For many of us liberal Catholics, it’s a recognition of the joy we’ve been experiencing since his election on March 13th. I’ve said this before, but we knew things were changing in the Vatican when, after his election, he waved off his limo, got on the bus with the rest of the cardinals and paid his hotel bill.
He hasn’t changed any doctrines and unfortunately affirmed Church teaching on male only priesthood and gay marriage. Those changes will probably have to be made by Francis’ successor.
His dramatic change has come in the public face of the Vatican. After the last two papacies (John Paul II and Benedict XVI) this shift has been dramatic; John Paul and Benedict often acted as if the Church were under siege and must remain pure, even if that led to a Church that was smaller and more out of touch.
Francis has continued the papacy of Blessed John XXIII where the windows have been thrown open and fresh air has blown in. Francis refused to move into the luxurious papal apartment and lives in modest surroundings.
He has repeatedly said we need to shift our focus away from issues of homosexuality, abortion, and birth control and toward how we care for the poor. His pragmatism is refreshing: let us work on things we can change and leave alone those things we can’t, and let us not alienate those who disagree. As one who dissents from church teaching on homosexuality and birth control, I find this refreshing and respectful.
In July he was flying back from Brazil to Rome and was asked about homosexuality. This was his response: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” He told a group of diplomats that in looking for who to promote to bishop they should look for priests who are “gentle, patient and merciful, animated by inner poverty, the freedom of the Lord and also by outward simplicity and austerity of life.”
My only concern is that he is 76 years old. He needs to start appointing Cardinals who will elect his successor. I pray he keep doing what he’s doing.