There is a somewhat cliched and sarcastic response that is often used to answer a question to which the answer is a very obvious “yes.” Instead of actually saying yes, one might respond with the follow-up question, “Is the Pope Catholic?” For instance, “Tenor Dad, do you like drinking Coca-Cola?” “Is the Pope Catholic?” See? But upon reading all of the responses from my internet friends and neighbors to the appointment of the new Pope, Francis I, I found myself wanting to use this phrase more than ever, and sometimes in a slightly more literal way.
For instance, for those people who are upset that the new Pope is opposed to gay marriage, I have to ask, is the Pope Catholic? I believe the answer is yes, and so it should not be a surprise to all of you that he might be opposed to gay marriage. Ditto on the abortion and birth control stuff. The Pope is not in favor of these things. Because he is, you know, Catholic. Not only that, but a conservative Catholic. So why are we shocked and horrified that the Pope is sticking with traditional Catholic beliefs?
Look, I get it. We all have dreams and hopes. But did you honestly expect the Pope to get up there on his first day and say “A new age has dawned! Marriage for gays! Birth control for all! Abortions for some! Tiny American flags for others!” No, of course not. He was a Catholic cardinal. What are the chances that a Catholic cardinal is going to have these views? I suppose some may, but more than 2/3 of them? If not, they are probably not going to elect a new Pope who thinks this way.
That being said, this new Pope seems nice. He smiles a lot, which puts him a cut ahead of the emeritus Pope, who generally spent his time trying to look like Emperor Palpatine. And we have cute anecdotes about how the first South American Pope lived in a small apartment instead of a mansion, and he took the bus to work instead of being driven there, so we know that he is not a pretentious douchebag. That’s always refreshing. If there is one thing the church needs right now, it is an image rehabilitation, so having a likable human being in charge is probably a good idea. And will change come to the church? Yes, eventually. But will it come at a glacially slow pace, no matter who is in charge? Well…is the Pope Catholic?