Good for Pope Francis

Sometimes, it’s not what you say, it’s the way you say it.

Recently, there was a small furor about Pope Francis’ restatement of the Catholic position on evolution:

The “Big Bang” and evolution are not only consistent with biblical teachings, Pope Francis told a Vatican gathering – they are essential to understanding God.

“When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything — but that is not so,” the pope told a plenary assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

The Pope’s pronouncement was not a departure; as I understand it, this has been Catholic doctrine for at least 50 years, but the Pope chose an arresting– and indeed, very significant– metaphor to make his point.

I’m not Catholic. For that matter, I’m not religious. But (unlike Catholic conservatives, who are evidently not happy campers) I really like this Pope. He seems to focus on what religion should be about: how people treat each other. His approach to doctrinal issues seems to be a process of engaging with ultimate meaning, and it’s far less rigid and legalistic than his predecessor’s. He’s been a breath of fresh air.

I have many friends who are deeply religious. Some are in the clergy. All of them respect science and accept evolution. All of them approach biblical passages and issues of ultimate concern alike with admirable modesty, looking for life lessons and trying to fathom the essence of moral behavior. None of them worship a cartoonish deity who issues unbending edicts, favors some nation-states (or sexual orientations, or football teams) over others, or otherwise behaves more like Superman (or a magician) than an all-knowing God.

Creating one’s God in one’s own image is really the ultimate blasphemy.

This Pope seems to get that.


  1. Pope Francis seems to be well aware that the Bible was written by men, guided by their own points of view and their belief that God was/is in human form as we know it today. I’m sure he is aware of the fact that Jesus was not blond-haired and blue-eyed as he is so often pictured. I wonder what he would think of local artist Joe Holiday’s beautiful painting, “Black Christ”? I believe he would accept it as reality. I have moved away from the “Bible stories” of my youth and have a broader vision of this world and it’s inhabitants and that we are in a constant state of flux. The world has evolved to what is now the 21st Century by constantly changing; humans today are for the most part, healthier, stronger, live longer but not necessarily better lives than our ancestors. We are a wasteful society in this country and other countries around the world; Pope Francis seems to be well aware of changes/changing society on all levels. He is outspoken in his views; one of his views is acceptance of human nature in all it’s forms. I applaud his tenacity and the strength of his convictions; he even seems to recognize there are other religions and their believers have as much right as the Catholic church. He also is aware of the difference between the spirituality of true religious belief in it’s many forms and that terrorism is not a form of any religion. My religious views as they have evolved, are comprised of a combination of beliefs and questions regarding their source and their direction into the future. Pope Francis seems to share my views in this regard; since becoming old enough to understand some basics of organized religions, I have been anti-Catholic in my views. Yet; here I am cheering on Pope Francis and hope he doesn’t become the first Pope to be fired by the Vatican while serving as the first Pope to replace the first Pope to resign his lofty position.

  2. As a former Catholic, I like this pope and that’s a breath of fresh air for this world. So far, he’s said some really great things about the GOLDEN RULE which should be the basis for all religions. His views about capitalism are spot on and I’ve seen many of the memes on facebook that I would agree with. If I was still Catholic, I would be very happy for my church.

  3. As a life-long Catholic, I am thrilled with the Pope and his leadership. I know there are some very conservative Catholics who are talking about separating from the Church because this Pope is too “liberal”. There are also some very powerful Cardinals who have publicly criticizing the Pope for his stance on homosexuality and divorce. Francis is a Jesuit, a religious order that has fostered social justice (with some notable exceptions). My own opinion is that he has shaken up the hard core of Italian Cardinals who are very conservative and very corrupt, politically and financially. He may also have powerful enemies in the Italian Mafia. My hope continues to be that he will allow women a greater roll in the governance of the Church, but I am not holding my breath on that one. He seems to be inclusive rather than exclusive as he has actively engaged with society’s outliers and continues to reject the ostentation of his office. I like his humble approach to his faith and its people. Maybe, just maybe, he can make some incremental changes that will bring people to love one another as themselves.

  4. This Pope seems more about love than judgment. He’s winning many new admirers for the Catholic faith.

  5. I can’t imagine any human worshiping a god who doesn’t value human ability to learn and to direct free will to the benefit of the greater good as the ultimate manifestation of his gift to us.

    That’s why it’s apparent that extremists don’t worship any god, but power. Religion is a disguise that they wear, almost a militaristic uniform, that identifies which “side” they want power for.

    We need to learn that the “fact” that someone claims to be religious – is disguised as that – means nothing. Some of the best people that history records were not so disguised and some of the worst were. People’s religious trappings should be regarded with the same credibility as their political campaigns. Simply irrelevant.

    We especially, have become brand besotted, easily and thoroughly fooled by fashion. That is a sure path to cultural irrelevance.

    We should feed our lives from substance not appearance. Religious trappings should be regarded as superfluous but ones demonstrated ability to learn and to direct free will to the benefit of the greater treated with great respect.

    The current Pope passes that test and would if dressed as a homeless beggar on the street.

    Good for him. Good for us. All of us.

  6. One of the giants in Science is Georges LeMaitre (1894-1966), a priest and later monsignor in the Catholic church. He was born in Belgium. LeMaitre had scientific credentials. In 1927 LeMaitre proposed his theory, in which he stated that the expanding universe was the same in all directions – Big Bang. Edwin Hubble in 1929 discovered that galaxies were moving away at high speeds. To make a long but interesting story short the scientific community was divided between LeMaitre’s Big Bang (primeval atom), and the Steady State. Steady State – the same as it always has been and always will be.

    Per Wiki Pope Pius the 12th, declared that Lemaître’s theory provided a scientific validation for existence of God and Catholicism. LeMaitre however was not pleased with the Pope’s opinion. LeMaitre believed Science should be isolated from Religion.

    The people who backed the Steady State, in essence said there should be a “Smoking Gun” from the Big Bang. The discovery of Cosmic Microwave Background in 1964 is explained as radiation left over from an early stage in the development of the universe, and its discovery is considered a landmark test of the Big Bang model of the universe. The heart warming end to me was LeMaitre lived long enough to realize this validation.

    Evolution is the natural progression of the Big Bang. Yet today over 100 years after Darwin, and nearly 100 years after LeMaitre proposition of a Big Bang, we still find a dogged determination by some Religious Institutions and Politicians to deny Science.

  7. Louie – you’re spot on about the religious and political denial of science. This links back to yesterdays’ blog “Squirrel!”. To me it’s the preversion of spirituality to achieve a political goal and continue to be in control of individual’s thoughts and ideas. I’m not a catholic.

  8. @daleb: “It’s a perversion of spirituality to achieve a political goal.” Broad statement there. The Civil Rights Movement and the abolition of slavery were brought to you by people who mixed politics and religion. Most of the folks who spearheaded those movements were clergymen, or at least very religious.

    I’m a Catholic (who occasionally questions “why” I’m a Catholic), but it seems like whenever I’ve visited a Unitarian Church, politics IS the sermon. Certainly, liberal Christianity is anything but free of people who want to politicize spirituality, or mix the two together. Seems like you’re only opposed to mixing politics and faith when someone contradicts me.

    How religion could ever be “de-politicized” is a huge and fascinating mystery to me, and honestly not something I’d even like to see. But for the sake of argument, I don’t think liberals are any less guilty of mixing politics and faith than conservatives are. It’s really pretty pronounced on both ends of the spectrum. Liberals just don’t see that beam in their own eye.

    @JD: as for the conservative Catholic schismatics, they were around long before Pope Francis. They’ve had a seminary up in Minnesota for some time now. They even got in a tangle with John Paul II and Benedict.

    I think the link Sheila posted is pretty spot-on: the media largely creates the popes it wants to see. Francis is really far more conservative than most people want to admit. He just has way better people skills than his predecessors.

    Wish America’s Republicans would learn a lesson from him. But of course, they won’t.

  9. All rght Stephen, all religious people are not perverse and politically motivated – just the ones who decide to do all the talking and lobbying for the rest. The rest seem to be the actual flock.

  10. How can religion be anything other than politics? The very definition of the word implies politics.
    Tie together? What is a tighter bond than a political party? Frats, unions, guilds, orders etc all aspire to exert political power. Who would say David Duke is a Catholic or a protestant? All would agree that he is a neo-Nazi. I don’t know why we use ‘neo’ for his kind has been and will always be with us. Mankind needs more and Heaven less of us. Again I say; ‘Your daily life is your religion.’

  11. I suppose this is the best we can hope for from a religious leader, the notion that Genesis is not a word for word historical account. Thank you for putting your stamp of approval on proven science, Pope Francis. And welcome to the 21st century.

  12. @Bruce: whatever follies and misapplications of faith religious people are capable of (and there are obviously many), scientists have shown that they’re capable of doing the same things.

    I’m a Christian and have always believe in evolution. But let’s never forget the weird racial theories brought to you by about a hundred of evolutionary theory post-Darwin.

    If the teachings of Jesus can be contorted and abused, the same can definitely be said of evolution, genetics, and so on. If I remember correctly, most of the big names in Victorian science believed in white supremacy.

Comments are closed.