courage to follow his example. There are to many clergy building their own earthly kingdoms all in HIS name. They surround themselves with people who are eager to support them. It is sad to see to what lengths some laity will go to win favours with some clergy. Wining and dining them. Buying expensieve gifts, taking them on all trips, cruises, all this under the nose of the bishop. It is not uncommon to see the well wheeled get noticed and have ready access to services while the common man waits in cue to be served. Blessed are the poor is Pope Francis’s battle call but for many others controlling the Church, the poor do not have a place in their hearts. It is very common to see all the big names in the clergy attending a funeral but when a common Catholic looks for a priest for the last rites or funeral services it is a desparate search most of the times.
    We are told that when Jesus entered the temple and saw that it had become a market place HE kicked all of them out.
    Our Church to day has become a supermarket all in the name of raising funds to justify our actions.
    It is disgusting, shameless and in bad taste. Why are those in charge looking the other way? Do we not fear the wrath of GOD in defiling His Holy Temple.
    The maddness to get funds to build bigger and better and more churches has blinded the leaders. They have forgotten that it is people that make the church not a building. They bleeding Catholics dry and using the Lord’s name in vain.
    GOD help us.

  • Ye thou thy thine

    Watch and learn, ye suckers! (by suckers I mean people like Pasta Joe Preens, Joel Augusteen, Col String, Reinhard Bonnet, Bryan Houston, and other megachurch evangelists.

  • Moses Liao Gangzheng
  • Steve

    Someone referred to the Catholic Church as the “largest criminal syndicate on earth”. Many people liked this comment. Perhaps these people would benefit from acknowledging some of the many good things that the Catholic Church is responsible for (cf. ‘Yours Is the Church: How Catholicism Shapes Our World’ by Mike Aquilina).
    The Catholic Church is not reducible to the evil deeds of its members. If anything, the Church should be judged by those who put their beliefs into practice i.e. the Saints.
    I find it interesting that the evil deeds of Catholics are commonly imputed to the entire Church, but the good deeds of a greater number are not. Scandal is a terrible evil, but we must not let it blind us to goodness.

    • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

      The Catholic Church has done good things. No one is denying that. The good the Catholic Church has done could probably fill a book.

      The evil it has done could fill a library.

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  • JXWright

    Thank you Mr. Hunt for this beautiful post. I felt the Holy Spirit very strongly as I read your inspired words about the Holy Father. I have noticed the same thing; and I too have scanned comment sections thinking … where is all the usual filth? I recall a time when I would scan forever to find a single positive comment on a Catholic story!
    I pray the peace of Christ comes into all 7 billion hearts on Earth.

    • Nicholas

      Holy Father? I thought Jesus said to call no man Father on the earth because one is your Father in heaven?

      And what makes him more ‘Holy’ than any other Christian who walks in love? Nothing.

  • REHOBOT

    theres a man in indonesia, esp. Jakarta, named ERASTUS SABDONO.. his teachings is so Godly and biblical.. try it. http://www.rehobot.net

  • HermitTalker

    So delighted a media age Pope is able to use and be used by the media, despite some efforts to truncate or distort his actual message. Truly as you wrote Incarnate in the Flesh Jesus in a man with one long who walks with a limp and cannot sing!

  • 15Sunflowers

    Last time we Christians saw someone like him, his name was also Francis, and it was in the 1200′s. ;)

  • Lamar Carnes

    Nothing can be more further from the word of God than the comments in this article. Good deeds by any person avail them NOTHING in the sight of God if they are being done outside of the Holy Spirit, and also, outside of being a person who has had the New Birth is a child of God through Faith in Jesus Christ alone! Roman Catholicism fails in its approach to redemption and salvation because they place works along with faith in order to be saved and nothing is further from the truth! Any person can do good deeds to anyone else, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Atheist, a Agnostic, even a so-called Protestant that isn’t a child of God via the new birth! Our outward acts are certainly important and when one is saved by God’s grace alone, without works which no one can be saved by, they do good works and not perfectly however. To God be the glory in all good works and especially in HIS salvation which HE gives to a person without works of any kind at all. Christ did the works, and He paid the debt we owed to God for our sins on the cross with His blood shedding and transferred that to our account. We did NOTHING. Absolutely nothing! Even our faith and repentance are Gifts from Him to us! We even call upon Him because He gave us the sight and understanding to do so! We are totally impotent without HIS righteousness and power and spiritual life! Good works are important parts of our life style after being saved by Grace ALONE. R.C.’s add things to the Gospel and Paul the Apostle through the Holy Spirit in Galatians says those people are under a curse and also anathema, which means they are or should be consider under the curse of all curses – even sent to hell for doing such!
    So, I would NOT put stock in works for anything in regards to getting it right in terms of salvation from the wrath of God. It won’t work, never did, and never will! So, the man called the Pope is nothing more than a sinner who needs redemption and if he really gets saved he will leave the R.C. sect and cult and join a Bible Believing and praching congregation and serve Jesus alone and not political religious sectarians full of deeds which they think may help them get to heaven! Not only that they worship Mary and consider her a co-redemptrix! That is idolatry! Big time idolatry!

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