Pope Francis provokes discussion among local Catholics

Opinions Editor

On his knees Pope Francis humbly held the feet of young Muslim inmates in the palms of his hands, washing them in ritual reenactment of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet on the eve of his crucifixion. “This is a symbol, it is a sign…washing your feet means I am at your service,” the pope said to the young inmates according to USA Today.

Only six months into his papacy Francis has already criticized the Catholic Church for being “obsessed” with gays, abortion and birth control. Later, according to Reuters, he went on to condemn the global economic system while speaking to unemployed workers in Cagliari, Sardinia. “The world has become an idolater of this god called money,” the pope said. “We don’t want this globalized economic system which does us so much harm.”

Evidence is making clear that a call for action or reform may not be Francis’s intention and that his words merely seek to change attitudes and perceptions both in and out of the church.

Members of the Roman Catholic Church and CCM students have differing views on the new pope, despite the media praise.

At St. Catherine of Siena Church in Mountain Lakes, the Rev. Peter Filipkowski said that he finds Pope Francis to be impressive, and his attraction to Catholics is that he is a breath of fresh air. “Where Francis is different is his whole personal approach,” Filipkowski said. “He’s put aside a lot of the trappings of the papacy. … He’s a man of simplicity, practicality.”

On the recent media attention Francis has garnered, Filipkowski said that despite talk of reform and changes to the Curia, the governing body of the church, theology will not be changed. “Naturally I think the secular press is out for sensationalism,” Filipkowski said.

Brian Noone, a criminal justice major at CCM said that he liked Francis’s open approach to issues such as homosexuality instead of shunning it. “I kind of like where he’s going with things,” Noone said. “A lot of the issues … are touchy, I like that he’s trying to change the ideals and views of the church.”

Judging by his words one might believe that Pope Francis is a “radical” of a Pope as The Washington Post has printed. Other media such as the Huffington Post have hailed him as a “hero to the American left.”

All these cries for reform, praise in the press, and positive publicity have the media smitten. Last week the Rev. Greg Reynolds of Australia was excommunicated for being a vocal supporter of women’s ordination in the church, according to National Catholic Reporter. “I am very surprised that this order has come under his watch; it seems so inconsistent with everything else he has said and done,” Reynolds said on the pope’s decision.

“On the ordination of women, the Church has spoken and said no … that door is closed,” Francis told media in an impromptu press conference on July 28, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

Francis bemoaned the role of women in the church in an interview with America Magazine on Sept. 24, yet still excommunicated Reynolds. “The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role,” Pope Francis said. “We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the church… we have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman.”

Kathryn Ferrarelli, a Roman Catholic and chemistry education major at CCM, said Pope Francis was hypocritical in excommunicating Reynolds considering what he himself has said in the media. “He’s basically saying one thing about church views then doing the very thing he’s criticizing,” Ferrarelli said.

Despite the question of what is to come of Francis’s desire to change attitudes concerning the church and whether or not he will radically change doctrine, he has certainly captured the attention of the media and members of the church alike.

“He’s helped people see another side of the church,” Filipkowski said. “He’s helped people see what we should be concerned about and that is the people and their concerns.”


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