WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

So now Wilmington Diocesan Catholics have a Pope Francis and a Bishop Francis!

The new Bishop of Rome, and hence the Pope, is Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who has taken the name Francis (in English). He becomes Pope Francis. (By the way, the Vatican says he's Pope Francis, not Pope Francis I. Not until a future Pope were to choose Francis again, to become Pope Francis II. By I don't recall the Holy See making that distinction with the first Pope John Paul, Albino Luciani!)

The new pope is 76 years of age, older than many expected. (It's worth noting Pope John Paul I - who died after 33 days in the Chair of Peter, the first pope to be born in the 20th century and the last pope to die in that same century - was 66 years old, a decade younger than Pope Francis!)

Reports from the last conclave suggest now-Pope Francis was runner-up to Cardinal Ratzinger in the last election. One theory: He was in a close battle with Cardinal Ratzinger, and may have requested that the votes go to Ratzinger.

The new Bishop of Rome has a reputation as pastoral sort of cardinal and for personal simpicity, living in a simple apartment rather than the archbishop's palace. He made his own meals.

Like former Pope Benedict, the new pope is considered an accomplished theologian.

Although not one of the "favorites" this time, he made many lists of potential popes.

As cardinal, Francis famously visited a hospice in 2001, washing and kissing the feet of a dozen AIDS patients.

However, make no mistake: He strongly affirms Church teaching against the practice of homosexuality.

He voiced strong opposition to legislation in Argentina to allow same-sex marriage. (To be fair, just about any cardinal would.)

He earned a rebuke from Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner for his position against sanctioning gay marriage and adoptions.

"Let's not be naive, we're not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God." Further, he declared gay adoptions to discriminate against children.

(Already it's amusing to see secular media outlets such as TMZ noting prominently that the new Pope opposes abortion and gay marriage. What a shock!)

Yet there is evidence this new Pope might accept artificial contraception (within marriage between a man and a woman) to prevent the spread of disease, such as AIDS. It seems more than a few cardinals have been moving in this direction. I discussed the issue with Cameroon's retired Cardinal Tumi during his visit to Delaware last year.

So The Roman Catholic Church gets a leader from Latin America (albeit the son of Italian immigrants), epicenter of today's Church (although neighboring Brazil is nominally the world's largest Catholic country).

Some critics in Latin America said the future pope did not do enough to protect church workers during Argentina's "Dirty War". (More on that at the end of this blog post) Conversely, he won praise for his handling of the 1994 bombing of a seven-story building in Buenos Aires which housed various Jewish offices. One senses the new pontiff will build upon the closer Catholic--Jewish relationship cultivated by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. This is not a "Third Worlder" inclined to throw Israel under the bus, as some Jews had feared.

Conversely, the new pope is apt to bring up issues of social justice - including the obligations of richer nations - so doubtless conservative U.S. media will de-emphasize that aspect of this new Papacy.

Will this new pope have the skills - or even the inclination - to reform the Holy See's bureaucracy, the Curia? Unclear. Catholic University sociologist William D'Antonio has his doubts. Conversely, maybe Pope Francis will embrace Curial reform with gusto, understanding this to be his mandate.

The Church's soul is now in the Global South. But for U.S. Catholics yearning for a complete overturn of the official Church's ban on artificial contraception (let alone abortion), women priests, etc., ain't going to happen.

One asterisk: Francis is the first Jesuit (Society of Jesus) Pope. Jesuits have a seemingly contradictory reputation: Searching open minds, but fidelity to the Pope.

A seeming contradiction. Modern-day example: The Jesuits run Vatican Radio, and reports periodically popped up that Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI might take Vatican Radio away from the Jesuits.

This new Jesuit Pope could produce a few surprises! Perhaps we got a hint of the new Pope's Jesuit side when he assailed priests who refused to baptize children born out of wedlock, which he characterized as "rigorous & hypocritical neo-clericalism."

Local note: Catholics in the Diocese of Wilmington now have a Pope Francis and a Bishop Francis to pray for.

Bishop Francis Malooly tells me folks in the Diocesan offices immediately made note of that coincidence.

Another local note: Vice President Joe Biden will represent the United States of America at the formal Papal installation. Of course, Delaware's former U.S. senator is the first U.S. Roman Catholic Vice President. Presumably the Vice President will take the Holy Eucharist, and presumably it won't be denied him because of his pro-choice abortion stand.

Or perhaps I'm being too presumptive. The new Pope called abortion a "death sentence" for the unborn in 2007: "We aren't in agreement with the death penalty, but in Argentina, we have the death penalty. A child conceived by the rape of a mentally ill or retarded woman can be condemned to death."

A joint statement by Latin American prelates, but presented by Pope Francis, then-Cardinal Bergoglio, in 2007 - the Aparecida Document - declares: "We should commit ourselves to 'Eucharistic coherence', that is, we should be conscious that people cannot receive Holy Communion and at the same time act or speak against the Commandments, in particular, when abortions, euthanasia, and other serious crimes against life and family are facilitated. This responsibility applies particularly to legislators, governors, and health professionals."

Then again, Vice President Biden's position may be ignored. The spotlight will fall on Argentina's President Cristina Kirchner attending that Papal inauguration ceremony. She's technically Catholic, but - as noted above - has clashed repeatedly with the new pope on issues ranging from gay marriage to free distribution of contraceptives.

Skeletons in the closet? So far, the most damning critique has come with respect to the Argentine church's alleged connivance with the military leaders of Argentina. The GUARDIAN's Hugh O'Shaughnessey - who wrote an excellent book about the Paraguayan bishop, Fernando Lugo, who briefly served as Paraguayan President (before his ouster) - wrote this negative account about Cardinal Bergoglio in 2011...


This article from Britain's FINANCIAL TIMES puts all this in a more balanced perspective...


Whatever the new pope's previous dealings with the Argentine military junta, then-Cardinal Bergoglio appears to share the Argentine position that Britain unjustly occupies the Falkland Islands, which Latin Americans call the Malvinas (Ironic that Falkland Islanders just held a referendum in which they overwhelmingly voted to stay under the Union Jack!)

British tabloids are all over this side issue, as in this account from The DAILY MIRROR...


Posted at 2:10pm on March 13, 2013 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Mike from Delaware
Wed, Mar 13, 2013 3:27pm
He sounds like he might have a similar heart (spirit) to that of St. Francis of Assisi (maybe that's why he chose the name Francis). Wouldn't that be a wonderful thing? A Pope who's not into all the pomp and ceremony of the office, but that of a heart of service/humility/reaching the lost for Christ, etc., that were hallmarks of St. Francis' life. This new Pope could be a real blessing to an ailing Catholic Church and even the larger Christian community in general. I'll be praying for him.

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 5:16pm
I'll go into more detail later, but I agree with Mike above.
Those were pretty much my thoughts exactly.

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 8:13pm
Yep. I have to send my blessings as well. Kudos to the new pope!

Thu, Mar 14, 2013 7:51am
The selection of a 76-year-old Pope is somewhat surprising. As noted by Mr. Loudell, this Pope is ten years older than Pope John Paul I when he took over.

The advanced age of the new Pope suggests a 'caretaker' administration for a few years, until the Vatican again has to select another replacement a few years down the line.

I wonder aloud why the conclave didn't select a Pope in his 40's or 50' to signal a new generation in the Catholic Church. A younger Pope could set the tone for a new administration for many years to come.

Thu, Mar 14, 2013 8:58am
This pope was a surprise. A quick review of all the betting charts did not even have him listed. I have yet to find one. Yet he was second runner up the last time?

How was this fact missed?

That would have been my first guess if I had known of the past vote.... That is usually how things are done in groups where everyone knows everyone else, and internal rancor is discouraged. ..by turns.

Thu, Mar 14, 2013 8:59am
And it probably won't catch major headlines, but Allan, keep us posted on who the number two person will be. That will send the signal and its strength, of where Francis wishes to take the church...

Thu, Mar 14, 2013 9:21am
Two minor points.

The name has another reference, given that he is a Jesuit. Francis Xavier was one of the first leaders of that group.

Second. One one of his first documents as pope, JPI signed his name John Paul I. He was asked "why sign that way?" He said "there will certainly be a second John Paul as pope."

Allan Loudell
Thu, Mar 14, 2013 9:48am
Your second point is interesting. I hadn't heard that, JimH.

Allan Loudell

Thu, Mar 14, 2013 12:01pm
Most of us with religious affiliations are hoping Pope Francis quickly becomes an strong emissary for the Church and expounds on the personal relationship that is experienced so much more easily in Third World countries than here, that relationship between people and their God, and quickly distances himself from any focus on the structured organization, which here has decreased religion's influence among everyday Americans....

According to this poll, our nation which during our youth saw 95% of us consider themselves affiliated with some denomination,now consists of 20% who refute any religious affiliation.... In some particular classifications, like age or minority status, the rate is much higher.


And based on the Pew Study, the reason for America's loss of religious fervor is the Republican habit of dragging religion into politics, and with their campaign ads so numerous they can't be turned off, people are getting disgusted not only with Republicans, but with religion, because they think religion is how Republicans have represented it... No Abortion. No Sex. No Birth Control. No DNR's. Give To The Rich. No Homosexuality, unless it is done by the clergy itself... These two-faced approaches, and because today the public face of religion is unfortunately hypocrisy, young people want nothing to do with it....


Back to the Pope. There is a reason Hispanics are very fervent about their religion. There is a reason Africans are fervent about their religion.. They don't have the money or hypocrisy to interfere with God's word..... If this Pope can make God appear alive again, his influence will spread across the globe.

What I'm saying is that the Pope not only has to rejuvenate respect for the Catholic Religion, but he, based on these new polls has to rejuvenate respect for the entire Christian religion itself, among those of every denomination....

Thu, Mar 14, 2013 12:52pm
Now on a lighter side. I was watching some of the Illuminati conspiracy theorists having fun and was struck by one which said the Pope was announced on 8:13 Rome time on 3/13/13... Ok, so... aficionados.... that means Eastern time, (in today's heart of the Illuminati (New York)) the time was.... 3:13 3/13/13.....

Ok. I'm getting goosebumps now...

Sat, Mar 16, 2013 9:59am
In the media coverage, I saw the talking heads jumping to the conclusion that the new Pope was naming himself for Francis of Assisi but has any official source in the Vatican, or the new Pope himself, actually said so?

There are a lot of Catholic saints named Francis. Including Francis Xavier, a founding member of the Jesuits (the Pope's order) and a missionary outside Europe (consistent with the selection of a non-European), or Francis de Sales (consistent with the new Pope's expressed humility and concern for the poor).

I haven't seen anything from the new Pope expressing a special concern for animals, like Francis of Assisi. Seems like one guy jumped to the conclusion and the rest of the chattering class picked it up and ran with it.

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 1:51am
Bill. Cardinal Timothy Dolan was quoted by AP as saying that the Pope turned to them and said he took the name Francis for Francis of Assisi...

Sun, Mar 17, 2013 6:51pm
By any chance, is at least one of the Francis's middle names "Albert"?

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