March 14, 2013

Thoughts on the New Pope

So, the Roman Catholics have a new Pope. News reports suggest that Pope Francis may have a go at cleaning up the mess in the Vatican. He may encourage a new interest in the poor and downtrodden. He seems to have no interest in having his church engage in a meaningful way with the important moral issues of the twenty-first century. If Francis has any sense (or ethics), he will keep his nose out of Anglican affairs.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has wished Pope Francis well: “We wish Pope Francis every blessing in the enormous responsibilities that he has assumed on behalf of Roman Catholics around the world” (See Anglican Communion News Service story here.) He went on to say, “His election is also of great significance to Christians everywhere, not least among Anglicans. We have long since recognised—and often reaffirmed—that our churches hold a special place for one another.”

One can question that last statement, of course, at least as far as it was intended to suggest anything like mutual affection. Under Rowan Williams, the Roman Church was like a disapproving parent, with Rowan the prodigal son pleading to return to that parent’s good graces. To the Roman Church, however, Anglicans are just heretics to be either assimilated or left to their own damnation.

Let’s hope that, after his initial welcome, the new Archbishop of Canterbury will pay little attention to the new Pope.


  1. The modern era of Anglican/Roman Catholic relations really seems to have been born in the very close personal relationship between Archbishop Michael Ramsey and Pope Paul VI. Personally I've seen nothing but really great things about Pope Francis and would hope these initial themes of a church framed by humble and Christ-centered witness would be of renewing influence both within and beyond the Roman Catholic community. I'm not sure what you mean by his "not having engaged in meaningful ways with the important moral issues of the 21st century," unless you would limit your definition if "engagement" to something like "change the teachings I disagree with to teachings I agree with." He seems pretty fully engaged to me, anyway.

    In any event, in case any of your readers may have missed the comment of Bishop Greg Venables, who is bishop in Argentina, here is a link.

    Bruce Robison

    1. Bruce,

      Thanks for the link. That the new Pope thinks the Ordinariate “quite unnecessary” is surely a positive sign. What Gregory Venables has to say is encouraging, though the statement about the value of Anglicanism may apply to the Southern Cone more than to The Episcopal Church.

      What I meant in my original post, of course, is that there is no indication that there will be any change under Pope Francis of the church’s position on such matters as priestly celibacy, women priests, contraception, abortion, or a greater role for laypeople in the church. I hope that I am wrong. In any case, it think the Roman Catholic Church could have made a much worse choice than it did.

  2. I would agree indeed that in most of those areas ("priestly celibacy, women priests, contraception, abortion, or a greater role for laypeople in the church") it would seem unlikely for Francis to lead any great change--although the question of the laity might still be quite open. When Cardinal Archbishops cook their own eggs in the morning and pick up their own dry cleaning, there may indeed be something of a shake-up of the old rigidities of hierarchy. The movement that Francis of Assisi led was certainly one that was at least in the first few decades very much a movement of the laity, after all. One might in any case imagine that a truly pastoral heart will be engaged with the homes and families of the faithful and the challenges of the neighborhood and the wide world--and not simply with the intrigues of the Roman Curia.

    Bruce Robison

  3. This was something of a smile, passed around in the days before the election.


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