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Pope Francis holds a boy during a visit with residents at a home in the Varginha slum in Rio de Janeiro July 25. The pope is “to the right of (Rep. Nancy) Pelosi on economic issues,” says Jesuit Father Thomas Reese.

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A pope who ‘hates hypocrisy – he really hates it’
August 7th, 2013
By Rick DelVecchio

He’s a world leader who hates greed, hypocrisy, abuse of power and the cultural flattening of globalization, drives the cheapest car available, shuns fancy clothes, makes his own phone calls, believes global warming is a real threat, thinks that being without a job is one of the worst things that can happen to a person, and is orthodox in doctrine but pragmatic to the point of disregarding the rules in how he makes decisions.

He’s Pope Francis as sketched by Jesuit Father Thomas Reese to a packed room of more than 200 people at the University of San Francisco July 28 in a talk titled “What Does the Papacy of Pope Francis Mean for the Church?” A senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Father Reese covered the March conclave that elected Buenos Aires, Argentina, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as bishop of Rome and watches the papacy as a senior analyst for National Catholic Reporter.

Cardinal Bergoglio’s decision to take the name Francis is key to understanding his papacy. Father Reese said Pope Francis shares the values associated with his namesake St. Francis of Assisi – care of creation, love for the poor, peace and inter-religious understanding and reforming the church.

Reforming the church is part of Pope Francis’ agenda, as is leadership on threats to the global environment. “He believes the science, that global warming is real,” Father Reese said. “This is going to be part of his agenda as pope.”

He noted that Cardinal Bergoglio and the Muslim imam of Buenos Aires were good friends, linking that fact to the story of St. Francis crossing a battlefield during the Crusades to spend the evening talking peace with the sultan opposing the Christian forces.

Dialogue and taking risks are core ideas for Pope Francis, Father Reese said.

“What Francis is encouraging is for all of us to listen to each other once again,” Father Reese said in response to a question after the talk. “I like the way he says go out and take risks. What I like about Francis is he says, ‘Hey folks, we’ve got to get out of the sacristy and into the streets, be with the people and preach the Gospel.”’

Father Reese cited Pope Francis’ statement that he prefers a church “that makes mistakes because it is doing something to one that sickens because it stays shut in.”

“This is very different than all this paranoia about orthodoxy and following the rules,” Father Reese said.

But Father Reese said Pope Francis is no social liberal by U.S. standards and is not going to change fundamental doctrine. Arguments such as women’s ordination and same-sex marriage are not on his agenda, he said, adding that by contrast the pope is a scourge of the excesses of capitalism and “to the left of (Rep. Nancy) Pelosi on economic issues.”

Father Reese said this is a pope who “hates hypocrisy – he really hates it” and who once made a statement about the difficulty of denying Communion to public sinners that was in the context of injustice in Argentina, not of abortion.

“He was more worried about politicians getting Communion from him for photo opps,” Father Reese said.

“He hates ‘pretend’ Catholics who look pious in church but who are very unjust in the way they treat their workers,” Father Reese said.

The Ford Focus-driving pope deplores “the reign of money” and the impact of globalization on local cultures, Father Reese said. “He sees this as kind of an imperialistic invasion that enslaves nations and takes away their cultures,” he said. “Tough language – he’s not going to be popular on Wall Street.”

Father Reese speculated on Pope Francis’ requirements for new bishops and his ideas for reforming the Vatican bureaucracy.

The pope has signaled that in pastors he looks for those who are gentle, patient and merciful. They should be animated by an inner poverty and not have the psychology of “princes.”

“This is creating a different image of what it means to be a bishop, what it means to be a priest,” Father Reese said.

On reform of the Vatican Curia, Father Reese noted that conservatives look for reform that will make the church administration more efficient but others want change to go further.

Father Reese said the model of the Curia is based on that of a 17th-century absolute monarchy.

“We need to bring it kicking and screaming into the 21st century where it’s a civil service,” he said. “The Curia is staff to the pope and the college of bishops. For me the most important reform of the Curia is to stop making members of the Curia either bishops or cardinals.”

Noting that the odds are heavy against that coming to pass, Father Reese also argued that reform should include separation of powers into executive, legislative and judicial functions.

“The people making the rules should not be the ones enforcing them and passing judgment on them,” he said. “That’s not the way a due-process system works in today’s world.”

The pope commented on Curia reform July 29 to journalists aboard the papal flight from World Youth Day in Brazil.

He said everything he has done so far flows from the concerns and suggestions raised by the College of Cardinals during the meetings they held before the conclave.

The cardinals, he said, expressed “what they wanted of the new pope – they wanted a lot of things” – but a key part of it was that the Vatican central offices be more efficient and more clearly at the service of the universal church.

“There are saints who work in the Curia – cardinals, bishops, priests, sisters, laity; I’ve met them,” he said.

The media only writes about the sinners and the scandals, he said, but that’s normal, because “a tree that falls makes more noise than a forest that grows.”

Catholic News Service contributed.


From August 9, 2013 issue of Catholic San Francisco.


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