He's a "breath of fresh air" and is "leading the church in a new direction".
. . . . . and, this . . . . ."We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel," the pope said in the 12,000-word article . . . .
"The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules," Francis said. "The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all."
The comments contained no change in church teaching, and the pope said reform should not happen quickly. Still, it was the pope's clearest declaration yet of a break in tone and style from his immediate predecessors.
I'm gonna change the content and my tone in the hope that those who have been disaffected will return, but I'm not changing anything else anytime soon.
Which translates: Don't hold your breath.
The man's not a dummy. Indeed, he's a Jesuit.
It's the Jesuits who always say, "We have to distinguish what's primary from what's secondary." And, of course, most of it is secondary. You can hear that ringing through in Francis' statements.
The very next day, the headline from NPR was: Pope Blasts Abortion After Decrying Focus on Rules. Some of us were not at all surprised.
First things first, and all that Jesuit stuff.
It was, of course, an olive branch of sorts to the doctrine-minded, conservative wing of the Catholic Church, in which he denounced today's "throw-away culture" that justifies disposing of lives, and said doctors in particular had been forced into situations where they are called to "not respect life."
He said: "Every child that isn't born, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ, has the face of the Lord," he said.
He urged the gynecologists to abide by their consciences and help bring lives into the world. "Things have a price and can be for sale, but people have a dignity that is priceless and worth far more than things," he said.
I get it. I'm no Jesuit but even I know that you can't turn an ocean liner around on a dime. You've got to go waaay off course before you can turn around and get back on the right course. It takes a Very Long time. And, the Roman Catholic Church is a Very Big boat.
I get it. Change takes time.
Non tenere spiritum.
Oh, it's not that I'm not grateful for the change in tone. I am. It is a welcomed relief from all the harping that has been vaguely disguised as preaching that has been the case for RCs for the past 8-10 years or so.
You can rest assured, however, that the prelates of Holy Mother Church will still be backing politicians who are opposed to contraception (Really? In 2013? We're still having this conversation?), abortion, and, of course, marriage equality.
Some of the Princes of the Church will even threaten excommunication to those RC politicians who are supportive of reproductive justice and marriage equality.
And, no woman has a prayer of being ordained to the diaconate or the priesthood - not in my lifetime - while the harassing of Roman Catholic Religious Women (nuns) will continue unabated.
As someone who left the RC Church of my youth because I was excluded on two counts - and "officially" prohibited from ordination in The Episcopal Church on one count (with lingering hostility because I was a woman in the first place) - I hear "change takes time" as the refrain of one who does not want change at all, and will do so very reluctantly and only on HIS terms.
In "A Priest Forever", Carter Heyward's book on her experience as one of the Philadelphia Eleven, there is a cartoon that someone sent to her prior to her priestly ordination. I don't have the book here in front of me, so I'm doing this from memory.
It's a picture of an elephant, sitting in a small pond, holding an umbrella, trying to cool off under the hot Indian sun. The elephant has taken up the entire pond.
A small mouse on the edge of the pond is saying, "Excuse me, good sir, but it's beastly hot, may I come in?"
The elephant turns to the mouse, looking down his long nose, and says, "Well, I say, I do so understand, you poor dear. Quite hot, yes. But, I'm not yet ready. You must learn to have patience. All in good time. All in good time."
This pope is playing a very dodgy game. It's classic Jesuit-Jedi-Knight mind trick. He's got everyone cheering so hard at the change in tone that not many have really paid attention to the fact that nothing of substance has changed. At. All.
I'm just the wee mouse at the edge of the pond saying, "Excuse me, good sir. I do so appreciate your pleasant tone, but, you know, it's still beastly hot and you won't let many of my friends into the wonderful, refreshing water of our baptismal pond."
Then again, it has ever been thus in terms of my role with the institutional church.
See, I'm smiling.
But, I'm not holding my breath.