Sunday, September 27, 2015

Pope Francis’ Extraordinary Leadership, a Time of Discernment

President Obama Welcomes Pope Francis  to the White House
Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
Perhaps Pope Francis’ leadership will have sufficient impact to motivate others to follow his commitment to building a better world. This week he made a historic visit to the United States, a country that sorely needs to hear and embrace his message (no pope in the history of the church has addressed the U.S. Congress).

Francis’ Congressional speech called for an end to the death penalty, the international arms trade, and homelessness. He challenged the United States to address the global climate crisis, welcome immigrants, and combat the poverty that goes hand and hand with “the creation and distribution of wealth.”

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio took for his papacy the name Francis to honor St. Francis of Assisi, who walked away from his family’s wealth and lifestyle, and instead bonded with the sick and destitute. The pope said Francis of Assisi “gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man who wanted a poor church. How I would love a church that is poor and for the poor.”

Francis’ stance on the environment, the morality of capitalism, economic justice, homosexuality, and his support for the poor is exceptional. It will be a challenging change for many traditional Catholics to accept. It will be challenging for Americans and politicians to accept and put into practice. If the pope has his way, complacency in America, the church, and the world is over.

Regarding capitalism and the environment he says, “In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which becomes the only rule. Inequality eventually engenders a violence which recourse to arms cannot and never will be able to resolve.”

On his way to Rio de Janeiro in July 2013, Pope Francis replied to a journalist’s question regarding gay clergy, saying “Who am I to judge them if they're seeking the Lord in good faith?” In regard to reform, he said, “Many think that changes and reforms can take place in a short time. I believe that we always need time to lay the foundations for real, effective change. And this is the time of discernment.”

Change is complex and difficult. There are many challenges. But the greatest challenge is changing attitudes and creating an understanding that change is a necessary evolutionary process, one without end. Pope Francis clearly understands these challenges. He recognizes “The first reform must be the attitude.”

Pope Francis is not a reformer but a revolutionary, a radical. However, radicalism is a good, because complacency will not change inequality or move the interest of the wealthy, the Church, religion, politics, or society in the direction it needs to go.

Copyright © 2015 Horatio Green