Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Critique of Pope Francis and the Pastoral Role
When listening and watching political commentary in the United States (from varying ideological perspectives) it seems that regardless of the ideology, Pope Francis is a disappointment. He is either identified as a "Marxist," "anti-capitalist," or a corrupt leader of a church that continues to marginalize LGBT people, women, people who use birth control, or victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by Roman Catholic clergy. Whereas many are impressed by his people connecting skills and pastoral demeanor, the expectations and critiques of Pope Francis are curious.
I know little of the personal experience of Papa Francisco. I do know something about the role of Pastor and Preacher on a much smaller scale. When I listen to and read the critiques of Francis and compare these critiques to my own experience of people in the church and the community at large, people seem to believe that the preacher's job is to affirm their own beliefs and ideological perspective. I don't agree with Pope Francis on several points, but I don't expect him to deliver teaching or preaching where we are in 100% alignment.
The media and public discourse noise over Pope Francis are indicative of the heightened anxiety of the current age. People generally aren't looking for conversation or debate that results in better lives for people, or offering very thoughtful analysis of the words and actions of Pope Francis. In the midst of anxiety, people look for solidarity. Pope Francis has no solidarity with the "Left" or "Right" of the USA; I doubt El Papa cares.
In my congregation, people will sometimes let me know they disagree with me on certain points from a sermon or study. While I will review and sometimes change my own study and approach in response, I am not interested in affirming the beliefs of people in the congregation. I do my best to faithfully preach good news about Jesus Christ and the opportunity of reconciliation, with God, neighbor, and self. As a preacher and pastor, I do my best to be faithful to the biblical witness and my particular tradition. I fail often. I often believe the vows of my ordination are too much for me to handle. It is too much of a task for me to worry about whether I am pleasing Republicans or Democrats, liberals, conservatives, or libertarians; my ordination vows are sufficiently challenging. While I am influenced by several different ideologies, I haven't made promises to any ideology or group. Someone can disagree with me all they want, but if that disagreement comes with the expectation that my actions need to come in line with their own personal expectations of my work as a pastor, then we may actually have a problem. The church has a history of corrupt relationships with power, and I know I'm not beyond that. But I have to figure out where I stand before I know where I'm going. Watching the response to Pope Francis in the USA has made that a little more clear for me today.