The Pope Is a Christian!
By Garry Wills
New York Review of Books
At a recent I talk I gave about Pope Francis, a man asked me, “Why do more non-Catholics like the pope than Catholics do?” He was wrong, of course. A Pew poll two months ago found that 90 percent of Catholics like what the pope is doing—and the number is even higher (95 percent) among the most observant, Mass attending Catholics. The percentage of non-Catholics who view the pope favorably does not get above the 70s.
Yet the question was understandable. There is a perception of great resistance to the pope in his own church. This is largely the product of noise. Extremists get more press coverage than blander types, and some Catholic bloggers have suggested that the pope is not truly Catholic. They are right to be in a panic. They are not used to having a pope who is a Christian. They call Francis a radical because he deplores the sequestration of great wealth for a rich few and deprivation of the many poor. But Francis is a moderate. Jesus was the radical: “How hard it will be for the wealthy man to enter the kingdom of God….It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:23,26). In the Gospel of Luke (16:19-31), when the rich man (Dives) calls for succor from hell, Abraham, holding the poor man (Lazarus) in his bosom, answers: “All the good things fell to you while you were alive, and all the bad to Lazarus; now he has his consolation here, and it is you who are in agony.”
Some right wing Catholics would haul Dives up and enshrine him in the one percent of rich men who trickle wealth down on the rest of us. They are also descendants of those Pharisees who tried to keep people away from Jesus because “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:1-2). The modern Pharisees try to refuse the Eucharist to politicians who do not meet their doctrinal tests. Pope Francis’s response to this patrolling of the communion line is in his major statement so far, The Joy of the Gospel (No. 47):
The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.
Which position would Jesus agree with? We find the answer in the Gospel of Mark (1:17), where Jesus says:
It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick; I did not come to invite virtuous people, but sinners.
Pope Francis describes the church as a ministry to wounded people:
I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars. You have to heal the wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds.
Read it all HERE at New York Review of Books