Much to the chagrin of progressive Catholics, the College of Cardinals elected a Catholic to the papacy. That man is Argentinean Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio, the alleged runner up at the 2005 conclave.
He has been described by everyone as a humble, down to earth defender of the faith who can bridge the gap between Latin America – where roughly 40% of the world’s Catholics reside – and the parts of the world where Catholicism is in decline.
As expected, many leading Catholic intellectuals tell us the man now known as Pope Francis is a “reformer” and a “true man of God.” I don’t know which pope the Cardinals would have chosen wouldn’t be considered a “man of God,” and I hate to be a contrarian and rain on everyone’s parade, but what evidence is there that he was a reformer during his time as Archbishop?
As Catholic Vote contributor Pia de Solenni candidly admits: “we don’t know much about how he ran the chancellory in Buenos Aires.”
Now, I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt to scholars more familiar with the papacy than I am, but it seems many of them are making the absurd claim that Archbishop Bergoglio’s decision to ride the bus to work and to live in an apartment – something George Weigel belittled members of the LCWR for doing – says something about how he will run the Roman Curia.
To be sure, Pope Francis has been an outspoken critic of gay marriage, birth control and other issues close to the hearts of most mass-attending Catholics. That’s great news, but what I am more interested in is where he stands on internal issues. In particular, has he helped implement Summorum Pontificum, Benedict’s decree on the Extraordinary Mass? Is he a supporter of all things Vatican II? Where does he stand on Catholic-Jewish, Catholic-Muslim and Rome-SSPX relations? And does he actually have a track record of disciplining abusive and progressive priests in Buenos Aires?
The answers to these questions will become evident in the weeks and months ahead, as his past writings are being translated into English as we speak and his homilies and daily activities give us a better sense of who he is.
Now, given the amount of time we’ve had to familiarize ourselves with Pope Francis, I think its fine to focus on his life story and to tell ourselves he’s the type of person we want as our pope. But to be quite honest, I’m having a hard time understanding how this 76-year-old, seemingly unknown Cardinal was who Benedict had in mind to succeed him when he stepped down from a church everyone said was in need of a youthful and vigorous leader. I could be wrong, and I won’t presume to know better than the Cardinals themselves, but only time will tell if Pope Francis is the right man for the job. I pray that he is.