But they don’t just say it; they almost insist on it, seem to wish for it and place their fervent hope in it. They say it with gritted teeth, willing it to be so. They say it almost with resentment that it has not happened yet. “Make no mistake about it,” says one commenter to the Crisis article at the link, “the press’ ‘turning on’ Pope Francis would be a good sign, a sign of hope and a cause for rejoicing.”
They may be right about the turning to come, of course. They probably are. It’s true, the media and much of western culture in our day have found a lot about Christian doctrine, but more particularly with some elements of Catholic morality, to be unhappy about. But what’s oddly missing is a sense of welcoming by these ‘conservatives’ of the fact that it hasn’t happened yet.
I mean, we do want the world to embrace the Gospel, right? That’s the goal, no? It’s what the New Evangelization is all about, unless I’m missing something. Wouldn’t that be “a sign of hope and cause for rejoicing”?? I get the impression that for some people, the New Evangelization means “They were ignoring the Church’s teaching before, so, by-God, we are going to make sure they can’t ignore it; in fact, we’re going to ram it down their damn throats.”
Of course, no one who does not perceive the deliverer of a message to be worth listening to, to be trusted to offer a message that is reliable, will ever hear the message. And so we want the world, the media, to be receptive to the Pope. For them to “love” him would be quite a good thing. And it would not necessarily mean that he’s failing to preach the Gospel.
Pope Francis surely is not. He has not — God bless him — hesitated to say things that are not palatable to many of us modern, secularized westerners. He’s been talking frequently about the devil, for one thing. He has rejected the idea of reading and interpreting Scripture too individualistically. He has criticized the “intellectuals without talent” and the “ethicists without goodness” who interpret Jesus as purely human rather than also divine. He has insisted that Jesus is “the only gate” for entering the kingdom of God” and that “to find Jesus outside of the Church is not possible.” He has taken jabs at the capitalism and the consumerism that is the very cultural air we breath. All that since his election in mid-March.
He has? So why haven’t they turned on him? Why haven’t they flippin’ tarred and feathered him?
Maybe we should ask ourselves whether the Church and its message have at times been harshly rejected not so much because of what we’ve said, but how we have said it. Maybe this fervent insistence that the honeymoon will end is simply a way to reassure ourselves that if our words have been rejected, it certainly is not because of anything about us or the way we’ve offered these words. Yet isn’t it possible that it has not been welcomed at times because we’re offering it in the form of a scold, a judgment, a condemnation, rather than as wonderful, beautiful Good News, news that we ourselves have been transformed by, and that we are therefore humbly sharing with our fellow wayfarers along the paths of life?
Maybe one thing that the new supreme teacher of the Church universal is teaching us is a few qualities of a great teacher of doctrine that we have forgotten: simple human warmth, humility, respectfulness, simplicity, clear attentiveness to the poor.
The honeymoon may indeed end. I’m hoping not too soon.