Francis’s palpable respect for other religious traditions, coupled with his determination that the various faiths must work together to advance shared values such as peace and the care of creation, have made him a global role model for interfaith cooperation. . . .
It’s possible, of course, that people in either India or Turkey unaware of the pope’s record may be briefly swayed by such rhetoric, but the moment such charges are subjected to critical examination they’ll collapse under their own weight.
While the substance of such complaints may not have much merit, there’s nevertheless a sense in which they’re meaningful. In effect, they may be an index that Francis’s ambition to be the “chairman of the board” for religious moderates around the world is working.
Obviously without using that language, that’s a role to which every recent pope has aspired – trying to galvanize a coalition of authoritative moderates within the world’s religious traditions to demonstrate that, as much as religion can be part of the problem, it is also uniquely positioned to be part of the solution.
As someone who doesn’t hail from a traditional Western power, Francis brings a special capacity to pull that off, since he doesn’t carry the same baggage in terms of being associated with either the West’s colonial history or its contemporary military and political choices. His global popularity also means he carries the largest religious megaphone in the world, allowing him to lift the standing of moderate voices in other traditions.
Don’t think too long about where ex-Nazis went after World War II.
Forget also about popes transcending personal experience. Turn STM into ASTM — Argentina, Scripture, Tradition, Magisterium:
From the beginning, it’s been striking how often Pope Francis, when pressed to explain a particular statement or policy choice, will invoke his background in Argentina.
There are really too many examples to count, but just to choose one almost at random, in a session with priests from the diocese of Rome earlier this month, Francis stirred controversy by suggesting there are cases in which it’s better for couples to live together for a while rather than take part in a shotgun wedding.
“Here’s a social fact in Buenos Aires,” he said. “I prohibited religious marriages in Buenos Aires in cases of what we call matrimonios de apuro, meaning ‘in a hurry,’ when a baby is on the way.”
In fact, Francis cited his experience in Buenos Aires no fewer than five times in that address to priests, on multiple topics.
And be sure to love the sinner while hating the sin (except if you are a global capitalist, climate change denier, or a Turk):
Furthermore, the pope did not tell anyone to issue an actual apology. And his focus was not limited to the LGBT community. Rather, he made the broader statement that the Church “must not only ask forgiveness to the gay person who is offended,” but also to all of the people “we could have defended and we didn’t,” including the poor, and women and children who are exploited.
He cited the Catechism, saying that homosexual individuals “must not be discriminated against, (but) must be respected and accompanied pastorally.”
The Catechism teaches that based on Scripture, “tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’”
Homosexual acts, it continues, “are contrary to the natural law … under no circumstances can they be approved.”
When speaking of homosexual persons, however, the Catechism insists that most gay individuals face “a trial” due to their sexual orientation, and “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”
What Pope Francis said, then, clearly echoes Church teaching and displays his genuine pastoral concern for a group that has and frequently still does face hostility, including, at times, from within the Church.
Isn’t independence from tyrannical authority wonderful?