Is Pope Francis a Ticking Time Bomb?

| Bud Malby | March 19, 2013 | CCMT |

“Are you the one who is to come, or do we have to wait for someone else?”

That was a question posed to Jesus, as Matthew recorded it in his gospel, see the 11th chapter.

I suppose we could ask the same question of our new Pope Francis. How do you reckon he would respond?

I have a suspicion that Francis might point us in the same direction that Jesus did his questioners. Suppose Pope Francis responded, “I’m conservative, I admit that, but if you see the dead being brought to life again won’t that count for something?” I know a lot of spiritually dead people, in and out of the Catholic Church, who need life, and if push came to shove, I’d choose new life for them over doctrine.

Does that mean that suddenly clericalism becomes unimportant? Or that the status of women in the church goes to the back burner? Or that birth control and a host of issues related to sexuality no longer count? Or that the right of dissent, governed by an informed conscious, is relegated to wishful thinking? I could go on because there are stickier issues lurking on the fringes that haven’t been talked about since Vatican II. May I mention subjects like the status of Mary, and that maybe the teaching on Eucharist needs to evolve? I throw those into the mix just to point out that the list is basically endless.

Here’s what I’ve learned from a lifetime of living and observation. The closer a church lives the life of Jesus; the more all areas of disagreement are mitigated. And I have a classic example to illustrate what I mean.

Dorothy Day, one of the founders of The Catholic Worker Movement, was a strict doctrinal conservative. Dorothy did not like many of the changes brought about by Vatican II. She was completely happy in the Catholic piety of the 1930’s, and I doubt she ever adjusted to the changes made in the liturgy. It is clear, however, that her mission and that of The Catholic Worker, was not about enforcing conservative Catholic doctrine, but living the Gospel. Did you know, for instance, that some quite famous members, who would be listed in The Catholic Worker’s Hall-of-Fame (if they had such a thing), were atheists?

You or I, progressive or conservative, would fit right in working under Dorothy Day. Why? Because living a life of feeding the hungry, championing the poor and demonstrating against injustice – living the gospel – also moves us to a position of following the teachings of Jesus about forgiveness and acceptance. Living the Gospel, instead of talking about it, is our common meeting ground. Where it goes from there I don’t know, because the environment or atmosphere of doing that has only been present in my church experience fleetingly. If the new pope can set the entire Church on that path it would be a monumental miracle. And I believe in such a culture, or nursery if that’s not too corny of a word, our differences would be accepted or dealt with.

For once the age factor works in our favor. Pope Francis will be seventy-seven in December. The clock is ticking, and just as those of us between seventy and eighty know when we look at our prescription medicine bottles each morning, time is not on our side, or Francis’ side. His actions thus far, and the words attributed to him, say to me that he’s a man on a mission, and if he wants to complete that mission he knows he has to act – now.

For this reason, I make this prediction, based on a mighty big, IF. If Pope Francis knows the only real way to right the church is by setting her on a path of actually living the Gospel, then he will do that soon! As a result we may not have long to wait to see what direction this papacy is headed. For once we may be in a position of just hanging on tight, a wait and see where the leaky old boat called Catholicism takes us.

With all of this in mind, I repeat the opening question, only this time dropping it squarely in Pope Francis’ lap:

“Are you the one who is to come, or do we have to wait for someone else?”

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One Response to Is Pope Francis a Ticking Time Bomb?

  1. Lois Olmstead says:

    Well done article. I only wish the author could have given a couple of examples of churches who are living the gospel. Dorothy Day had to step out of her church to do it. Lois Olmstead

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