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Pope Francis, the Good Politician

November 4, AD 2015 16 Comments

popefrancisPope Francis is a celebrity, taking over mainstream magazines and news stations, generating talk all over the globe about his actions and the Catholic Church. Yet he is also an enigma, a wild card, a man full of surprises, something he has in common with Jesus.

The Pope’s trip to the U.S., as expected, produced a plethora of opinions, sentiments and articles (like this one!), with varied conclusions. One thing that stood out to me was how our Holy Father backs liberal causes directly and conservative causes subtly. It’s true, no matter which way you look at it, and pretty mind-boggling for some of his flock, who are out on the battleground of these conservative causes. Yet I think he has good reason to do so, and just as God’s ways are not our ways (Is 55:8), so too the Pope’s ways are not always our ways.

A Man on a Mission

Maybe Pope Francis’s mission wasn’t directly with President Obama, with the United Nations, etc. Yet he is on a mission, as he himself stated on the White House lawn: “I will also travel to Philadelphia for the Eighth World Meeting of Families, to celebrate and support the institutions of marriage and the family at this, a critical moment in the history of our civilization.”

It seems the pope knows marriage and family are the pillars that are truly at stake in our day and age. He knows President Obama stated at the beginning of his campaigns he wouldn’t rest until he got “equal rights” for homosexuals and now the Supreme Court consecrated gay marriage, which sets the tone for not only the U.S. and for the world. As disheartening as this may be, maybe the pope’s mission does not deal directly with Obama’s law-making. His mission consists of celebrating and supporting the institutions of marriage and family.

Building Bridges

Although he is a man focused on his mission, he knows how to include everyone, how to make people uncomfortable so as to get them thinking. Why is the pope always so focused on the environment? Maybe it’s a bridge, a language that our era understands and a topic that sheds light on other more intimate, complex topics. He said so at the United Nations:

“Consequently, the defense of the environment and the fight against exclusion demand that we recognize a moral law written into human nature itself, one which includes the natural difference between man and woman (cf. Laudato Si’, 155), and absolute respect for life in all its stages and dimensions (cf. ibid., 123, 136).”

John Paul II already spoke of this technocratic domination of nature as linked to the technocratic domination of our bodies in his Theology of the Body. Christopher West explains in the preface of Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body:

“Yet, the full greatness of John Paul II’s vision only emerges when one sees his concern for spousal love in the larger context of his concern about our age, above all for the question of scientific knowledge and power over nature, that is, the characteristically modern question of ‘progress’. He argues that ‘the essence of the Church’s teaching’ about contraception lies in a more critical judgment about ‘the domination of the forces of nature’ by human power (TOB 123:1).”

Perhaps Pope Francis’s insistence of the culture of care and care for creation is a good way for people also to understand more “conservative” issues, like the care of our bodies.

Conquer Evil with Good

There is no doubt this pope is positive and uplifting. In all his speeches during his American visit, he started out by affirming what is good. He gave examples of American heroes to Congress and examples of U.N. heroes and principles to the United Nations. So seems to be his approach to these pillars of marriage and family. Instead of conquering evil with evil, with negativity, with reproach, he conquers evil with good (Rm 12:21). As he said to Congress:

“I will end my visit to your country in Philadelphia, where I will take part in the World Meeting of Families. It is my wish that throughout my visit the family should be a recurrent theme. How essential the family has been to the building of this country! And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement! Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.”

The family is very threatened, but he is lifting up its richness and beauty with his visit to the World Meeting of Families, his family catechesis on Wednesdays, the Synod on the Family, touching upon it again and again.

Pope Francis is not a star, as he himself discloses. He is not a politician, in the negative sense, pleasing the crowds and using his power to feed his pride. Instead, he is a man being watched by the whole world, with Peter’s keys in his hands, as he prayerfully treads the world’s turbulent waters, guiding us all in the Church’s ship to salvation.

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About the Author:

Julie Machado is a 30-year-old wife, mother and Portuguese-American who grew up in California, but moved to Portugal for college and has been there ever since. She has a degree in Theology from the Catholic University of Lisbon and has special interest in Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. She blogs at Marta, Julie e Maria.

  • Howard

    This sort of claim is made frequently about Pope Francis — that he is a “good politician”, or “perhaps the world’s foremost genius of conversion and evangelization”, or that his apparent carelessness in his comments is what Baldric would have called “a cunning plan.” What is never given is anything resembling proof. If I were to argue that Tim Tebow was the greatest quarterback in the NFL over the past 20 years, people would expect me to back it up with statistics — his percentage of completed passes, number of interceptions, number of passing touchdowns, number of passing yards, and percentage of games won, for example. It is not enough to say that because Tim Tebow is a really nice guy that decent people have to like, his mediocre stats must be part of some cunning plan. Well, what are Pope Francis’s stats? Don’t tell me how Pope Francis is “building bridges” to people in other religions or in no religion at all — tell me how he is getting them to convert to the Catholic Church. Tell me how Mass attendance has changed during his pontificate. Tell me how laws have been changed to better reflect Catholic teaching. Then, on the basis of these “stats”, we can determine whether Pope Francis really is a “good politician”.

    • james

      The number of priests and religious declined by 10% under St JP II. Does that mean his “stats” were not great enough to elevate him to sainthood ?

      • Howard

        Since when does sainthood have to do with success? Do you really not understand that not only are most saints not successful politicians, they are not even popes?

        There are 82 popes who are recognized as saints. Not all of them were successes. Read up on Pope St. Celestine V. His sainthood is more important than the fact that he was a terrible politician, but it does not obscure the fact that he was a terrible politician.

      • james

        tell me how he is getting them to convert to the Catholic Church. Tell me how Mass attendance has changed during his pontificate. Tell me how laws have been changed to better reflect Catholic teaching.

        I was responding to this – Francis is a good politician due
        to his bravery to take on the Curia powers that be and to
        face the history of the CC that created so many ex, lapsed and dissenters.

      • Howard

        No, you really were not responding to that. I can read what you actually wrote, and it says nothing about “his bravery to take on the Curia powers that be and to face the history of the CC that created so many ex, lapsed and dissenters.” That might be what you wish you had written about, but it is not what you wrote.

        Even so, brave =/= good, and “good” was the word used in the title.

      • james

        Picky picky. Your criteria was what I highlighted .. to / also, is that OK now ? And while we’re on the subject of saints
        isn’t it interesting that the Vati leaks brought out the money
        angle of the process ? Also in question is the fast track to
        sainthood. In closing, before I wish you a good day, I think
        the author was fair and balanced.

      • Howard

        I haven’t paid much attention to the money angle because, sadly, that is far from the biggest problem the Church has.

      • james

        True, but when you factor in that Martin Luther was the first
        whistle blower from within the Church and once again it was
        all about money ( indulgences ) it shows money changers
        were back the day after Jesus threw them out. The church
        hasn’t any problems that won’t be healed by the Spirit and
        Faith is what builds us forever onward.

      • Howard

        No, Martin Luther was not the first whistle blower. Regardless, human beings have always had the same weaknesses.

      • samton909

        The number may have declined under JP II, but not because of JP II. The US Bishops, who were quite opposed to JP II in some ways, filled the seminaries with homosexuals and other far out types, and so men were not drawn to being a priest. If you believed in Catholicism, they told you that you were too rigid to be a priest. If you were gay or endorsed women priests, then they invited you in to become a Catholic priest.

        This trend was reversed as JP II’s reforms took hold and flourished undder Benedict. Now MEN are becoming priests again, and there has been a disticnt bump upwards in vocations to the priesthood.

      • james

        ” The US Bishops, who were quite opposed to JP II in some ways, filled the seminaries with homosexuals and other far out types, …”

        Good to know the 3 % number of abusers are gone and
        that “rigid” no mercy type MEN are in control.

      • Stilbelieve

        What kind of “mercy” is Jesus going to extend to those he tells to line up on his left side when he returns; i.e., the “goats”? Mt25; 33

      • james

        Who knows. Maybe Francis won’t make the cut if you listen
        to the trads and conservatives who are calling him out every
        time he speaks.

  • FreemenRtrue

    what a load – frankly.

  • Stilbelieve

    Just look at the picture used for this article. What you see is not what you think. That is not a humbled, awed struck President you see; that is a man that is so grateful to the leader of the largest Christian Church in the world who has, in his first major encyclical, endorsed/blessed Obama’s stated number one issue – “Climate Change.” You are looking at a man, President Obama, who is thinking as Pope Frances is standing there, “You grinning fool, you have handed me the most important endorsement I have ever had in my life-long-endeavor to destroy America and corporations.”

    Pope Francis has stated, in essence, in his first encyclical, that God made a mistake in creating life on the plant He created, based on the life-giving cycle of Oxygen (O) and Carbon Dioxide (CO2). CO2 is needed by all plant life; and in exchange plants give off O which all animal life needs. Pope Francis is in agreement with Obama that CO2 is a pollutant, that it causes “green house” gases. Green houses are where plants are grown from seeds, by providing natural light and an atmosphere in which extra CO2 is injected into the green house to provide the nourishment needed to grow strong healthy plants.

    The CO2 emitted from burning oil and coal is just returning to the atmosphere the CO2 extracted from the atmosphere trapped in the coal and oil in their formation.

    This is not a very bright thing our new pope has done. It is leading to even further efforts to destroy our Constitutional form of government and the greatest economic system ever devised to enrich all peoples’ lives. And he is doing that while stating that he is smarter than God.

  • Beth Van

    There are two articles I recommend to the author of this article and others. They are

    “Pope Francis, ending synod, excoriates bishops with ‘closed hearts’” at http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2015/10/26/pope-francis-ending-synod-excoriates-bishops-with-closed-hearts/ and “Pope vs church- the anatomy of a Catholic civil war” at http://new.spectator.co.uk/2015/11/pope-francis-is-risking-a-catholic-civil-war/ for a much more realistic description of the Pope.