Since this blog is called Politics and Religion, and with national politics being depressing and all, I thought I would go with a religious post. And so, naturally, I'm going to talk about Pope Francis. After all, he's all over the news and Andrew Sullivan's blog.
So as a progressive, what do I think about Pope Francis? Well, I have to admit that I was a bit wrong about him. Initially, I thought that Francis was an extrovert in the style of Bill Clinton. Not in the womanizing kind of a way, but in the loving crowds kind of a way. Unlike Pope Benedict, Pope Francis seems to enjoy the politician aspect of being Pope. He likes the crowds, enjoys mingling with people, and calls people on the phone (he apparently opens with, "Hello, this is the Pope.") He also seems like he's not an asshole, buying a used car to drive around in and what not.
But what's interesting is that Francis' most recent interview, which has Andrew Sullivan practically twisting his nipples in delight, (you can thank me for the mental image later) is that Francis goes the opposite way. According to Francis, he is a dick, and his dickishness comes from when he separates himself from regular people and the community. So, he has to be engaged with the crowds and with the regular folk, lest his own dickishness comes out. Oh, and his past dickishness lead people to think he's a conservative, which he says he isn't.
How liberal Francis actually is remains to be seen, but there's something refreshing about a guy in power who knows his own weaknesses and owns up to them. Every person has to come to grips with their own inner asshole, understand who that asshole is, and try to keep the asshole in the dark hole where he belongs. Its the kind of inner reflection that I would expect from a Jesuit.
At the same time, I hope that this kind of inner reflection and charisma will lead Pope Francis and the Catholic Church to more progressive ways, such as allowing priests to marry, allowing women to be priests, and opening up the rules on contraception. I won't hold my breath on abortion, though. I also hope to see a Catholic Church more focused on poverty, union membership, and ending war - things that the Church gave up when it decided to fight the culture wars. And, of course, I hope that Pope Francis can help the Church reconcile itself with past, horrific, child abuse. I don't know if that's possible, but I am more hopeful with Francis than I ever was with Benedict.