Of the three Popes that I’ve lived through so far, Pope Francis is, I’d argue, by far the worst of the bunch (yes, I think that he’s even worse than Benedict, and that’s saying something).
Here’s the thing: if someone is a malicious ideologue, I much prefer that they be open about their maliciousness and their unwavering commitment to a rigid and regressive ideology. Francis doesn’t do that, though. He couches his callousness in pseudo-tolerant and pseudo-progressive rhetoric and hides his dangerous attitudes and beliefs behind a facade of avuncular populist everyman friendliness. And people (not just Catholics) are eating it up, buying into it, proclaiming that Francis is A Different Kind of Pope, one who will change the Church, modernize the Church, make the Church into a progressive entity (needless to say (I hope), none of these proclamations hold up under even the mildest of scrutiny).
If you buy into Pope Francis’s pseudo-tolerant & pseudo-progressive rhetoric, you’re gullible (it happens. It’s a very human trait and a trap we all fall into from time to time, no matter how smart and/or skeptical we are), wilfully ignorant (a form of maliciousness that I have no sympathy for (see the ‘willful’ part)), or committed to the same rigid and backwards ideology that Francis is.
Francis is manipulative. He’s a skilled abuser of rhetoric who knows how to say the “right” things at the “right” time. He’s good PR for the Church. Unlike his immediate predecessors, he’s neither an intellectual nor extremely intelligent. But he’s sly like a fox. He’s a gift to the Church, a perfect Pope for the Catholic Church of 2013.
Two examples of what I’m talking about:
The pseudo-progressive rhetoric: Francis claims to be a friend to the poor. People believe this (partly because much of the mainstream media disseminates this claim without question). They fawn over him, declare him to be A Different Kind of Pope who is ushering in A New Kind of Church.
The reality: Francis’s previously-stated opinions on and actions taken against contraceptive use and access to abortion cancel out his proclaimed desire to remedy poverty and economic inequality (providing easy access to contraception is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce poverty). He has a history of actively opposing the free distribution of contraceptives and he opposes a woman’s right to an abortion, even in cases of rape.
The pseudo-tolerant rhetoric: Francis claims that he doesn’t judge gay individuals who “accept the Lord and have good will“. The news media is currently eating this up. People are swooning over it.
The reality: Francis’s previously-stated opinions on, vehement opposition to, and actions taken against extending equal legal rights to gays and lesbians cancel out his newfound pseudo-tolerant rhetoric.
And, well, if I have to choose between two powerful individuals who hold the same dangerous opinions and adhere to the same rigid and bigoted ideology, I’ll take an openly intolerant ideologue over a phony and manipulative abuser of rhetoric any day.