by Joey Villarama
There is no doubt that Pope Francis is popular inside and outside Catholic circles.
Image from www.smh.com.au/comment/pope-francis-not-so-cool-when-it-comes-to-nuns-20140514-zrceh.html
The media, too, which has either been indifferent or hostile to the Church during the turbulent years of the last two pontificates, has been paying close attention to the Pope for simple gestures or off-the-cuff remarks that continue to build his image as “the coolest Pope ever.”
His ability to draw lukewarm Catholics back into the fold and even non-believers to consider the teachings of the Catholic Church has led many to call this phenomenon the “Francis Effect.”
Hopefully, however, the world’s enthusiasm about Francis is not misguided.
Very early in his pontificate, pundits have described Pope Francis as a maverick, a revolutionary, and a reformer.
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For example, the LGBT community has found a champion in the Pope, after his “Who am I to judge?” remark.
His removal or reassignment of Church officials who are perceived to be blocking his path to reform is also viewed as part of the grand plan to revolutionize the Church.
This is where the problem lies.
While Pope Francis has remained largely ambiguous about key Catholic issues such as divorce, same sex unions, women priests, and the like, many have already enlisted him on the progressive or liberal camp, and are expecting him to depart from hotly-contested Catholic doctrines or make radical decisions that will shake up the Church.
Case in point is his recent comment on evolution and creationism at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. The Pope argued: “The Big Bang, that is placed today at the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine intervention but exacts it. The evolution in nature is not opposed to the notion of Creation, because evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.”
Mainstream media has interpreted the Pope’s words as a break from Catholic doctrine and the pronouncements of some of his predecessors in the 20th and 21st centuries.
The thing is, there was nothing new in his statement.
Pope Pius XII already wrote about evolution’s concurrence with Catholic doctrine in 1950. St. John Paul II reaffirmed this in the mid-1990s, while Benedict XVI said that there was no debate between creationism and evolution.
At the rate it’s going, media is on its toes, itching for the Pope to make an earth-shaking announcement, and taking the Holy Father’s words out of context (yet again.)
A word to the not-so-wise: although the Pope may seem to be leaning towards the left, based on his appointments and decisions thus far, he is not likely to make major deviations from Catholic teachings.
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In a widely-read interview in the Jesuit magazine Civiltà Cattolica, the Pope emphasized that he cannot change Catholic doctrine with regard to such critical issues.
“The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”
As faithful sons and daughters of the Church, we should take his word for it.