Are we still trying to figure out who Pope Francis is?

 |  NCR Today

George Conger writes a somewhat critical piece about Pope Francis' interviews since his election.

Conger seems to have a number of concerns. Almost all of the pope's interviews are with secular publications. Little access is provided to legitimate religion reporters who would know the right questions to ask. He mentions God only three times in his entire recent interview with the Argentine Sunday supplement Viva from the daily newspaper El Clarin.

Conger also feels Francis leaves too much unsaid that needs to be said. Additionally, he sees Francis as contradicting church doctrine.

Let me briefly respond to each of these points. Pope Francis is interested in connecting with people of goodwill throughout the world. The mission of Christ is meant for everyone, not just Catholics. Conger seems to express just a bit of sour grapes in wanting more access for religion reporters.

Everything the pope says is infused with God. The presence of God is not determined by how many times you mention God's name.

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It is neither possible nor desirable to provide a full catechism of the Catholic church in every interview. Conger seems to want Francis to talk about issues that are important to him. Yet Francis is trying to show how one is meant to live the faith. He has already made clear in an earlier interview that he doesn't need to keep repeating Catholic doctrine. Everyone knows what the church teaches on specific issues. He wants to talk about what is important to everyday Christians as they try to live out their lives as believers. He is showing the world, and Catholics, how Catholic doctrine and the Gospels properly understood should impact daily living.

Conger also sees Francis' comments as contradicting church doctrine at times. The examples he gives include Francis' idea of "live and let live" and his disparagement of proselytism.

Just as Jesus does in the Scripture passage that says to let the weeds grow together with the wheat, Francis is telling us to leave judgment up to God. Our role is to reach out with love and compassion and allow God to provide justice to us all. We still need to plumb the depths of Francis' statement, "Who am I to judge?"

I believe the proselytism Pope Francis is talking about is an aggressive proselytism that finds nothing of value in the beliefs and culture of others and demands conformity to a culture that is foreign to the people being converted. My understanding of mission is to go into a community and feed them or work to meet their basic needs. The missioner shows by his life and example the value of his faith. Those who seek to be a part of that faith are welcomed into the community.

It seems that Conger would feel more comfortable with a pope who sits on his throne and periodically issues edicts to let all of us know what we are doing wrong. We have already had more than enough popes that fit that category.


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March 24-April 6, 2017