Normally, when an old man appears on a balcony in something that looks like a bathrobe it’s not to the cheers of everyone watching. That is, if anyone is watching. On Wednesday, however, a new Pope was elected and white smoke billowed furiously from the Sistine Chapel. Power brokers, pundits and politicians all weighed in. All I can say, is don’t knock the Church if you’re not willing to work with it.
Admittedly, I haven’t always been a huge fan of the Catholic Church. I’ve taken a strong stance against their handling of the sexual abuse scandal, as well as their engagement with other faiths. The Catholic Church has faults that we shouldn’t overlook. Pope Francis I will have the immense challenge to repair broken relationships and image with many different groups.
I’m still waiting, though, for more liberal voices to stand up and encourage the Catholic Church. If more people held the Catholic Church accountable, and didn’t see them as the Anti-Christ (pun, intended) then perhaps powerful change can occur. Secularists and non-secularists have to stop making each other the enemy. In the end, it only perpetuates division, and makes progress seem as hopeful as a sober Catholic wedding.
Pope Francis I comes from South America, and has ties to the tradition of Oscar Romero. Though he has not endorsed liberation theology, his knowledge of it will help challenge the Church to think differently. If you don’t know Romero, then you shouldn’t bash the Catholic Church until you’ve read about him. He pushed liberation and stood on the side of the disinherited; he was assassinated for it. Don’t you think it’s time for us to stop playing into the old ways of hating on the Catholic Church and actually call them into a relationship of accountability?
Let’s be honest, I doubt the Catholic Church will formally endorse liberation theology. It strikes at the heart of their power structure. Liberation thought says that God is on the side of the disinherited. We can hope, however, that his knowledge of liberation theology will make a more aware Church; a Church willing to use its resources for societal transformation. Many will say that’s too much hope to grant the Church, and it is if we refuse to hold them accountable.
The Church is going to go through some hard change in the coming years, at least I hope. Whether or not we push the conversation forward, or chide them into more conservative standpoints, will be our choice. Let’s get past the weak, mean words and into some serious conversations about change.
Or, perhaps we should just heed the words of St. Francis of Assisi when he says, “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”