The Conclave’s Canny Choice
From The American Interest, where the whole thing is worth reading:
It appears that, among other qualities, he is a compromise between those still nostalgic for the long Italian stranglehold on the papacy (Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian Bishop of Rome since 1523) and those who want a more globalized leadership in the Church. He is as Italian as a foreigner can be.
With all this, though, comes political baggage. Most Cardinals from Europe these days have not had to cope with the political monsters running loose in much of the world. The selection of Benedict XVI, who came of age in Hitler’s Reich, raised some eyebrows, but generally speaking most European prelates these days haven’t had to exercise their ministries in countries run by murderous thugs.
That isn’t the case with people from much of the developing world. Cuba’s bishops must somehow work with the Castros; the bishops of Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, Rwanda and many other countries have had to make choices that people from stable and democratic places know little about. In Pope Francis’s case, he lived under the horrible Argentine military government of the 1970s when disappearances and torture were business as usual. Those of us who haven’t had to navigate those treacherous waters should be careful how we judge those whose experience has taken them through trials we cannot comprehend. Nevertheless, Pope Francis must expect that his record under Argentina’s dictatorship will be carefully combed through, and it is not impossible that a Buenos Aires government with little use either for him or for the Church will engage in selective leaks.
Francis straddles more than just geographical divides. Doctrinally, he is as tough minded as his predecessor. Those expecting a new pope to ordain women, bless abortion, and allow gay priests to marry in St. Peter’s must brace themselves for disappointment. But what we know of Francis’s ministry in Argentina suggests that he knows that in Christianity doctrine, important as it may be, is not the heart of the matter. Christianity at the end of the day is about God’s all-forgiving, all-embracing, illimitable love. Love is the chocolate, doctrine is the box and the point of the doctrine is to protect the chocolate and keep it fresh for use, not to separate people from the feast God wants us to share.
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