Jorge Mario Bergoglio, better known now as Pope Francis, has shaken the Catholic church to the roots since he became the 266th Roman Catholic pope on March 13, 2013. Pope Francis has from the very beginning shown a more lenient, compassionate demeanor towards the general public, overthrowing centuries of harsh judgement and condemnation passed down from the very strict Catholic religion. Not only is Pope Francis interested in easing the heavy load of Catholic people, but everyone around the world.
What other man before Pope Francis came forward to relieve the people of oppressing rules and rituals, replacing it instead with love and kindness? Jesus Christ, of course. When Jesus began his ministry over 2,000 years ago, he came into a world full of sin, and wanted nothing more than to free us all from the strict religious rules we would never be able to keep.
The Bible is full of passages where Jesus urges us to love. John 13:34-35 tells us to love each other as completely as Jesus has loved us.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Jesus tells us as well that love should come above everything. In 1 Peter 4:8, Jesus states very clearly that love is the key.
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
It seems Pope Francis has taken the compassionate spirit that Jesus encouraged us to embody, and shared it with the world. Why, then, would this anger a great portion of people in the Catholic church?
Perhaps the dissension is due to a long history of religious rules meant to keep people on the straight and narrow, when they only evoke feelings of guilt and shame, as the rules could not possibly be kept by any normal person. Pope Francis has looked at this tradition and decided it is wrong. Pope Francis is making radical changes in the church.
According to the New York Times,Pope Francis has not so much done away with the rules, as changed the attitude of judgement toward the people who broke them. For example, abortion has always been seen as a contemptible sin, and likely always will be. This is not contained to the Catholic church, but Christians in general hold the same belief that an unborn fetus is, indeed, life. But Pope Francis has offered mercy and forgiveness to women who have undergone abortion if the individual comes forward with a “contrite heart.” While this does not necessarily display Jesus’ attitude of love above all else, Pope Francis certainly brings compassion into play where before there was only condemnation.
Likewise, Pope Francis feels that while gay marriage is not acceptable, the individual person should not be made to feel shamed or condemned, reports the Irish Catholic. The following quote explains the stance Pope Francis has taken on sin in general.
“Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy.”
The recent mass murder of dozens of people in a gay nightclub has brought the LGBT community even more into the forefront of the news than it has previously endured. Newsmax reports that Pope Francis not only feels compassion for those of the LGBT community, but apparently shame for the way the church has treated them in the past. Pope Francis states the church needs to apologize to gay people for the harsh treatment they have undergone in the past.
“I think that the Church not only should apologize… to a gay person whom it offended but it must also apologize to the poor as well, to the women who have been exploited, to children who have been exploited by (being forced to) work. It must apologize for having blessed so many weapons.”
It seems Pope Francis is saying that any sinner (as we certainly all are) deserves respect, compassion, and understanding.
Pope Francis is changing the heart of the Catholic church. Do you think this is a long time in coming, or do you think Pope Francis is overstepping his bounds?
[Photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press]