Commentary by Bob Walters
“Complaining never helps us find God.” – Pope Francis, August 2013
I am a Jesus-first, Bible-believing Evangelical Christian, and also a bit of a gym rat when it comes to religious news and commentary.
It caught my full attention recently when the media reported that Pope Francis, six months into his papacy, declared with a possibly negative insinuation that the Roman Catholic Church was “obsessed with abortion, gay marriage and contraception.”
I have a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and my favorite definition for “news” is, “The news is what’s not supposed to happen.” In the spirit of that definition, popes aren’t supposed to minimize “abortion, gay marriage and contraception.” But living daily with, and being sensitive to, the characteristic liberal agnostic slant and frequent technical ignorance of the mainstream media when it comes to all things religious, I hastened beyond the headlines to discover what the Pope actually said.
And as it turns out, Pope Francis, the first Jesuit Bishop of Rome, actually did say that. It was in an unprecedented one-on-one interview conducted over three separate sessions in August at the Vatican by an Italian magazine editor (and brother Jesuit priest) at the behest of the U.S. Jesuit magazine, “America.”
The lengthy interview titled “A Big Heart Open to God” was released Sept. 19 in 16 Jesuit journals worldwide including the post-dated Sept. 30 issue of America. It covers the gamut of church issues, doctrine, theology, cultural challenges, the pope’s personality, tastes and pastoral concerns. I read all 10,000 words.
My takeaway? I think Christians everywhere should 1) read the actual interview before passing judgment and 2) applaud the pope for his priorities.
The pope sees the church as a “field hospital” where the wounded and broken are healed and loved, not berated and punished. That’s what Jesus did. The pope steadfastly champions church teaching, says it’s a mistake for it to complain about culture, and says the church’s time, energy, and spiritual capital should be primarily focused on the Glory of God and human salvation offered only through Jesus Christ.
My Evangelical friends likely wonder why I’m talking about the pope, and my Catholic friends likely wonder why this is any of my business. Let’s just say the pope’s message covers several important Christian basics.
He’s not promoting the acceptance of sin. He’s extolling Christians to have compassion for sinners – all of us – including, he emphasizes, himself.
The pope is telling us, without complaining, that Jesus is the best company we can find.
Walters (firstname.lastname@example.org) recommends 1) having a dictionary handy when digesting the Pope’s interview, 2) reading America’s editorial The Pope’s Progress, and 3) viewing The New York Times’ story (excellent overview).