Pope Francis Sets New Tone

Kyle Seasly

Illustration by Sophie Cooper-Ellis


I love sleeping. That’s why I hated going to church. Every Sunday I would have to wake up at 8 a.m. and go with my parents down the street to our Catholic church. I didn’t mind going to Sunday school, because it would be later in the afternoon. When I was in elementary school, I remember reading a “Children’s Bible” and enjoying the stories within. I still have the “Our Father” memorized, but for some reason I never learned the “Hail Mary.”

Slowly, however, I became alienated from my Catholic roots. I can’t remember what specifically it was, but I stopped going to church sometime in middle school. To my mother’s disappointment, and following the tradition of my older brothers, I didn’t get confirmed. I stopped believing in God and argued with my mother about the relevancy of Christopher Hitchens’ book “The Missionary Position.” I remember watching the movie “Jesus Camp” and almost dying of frustration at Christianity (although they weren’t Catholic). With all my heart I despised the institution that didn’t allow women to be priests, that preached against condom use in Africa and that dismissed a children’s novel (“Harry Potter”) as potentially evil, so much so that I don’t think I’ve set foot in a church except for a wedding or a funeral since middle school.

But with the more I learn about the new Pope Francis, the more I like the guy. The last time a pope came along who was this seemingly, dare I say it, liberal, he only lasted 33 days. When asked about homosexuals, he simply stated, “Who am I to judge?” Instead of driving around in the “Popemobile,” he washed the feet of Muslim women as one of his opening acts as pope. Francis has also said it is time the Church push beyond the rhetoric of abortion, homosexuality and contraception, and instead focus on creating a better, more worldly image for the Church. Pope Francis stated in an interview, “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time. The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently … We have to find a new balance.” This statement gives me a lot of hope that the Church is finally moving away from the preaching of hate to that of acceptance and understanding. Francis noted,”Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.”

My own opinion of the the philosophy of the Church hasn’t changed much, but it has definitely mellowed out. Although Francis hasn’t necessarily changed the church doctrine (yet), his tone is a great shift for the Catholic Church. His use of language helps me reconsider all of my opinions on the Church –– something I haven’t thought about since getting to Whitman. The church’s tone is slowly becoming more like my family (pro-union, socially liberal Catholics) which is something that is assuring to say the least. I used to think as Marx did: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” In some ways I still agree with his sentiments, but as Pope Francis moves to accept more and more people, I find myself gaining respect for the Church. Although I probably won’t be going to church anytime soon, his actions have me rethinking many of my opinions about the nature of religion –– sorry Hitchens.