Andrew Sullivan is a gay, HIV positive, conservative (UK-style) Catholic who has lately felt very detached from his church. He looked at the evils done by various people, and covered up by folks like Benny 16 and JP2 and was horrified, as any person of conscience would be. But now he, along with the rest of the world, get to look at Pope Francis, and he, along with myself and many others, are…well…hopeful.
The reports of [the Pope’s] press conference today suggest a radically new symbolism for the church. This kind of understanding of the diverse and multi-faith and multi-cultural modernity is something you would never have heard from Benedict XVI:
“Given that many of you do not belong to the Catholic Church, and others are not believers, I give this blessing from my heart, in silence, to each one of you, respecting the conscience of each one of you, but knowing that each one of you is a child of God. May God bless you.”
Respecting the conscience of each of you. That might seem to be the bleeding obvious – but it isn’t in the context of Benedict’s theological reign, which was far longer than his pontifical one. Benedict wanted to place conscience below revelation as authoritatively adjudicated by … himself. The central place of individual conscience established at the Second Council was left to wither in favor of a public, uniform religion. He seemed to me to want ultimately to restore the seamless cultural-political-religious unity of the Bavaria of his youth; and if the public square were empty, it had to be filled with religious authority. He tried. In the West, the public square moved in the opposite direction. He hunkered down, hoping for a smaller, purer church. What he got was a smaller one, but beset by scandal and internal division and a legacy of the most horrendous of crimes.
You can read the whole article here, though it might be paywalled to you. If it is, it’s worth plunking down the $20 a year for Sully’s writing. The man is good.
I’m still displeased by the Pope’s views on homosexuality, though at least he recognizes that gays are also people, which puts him a step ahead of many, and pretty much parallel to other men of his age. But there is, in this man, much that I can find to admire, even if I disagree with him on certain fundamental points.