A few random thoughts about the new pope:
- Symbolically, it’s incredibly significant that a non-European/non-North American was chosen, regardless of his views. It’s about time that the leader of the Catholic Church is from a part of the world (Africa, Latin America, parts of Asia) where the majority of the world’s Catholics live.
- It was nice to hear that he’s known to regularly take public transit and is critical of clerical displays of opulence. Also nice to read his remarks criticizing priests who refused to baptize the babies born to single moms.
- Not so nice to hear were reports that he was sympathetic to a dictator. I want to hear more details about his actions (or non-actions) during the military junta in Argentina before I say more about that. I hope against hope that he will be candid and honest if more questions are raised.
- I’m not surprised about his vocal opposition to marriage equality and other conservative views. Not much else to say, I’m exhausted from anger about stuff like this and feel sort of numb with resignation about the sexism and heterosexism in the church.
- My inner lapsed Catholic geek is curious about how the Jesuit vow of obedience to the pope is going to work, now that the pope is a Jesuit.
- On a crass note, he’s old. That could mean surprising things (a la John XXIII) or just plain weird things (if he resigns and Benedict is still alive at the time, there could possibly be 3 living popes at once). Or it could mean nothing.
- Did he name himself in honor of Francis Xavier or Francis of Assisi? His actions will give us the answer.
- On a personal note… days like this remind me just how much my life has changed in the past few years. And how much is the same. The last time a new pope was elected I was sitting in the office of the Catholic youth ministry program I was in charge of. One of the weekly activities I did with the teens I worked with was a mock conclave, complete with needle and red thread to count the ballots. I was immersed in a Catholic church that I already knew did not fully accept me and my views, but I was still in denial, still thought that there was a place at the table for me. Now, I’ve come to terms with my outsider status, I call myself a Catholic in Exile and no longer try to hold space in a church that doesn’t make room for dissent. And yet, here I am, watching the live feed from Rome, curious about the outcome, and still the “token Catholic” that many of my friends turn to when they have questions about this church and its sometimes bizarre traditions. This being Catholic thing, it’s hard to shake.