Nuns on the Bus May Remain Stuck in the Great Pumpkin Patch
The election of Pope Francis has elicited some hope from liberal Catholics who have been wearily waiting for change in the Catholic Church.
As the reign of Pope Francis began, Sister Chittister published a hopeful column in the National Catholic Reporter which presumed that the Portero Pope will be the answer to their wearily waiting for liberalizing changes in the Church.
Chittister yearns for the Vicar of Christ to be blessing homosexual lifestyles, permitting priestesses, abolishing celibacy requirements, scrapping silly doctrines like life beginning at the moment of conception or appreciating liturgical traditions. Chittister’s scorn is encompassed in her critique of the past pontiff:
It gets spiritually exhausting to go on waiting for a pastor again and instead getting a scolding, reactionary church whose idea of perfection is the century before the last one rather than the century after this one.
Chittister took great hope that the humility which Pope Francis displayed in appearing only in a white cassock might the the sign that he was the one they have been waiting for.
But the reality may be that the Nuns on the Bus may be waiting in the Great Pumpkin Patch for a while longer. The key phrase from Chittister’s critique was “reactionary church” from two centuries before. Consider the several times in his month long pontificate that Pope Francis has explicitly referred to evil and the devil. This does not sound like a typical Twenty First Century man of the cloth dedicated to social justice.
It is reasonable to expect Pope Francis’ reign to teach through example, as he has done numerous times through examples of humility and some sui generis liturgical unconventionality. It remains to be seen if this translates into dialogue and detente with ordained individuals who dissent.
When he was head of the Jesuits in Argentina, Jorge Bergoglio cast aside a couple of Jesuits who persisted in spouting Liberation Theology. So Pope Francis may be sympathetic to social justice and a preferential option for the poor but he may not have an open mind for dangerous dissent.
The choice of the regnal name Francis was not a sop to a rival religious order or that he wants to identify with a medieval nature loving hippie. Pope Francis seems to be emulating St. Francis of Assisi’s vision to rebuild the Lord’s Church. Presumably this will include the sexual scandals that members of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s curia sat on during the prior papacy. The first step on this road will be the appointment of Pope Francis’ Secretary of State.
If one is still waiting for the Great Pumpkin, at least it’s not having the football being pulled out before kicking off against the Saints.