Pope Francis is gaining traction in American media for his thinly veiled liberalism. In a recent visit to the United States, Francis met with President Barack Obama, delivered a speech to Congress and spoke to the United Nations General Assembly. His visit to the U.S. is a part of his larger and more progressive—but altogether doomed—legacy.
Francis is a trailblazer by any standards. He is the first Jesuit Pope, the first from the Americas, the first from the Southern Hemisphere and the first non-European Pope since the Syrian Pope Gregory III in 741. He is a novelty to the otherwise stagnant institution.
Francis has repeatedly wowed the world with his humility and seeming liberality. From the very first day of assuming the papacy, Francis refused the Apostolic Palace—the traditional residence of the Pope—and chose instead the much more mundane papal guesthouse.
Among other things, he has shunned much of the pomp and formality associated with his high office. The Pope prefers his simpler clothing to the traditional vestments of his predecessors. Such a choice speaks very highly of his character, considering that none would have looked at him the worse for keeping the status quo.
The Pope has also spoken out passionately and eloquently on several global issues that he considers to be vital to moral integrity. His Holiness pleaded with our elected representatives on Thursday Sept. 24, saying, "I call for a courageous and responsible effort to redirect our steps and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States—and this Congress—have an important role to play.”
This is indeed a far cry from what we have come to expect from the otherwise stoically non-progressive papacy, but it is somewhat of an illusion. While LGBTQ+ magazine The Advocate may have given him their 2013 Person of the Year award, he is still nonetheless unambiguously against homosexuality.
When the prospect of the legalization of same-sex marriage in Argentina was being considered, Francis—as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio—wrote, "Let's not be naive: This is not a simple political fight; it is a destructive proposal to God's plan. This is not a mere legislative proposal (that's just its form), but a move by the father of lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God."
These are not words becoming of a 21st century spiritual leader, but of a 14th century theologian. Just as there are numerous accounts of "moral" slave owners—those who treated their slaves well—it is hard not to abhor each and every one of them for the very system that they voluntarily bought into.
While the individuals might not have been moral monsters, the larger institution of slavery—and in this case, the Catholic Church—certainly was. No matter how liberal the Pope may seem, let us keep in mind that he is the leader of the Vatican and is—realistically—a Vicar of Christ from the first century.