Everybody loves Pope Francis, Public Radio reported when I was driving back from campus. Yep, the commute to campus has begun. Anyway, enough about me; back to the pope:
Roman Catholics — who make up about 20 percent of the US population — are jazzed about Francis coming, which is hardly surprising. After all, the pope is their representative of Jesus Christ on earth.As I listened to it, I forgot about the pope. It was like, "hold it right there; the university has a humanist chaplain and he is an atheist?" Damn, no wonder Harvard is Harvard, and then there is Western Oregon University ;)
But plenty of people from other faith traditions are singing the praises of Francis. And that goes for non-believers too.
“Some of Pope Francis’s actions are really praiseworthy,” says Greg Epstein, who works as the humanist chaplain at Harvard University. Epstein is an atheist.
So, the atheist chaplain loves the pope?
But Epstein says he refuses to lionize a world leader with beliefs that are so out of step with a large chunk of the American public.I am not sure that we have enough people who listen to anybody with a critical ear. Most people seemed to have stopped listening. And among those that do listen not many do that "critical thinking."
“Pope Francis is still out there advocating for a view of human sexuality that is really damaging to a lot of people. He’s giving temporary, partial absolution to some women who’ve had abortions this year. It’s a good step, but it’s not a solution,” Espstein says.
Esptein hopes people will be open to what Pope Francis has to say on his trip to the US, but also that they listen with a critical ear.
But, apparently there is a good chance that Francis might make political leaders here a tad uncomfortable:
America’s political leaders should expect some discomforting talk when the pope addresses Congress. He will likely praise the founding ideals of the United States — but point out the ways in which its leaders fall short. He’ll be equally blunt when he addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York on issues ranging from climate change to poverty to war and refugees.If that will be his agenda, then it seems like the Democrats will applaud him all the time, while the Republicans might begin to wonder if the pope really is a Latin American Marxist communist! The NY Times has even setup an opinion debate on "How Radical is Pope Francis?"
The Republican leaders of the House and Senate may squirm a bit, though, when he addresses a joint session of Congress. After decades of a conservative papal vision, the pope’s call to fight inequality and climate change has inspired many progressives, but infuriated conservatives. Is he focusing on issues at the center of Catholic teaching, or has he abandoned core Catholic beliefs to promote a liberal agenda?The Economist has a different kind of observation:
In the course of his travels the pontiff, who has shown real eloquence in condemning the excesses of the capitalist north, can still expect some hard questions about his attitude to excesses of another kind. Will he denounce left-wing authoritarianism as much as he has denounced the right-wing variety?Francis won't let himself be dragged into that kind of a mess. He seems to be charmingly diplomatic, especially after his predecessor's rottweiler image. A diplomat is tactful.
Francis is a grandmaster of messaging. Religion writer Michael O’Loughlin has named him, “The Tweetable Pope.”Of course, a Tweetable Pope:
Bishops are getting crash courses on tweeting and live streaming, and organizers are pushing the official papal hashtags: #PopeInUS and, for Spanish speakers, #PapaEnUSA.It seems to me that our political theatre will get that much more exciting to watch. I tell ya, never a dull media moment in these United States of America! ;)