Pope Francis gives the thumbs up during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Jan. 29. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)
Over at First Things, Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln,
Nebraska has some
reflections on the recent Rolling
Stone cover story about Pope Francis (the article that was dubbed superficial
and crude by the Vatican spokesman last week). Bishop Conley calls the
article “an exercise in standard revisionism” that attempts to “remake” Pope
Francis as “the quiet hero of the liberal left.”
Sexual and social libertines have little
interest in discrediting Christianity. They’re far more interested in
refashioning itin claiming Christ, and his vicar, as their supporters. The
secularist social agenda is more palatable to impressionable young people if it
complements, rather than competes with, the residual Christianity of their
families. The enemy has no interest in eradicating Christianity if he can sublimate
it to his own purposes.
The greatest trick of the devil isn’t
convincing the world he doesn’t existit’s convincing the world that Jesus
Christ is the champion of his causes.
Faced with questions about whether Pope Francis knows how
his words and actions will likely be interpretedor misinterpretedby the
media, Bishop Conley says he suspects the Holy Father “is keenly aware of the
choices he’s making, and the risks they pose.”
It is the simplicity of Pope Francis, and
his charity, which are misappropriated. His generosity and humanity are remade
as a shibboleth of heterodoxy. And as a foil, the humility and academic
brilliance of Pope Benedict are characterized, with a fair bit of anti-Teutonic
stereotyping, as Machiavellian scheming. But these images are laughably
inaccurate, and fleeting.
The promise of the Gospel is that
authentic commitment to the truthand a refusal to separate a commitment to
social justice from a commitment to orthodoxy and pietywill lead to
conversion. The path of Pope Francis might lead to “media martyrdom.” But
martyrdom sows the seeds of conversion.
As Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict wrote
that “[St.] Paul was not of the opinion that the chief pastoral task was to
avoid controversy. Nor did he think that an apostle should have above all good
press. No, he wanted to arouse, to awaken consciences, even if it cost him his
life.” In different ways, rooted in different personalities, Benedict and
Francis have both demonstrated commitment to that ideal. So should we.
Read all of Bishop Conley’s article here