As Papa, Francis represents what that word represents for most of us: endearment, warmth, love, acceptance, safety, understanding, mercy, joy, humor, non-judgmentalism,
encouragement, empowerment, protection, and wisdom. Even more are these emotions brought to our experience in this Pope's appearance because like all Popes who occupy St. Peter's Chair as Bishop of Rome in the Holy See, it is an archetypal experience that brings us into contact with the Holy Man within each of us.
Pope Francis courageously speaks from his Chair in Rome to address the yearning heart in each of us, a yearning for some noble, respectful voice on the world stage to comfort our failing spirits in these troubled times. I think the Pope gets this. In his 2015 Encyclical, Laudato si (Praise Be to You-On Care for our Common Home), he moves toward the forefront of calls to recognize and repair the breaches in our ravaged planet earth. Perhaps in preparation for this prophetic Encyclical, he released one earlier in 2013, Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith), in which he speaks as a theologian to expand the boundaries of theology itself, suggesting that theology has to do with the whole of life which can be seen and understood more clearly when considered in the "light" that faithful reverence sheds on profound issues of our time but also on the tiny everyday matters of life.
However, it is in his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), that the humanity of Jorge Mario Bergoglio comes through, a humanity infused with deep joy that shapes the official personage of the now-Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis. He seems genuinely to be a humble, authentic, compassionate and very joyful person. This is contagious! Who can not be caught up in it and discover a renewed hope despite these days of jingoistic exploitation of life and militaristic aggression in politics at home and wars abroad?
Yes, Pope Francis is Papa. He communicates joy. He speaks of mercy, forgiveness, and responsibility for all creation. But Pope Francis is also Patriarch, and here is my problem with this Pope. As Patriarch, Pope Francis is neglecting some very important issues that also need and deserve his attention. These issues are gender, marriage, and choice. For while he speaks eloquently about our responsibility for the downtrodden, the refugees, the inner city homeless, the broken families, the heroic work of the nuns and religious who labor tirelessly in behalf of a shadow world most of us choose not to see, it is also true that he seems to see selectively.
For example, Pope Francis seems not to see the gay couple seeking the sanctity of marriage in which they can become family for themselves and children who will be blessed by them. He seems not to see the transgendered persons or the hermaphrodites who need understanding while they struggle with their identities as well as the medical, financial, and social costs they will incur while trying to right the meaningless drift of their lives in a hostile world. The Pope seems not to see the very nature of the female gender which is blocked from the councils of leadership in the Holy See, women who feel called to serve as priest to others but remain barred from their vocation of leadership in the Church, leadership that only males are deemed worthy and capable of fulfilling. And further, as such inferior persons, women are told they cannot be entrusted with their own bodies in matters of choice having to do with birth control and pregnancy.
Pope Francis seems not to see the suffering of these people. But, rather, perhaps to state it more accurately, he can only see selectively because his lenses of faith have been ground on the historical wheel of patriarchy of which he is the Grand Patriarch. He is trapped within that mindset which has ruled the world in its expansion, domination, control, development, economic exploitation, and -- sadly -- in the very destruction of habitats, species, and resources that Francis himself seeks to preserve!
This is the dying legacy of patriarchy. It emphasizes efficiency, effectiveness, and results that are thought to be made possible only through hierarchical control, domination, and aggression, measured by the accumulation of corporate wealth to the neglect of a common good.
And so it is that at his home, Papa Francis sits, eats, prays and sleeps in his tiny apartment chosen to represent the simplicity of his patron saint, Francis; and when he leaves his humble apartment, he drives in motorcades with his little Fiat limousine, not a grandiose vehicle marking an important personage. However, he also rules the great magisterium of the Holy See, surrounded by staff, guards in medieval uniforms, bishops and cardinals in their splendid ecclesiastical regalia, with emissaries around the world, peopled by churches that still look to the Patriarch of Catholicism for leadership. Though diminished by time and battles with secular princes, the Holy See continues to remain vibrant. It lives on, drawing upon the energy of its archetypal roots and its divine charism.
Perhaps more than any Pope, certainly in recent times, Pope Francis has a possibility of setting on course a direction for the Church that could be led by either Papa or Patriarch. And were he listening in on this conversation, he would no doubt ask us to pray for him or at least to send him good wishes.
You can be assured of our good will -- Papa Francis!