March 13, 2013

Pope Francis

So what do we know about where the College of Cardinals wants to take the Church? For the little it's worth, this is my very quick take on the selection of Pope Francis.
  • He old. That tells me the cardinals are still hedging their bets. They see this guy as the transitional guy who will set things up for the next several popes. But if he doesn't get it done, then he's a mistake they won't have to live with for too very long.
  • He is an outsider. Right now the mess inside the Vatican is the single most urgent problem to be dealt with. By picking an outsider, they are sending a message to the Old Guard: Time to go!
  • Francis. The name says it. By drawing on the legacy of St. Francis of Assisi, he is clearly choosing a name that reflects his own values. This is a guy who eschewed the fancy mansion, the chauffeur driven limo, who cooks his own meals and volunteers at the soup kitchen. He will no doubt be called the people's pope before too long.
  • Argentina. The big growth area for the Catholic Church is Latin America. This is all about marketing, rebranding the Church with its single largest constituency. Smart move.
  • Conservative without the ultra. From what I hear, Francis is doctrinally conservative. That probably is what got him enough votes to get the two-thirds majority. Obviously, he has two huge issues with a declining priesthood and antiquated views towards the role of women in the Church or anywhere else. Conservative thinking is what got them into the mess, so you have to think at least some of the reform-minded cardinals think Francis is amenable to moving the Church in a direction towards solving these two problems. Time will tell.
All in all, the choice of Francis leaves me feeling hopeful about the future of the Church. I am not a practicing Catholic, but I do feel that the world is a better place when it has pope reminding us of the moral issues that inform so many of the choices we make. The world is at yet another turning point--climate change, bio-genetic-robotic engineering, and the weakening of the nation-state franchise all threaten to fundamentally alter the world--and we can use all the help we can get to navigate us through the ethical quagmires that lie ahead. Habemus papam. It's a start.

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