Pope Francis is the most mentioned name on the internet. The Pope who recently embraced a man suffering from neurofibromatosis has beat out every celebrity in Hollywood and every other world leader. All eyes are on the Chair of Peter. An unwritten essay sits in the back of my mind. In it, I point out that as long as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI draws breathe, the papacy of Francis is a papacy on loan. In other words, we only get to learn from Pope Francis because Pope Benedict XVI was humble enough to give up the most powerful position in the world. Only because the old German professor humbly listened to the quiet voice of God did the Jesuit Cardinal from Argentina become Pope.
I may yet write that masterpiece, but I have had to content myself with another project: interpreting Pope Francis in an authentically Catholic way. Eager to draw him into their own prefabricated political categories; Sojourners, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, NBC, CNN, etc… have all painted Francis as a revolutionary, a Pope who is a good liberal, and who is finally going to bring the Church “up to date.” As I have argued elsewhere, these interpretations do not stand up to rational scrutiny. Never-the-less, they are popular and won’t be going away any time soon.
Two days ago, former Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin was interviewed by Jake Tapper on CNN about her new book Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas. The interview inevitably turned to religion as Palin identified herself as “going to a Bible-believin’ church, up there in Wasilla that’s non-denominational.” She relates the story of how she became “born again” and placed her “life in God’s hands.” “So often, I find myself on my knees, calling out to God for help, for encouragement,” she told Tapper. “My faith is everything to me.”
The question then came: “What do you make of Pope Francis?” Palin’s response is actually quite interesting:
I’m kinda, trying to follow what his agenda is. You know, I’m surprised that he came out with a couple of things in the media, but then again, I’m not one to trust the media’s interpretation of somebodies message. But having read, through media outlets, that… he’s had some statements that, to me, sound kinda liberal. It’s taken me aback. It’s kinda surprised me. But there again, unless I really dig deep into what his messaging is, and do my own homework, I’m not going to just trust what I hear in the media.
Catholic Memes posted: “American Politicians need to learn the Church does not fall into political categories like Liberal or Conservative. It is far above such categorizations.” along with a meme claiming: “If Sarah Palin is this shocked by Pope Francis, she’ll be catatonic when she finally gets round to reading about Jesus in the New Testament.”
This marks the second time I have disagreed with a Catholic Meme. The importance of Palin’s words revolve not around her shock, but her skepticism. She is shocked at “the media’s interpretation.” Yet, she is willing to suspend her surprise. “Unless I really dig deep into what his messaging is, and do my own homework, I’m not going to just trust what I hear in the media.” She emphasizes the importance of inquiry into what the Pope has actually done and said. Perhaps she will do her own homework and discover that the Pope doesn’t have a political agenda, but rather a pastoral vocation.
To understand the Pope you must sift through all the noise to the best commentary available. I applaud those who wish to “dig deep” into what the Pope is actually saying. To ease the search, here is a list of the diamonds I have found among all the rough of the world. Seek and you shall find.
A Big Heart Open to God– America
Don’t Tell the Press: Pope Francis is Using Them– First Things
The Smoke of Satan Returns– First Things
The Pope’s Theology of Sin– First Things
And once you’ve read all that, enjoy this last piece as a reward for doing your own homework:
Lie Witness News- Papal Edition– Jimmy Kimmel Live