There have been some remarkable occurrences in the Catholic Church in recent days. And while numerous articles have been written about them, a couple of stunning realities occur to me based on the identity and invaluable worth of a single human being.
These events have affirmed once again that God is in charge of the Church, the world, and His children from creation to death. If this were not so, today’s historic events might have gone quite differently.
The resignation, or abdication as some writers put it, of Pope Benedict XVI came as a shock to many. I believe he did what was right for the sake of the Barque of Peter (the Church), rather than for himself. You see, in Catholic tradition, the Church is defined as a ship—with Christ as her sail, the pope as her pilot, and the word of God as her rudder. When the pilot perceives that it is time for him to take leave of his mission, the most humble thing he can do is exactly what Pope Benedict XVI did do. We thank God for his humility.
In the wake of his departure and the inevitability of a papal conclave, the media went wild. There was even speculation that the next pope might be an American!
But now we know that indeed the Holy Spirit was active during that conclave and that the Church now has a new pilot who is, in every sense of the word, a holy man. No, he isn’t an American, but that only goes to prove that, while the American media may be able to select a United States president by foisting its bias on an unsuspecting or perhaps ignorant public, that same media is mincemeat when the Holy Spirit is running the show.
In the wake of our new pope’s election, we are awed by the words, the life, and the actions of this humble man. Our new pope, Pope Francis, formerly Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, is a man of the people, an advocate for the poor, and a priest whose commitment to serve the Church and her doctrine is undeniable.
For example, Pope Francis has referred to abortion as the “death penalty” for the least of our brothers and sisters. He addressed the subject of abortion in his 2011 book Sobre Cielo y Tierra (On Heaven and Earth), a series of conversations with an Argentinian rabbi. An unofficial translation by BioEdge quotes a section of the book:
The moral problem of abortion is of a pre-religious nature because the genetic code is written in a person at the moment of conception [creation]. A human being is there. I separate the topic of abortion from any specifically religious notions. It is a scientific problem. Not to allow the further development of a being which already has all the genetic code of a human being is not ethical. The right to life is the first among human rights. To abort a child is to kill someone who cannot defend himself.
This straightforward description of why abortion violates the dignity of a human being whose identity is provable by science whether sexually or asexually reproduced, without reference to religious tenets, exposes the depth of our new pope’s reflections on the value of every innocent person.
In 2007, on behalf of the bishops of Latin America, he presented the Aparecida Document, which dealt with the situation of the Church in Latin America. Approved by Pope Benedict XVI in the summer of 2007, this document clearly stated the consequences of supporting abortion—that Holy Communion would be disallowed for anyone, including politicians, who facilitate this act. Paragraph 436 states: “We should commit ourselves to ‘eucharistic coherence,’ that is, we should be conscious that people cannot receive Holy Communion and at the same time act or speak against the commandments, in particular when abortion, euthanasia, and other serious crimes against life and family are facilitated. This responsibility applies particularly to legislators, governors, and health professionals.”
So much more could be said, and undoubtedly will be, about this holy man, this successor to St. Peter, who is now leading the Catholic Church. But above all else, the most fundamental truth is that which Pope Francis uttered in his first sermon, “When we do not profess Jesus Christ, we profess the worldliness of the devil, a demonic worldliness.”
Indeed, that is what separates justice from chaos, civility from barbarism, and life from death.