March 14, 2013

Hauerwas and Spong Comment on Pope Francis’ Commitment to the Poor

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By Aaron Gaglia (@GagliaAC)

Faith leaders from all backgrounds are weighing in on the new Pope Francis. As he is the first pope to be South American, Jesuit, and be named Francis, many are offering their thoughts on these developments. Others are weighing in on his traditional view on homosexuality and giving their hopes for changes he will bring to the church. From the plurality of voices, I offer you the commentary of two Christian Scholars on Pope Francis’ identification with the poor.

Renowned Christian ethicist and pacifist, Dr. Stanley Hauerwas spoke these words about the new pope:

“It’s remarkable that they’ve chose a Jesuit to be Pope. That’s even more remarkable than choosing a non-European. That he was a Jesuit says so much about his commitments to the Poor. And that he’s taken the name of Francis to, I think, clearly gesture that the Roman Catholic Church is not just a church that serves the poor. The Roman Catholic Church is church of the poor. My hunch is that many of the agendas that are associated with American Catholicism will not exactly be his agendas.”

Rather than merely loving the poor as the other, Pope Francis lives in such a way that shows the poor they are welcomed and valued members of the church. And how did Pope Francis showed this commitment to the poor? The very simple and counter-cultural lifestyle he lived as a Cardinal clearly showed this commitment.

On Current TV’s “Viewpoint”, liberal Episcopal theologian, John Shelby Spong explained the new Pope’s lifestyle in this way: “He also expresses some negativity toward pomp and circumstance, which I think is terribly important. He lives in an apartment not a palace, he cooks for himself…he rides the public transportation bus.” He did not accept the lavishness of lifestyle as the requirement for the lavish role of Cardinal, choosing rather to live simply.

After explaining the opulent lifestyle and garb associated with the Pope, Spong said, “And then we (the church) say, ‘Oh but by the way we’re in the ministry of servant hood.’ The medium violates all of those values. Now this man still has the externals, but he clearly has made an identification with the poor that I think we ought to applaud and I’m grateful for that.”

So now that Francis is Pope, what type of lifestyle will he live? Will he refuse some of the pomp associated with the Papacy? Or will he accept the Papal lifestyle and show his commitment to the poor in other ways? And what will his commitment to the poor mean for the Roman Catholic Church? I am very interested to see the answers to these questions unfold in the coming days and weeks.

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One Response to Hauerwas and Spong Comment on Pope Francis’ Commitment to the Poor

  1. […] of his predecessors.  Until yesterday he lived in a small apartment and cooked his own food.  Stanley Hauerwas commented today, “My hunch is that many of the agendas that are associated with American Catholicism will not […]

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