Wednesday night we were reflecting at dinner on all the free television coverage the Roman Catholic Church received as a result of its search for a new leader. I noted that in American terms, this was much like the ‘bump’ the U.S. political parties get after the Republican National Convention or Democratic National Convention. An infomercial that is broadcast free of charge for the parties and seen by the viewer free of any other commercials.
But Mrs. W. pointed out to me that much of the commentary up to the point where they announced the new Pope was actually somewhat undermining what was taking place. The talking heads on the major networks were pontificating (couldn’t resist that one) about how what was needed was a younger leader and someone who would address the changing role of women in society as it affects the church.
And then, switching analogies, she said, “It’s like you’re watching Extreme Makeover and Ty Pennington says, ‘Move that bus;’ and the bus moves out of the way and you find yourself left with the same house you started with.”
In a way, that’s what happened. The older white gentleman who was the Pope was replaced by another older white gentleman, albeit one is from another continent who up until this week insisted on cooking his own meals and taking public transit. Perhaps Pope Francis would bring some major changes and leave an impressive legacy, but on Wednesday evening things looked relatively unchanged.
By Thursday afternoon however, the first-day reporting on Pope Francis’ tenure was offering some most positive signs. Things that make you go, “Hmm.” Could it be that things are really going to change? And then, this item on Mark Shea’s blog at Patheos concerning “then-Cardinal Bergoglio, chewing out some of his priests for refusing to baptize children of single mothers.”
“In our ecclesiastical region there are priests who don’t baptize the children of single mothers because they weren’t conceived in the sanctity of marriage,” Bergoglio told his priests. “These are today’s hypocrites. Those who clericalize the Church. Those who separate the people of God from salvation. And this poor girl who, rather than returning the child to sender, had the courage to carry it into the world, must wander from parish to parish so that it’s baptized!”
Perhaps it is, indeed, a makeover.