Monday, January 26, 2015


                                                By Charlene C. Duline

I love Pope Francis. I loved him when he told our priests and bishops that they should smell like their sheep; that they should get out from behind their desks and get out among their sheep.  We, the laity, being the sheep.  At the same time, dear Francis is aware that we the common folk don’t always want to smell like sheep. He invited some homeless men to have dinner with him and one man refused because he felt that he smelled too bad to eat with the pope. The Holy Father sent out an emissary to see what the homeless needed and wanted. The result is they want a place where they can shower. The Holy Father then had showers installed at the Vatican for the homeless.  He listens to his people.

I daresay that Pope Francis might be unaware that many American priests are also homeless and living on the streets, and who would welcome the opportunity to have a shower available. Some of our priests who have been accused are unable to find housing and live under bridges with others who are homeless. Priests who are accused of sexual abuse – and no bishop has ever asked for proof – and go to prison have nothing when they are released from prison.  They cannot live near a school or a public park or a beach, no place where children might be present. None of our bishops or canon lawyers seem able or willing to help them since they are assumed to be guilty – despite any evidence to the contrary – and they are removed from public ministry and thrown out of their rectories, AKA The Dallas Charter.  One monsignor waited ten years before his diocese determined that he was innocent of all charges against him.  One wonders how that was determined since the crimes were supposedly committed almost 50 years ago.  What a farce. Few Catholics in the pews are concerned about priests , yet the same Catholics rant and question the legitimacy of this pope. One case in point is that of Father Gordon MacRae, now serving his 21st year for a crime that never happened. Yet his ordinary, Bishop McCormack and his trusted assistant, Msgr. Edward Arsenault -  now serving a prison sentence for stealing money from his diocese and the account of a deceased priest - and the bishop who followed, Bishop Libasci, have ignored his pleas for assistance which they promised. Arsenault also was accused of having an affair with a male musician who he wined and dined sumptuously and publicly.   

We must continue to keep Pope Francis in our prayers.  There are those inside the Vatican who would like to see him dead.  He is reforming the Curia; managing the Vatican’s bank, and condemning the Mafia and their followers; all of which puts crosshairs on his back.  But he continues shaking up the Church.  I firmly believe that as long as he resides at the little guest house, he will be fairly safe. His penchant for venturing into crowds, kissing babies and touching people call for our prayers that he will be kept safe. We trust our Lord to protect him. He has a reason beyond the ostentatiousness of living in the Vatican for not residing there. We remember Pope John Paul I and his short tenure.  A number of odd events happened the night of his death, and Pope Francis is not unaware of those things. Yet he continues to greet people up close and personal, walks among them and, he works as a man time-driven who realizes that he might not be with us for very long.

Some Catholics complain that he is not following tradition.  No, he doesn’t want to wear little red shoes.  He doesn’t wear mink and ermine around his neck because he does not want to.  And I don’t blame him one bit.  I’ve never seen him look happier than when someone put a live baby lamb around his neck.  The Holy Father beamed. He loved it! Perhaps other popes were accustomed to living grandly.  Francis is not.  Back in Argentina, he rode the bus to and from work. He drove his own car and lived simply.  He cooked his own meals. He has not changed. He sees no need to dwell in luxury.  Above all, he always thinks of the poor. None of the lack of those “traditional” things makes Francis any less of a pope. I have read some comments from some who emphasize that they feel he is the “legitimate” pope, but they disagree with his policies.  “Legitimate” pope? What does that mean? Legitimate as opposed to what – an illegitimate pope?  Oh please!

Because he won’t wear red shoes and other paraphernalia that you have become accustomed to does not make him any less a pope.  Because he refuses to live in the Vatican; washes the feet of a Muslim girl along with other youth who may or may not be Catholic; has clouded your vision of a pope living in the Vatican and, speaks often about us serving the poor and unfortunate as we should – get over it! Pull up your big girl panties and your big boy pants, and stop your nonsense about Pope Francis.

We do not deserve such a wonderful pope that God has given to us, a pope who forces us to lift our eyes to our Lord and to see the least of men and women as our brothers and sisters.  Francis does and says things that make people uncomfortable, especially Catholics.  We have neglected and ignored the poor for so long. Francis makes us feel ashamed and we grumble that he should be doing “traditional” things.  The Holy Father is not here to make us feel comfortable as you know. If he makes your butt squirm in your pew on Sunday, so much the better. Perhaps it will cause us to take a second look at the beggar who’s a fixture on our local corner who we have managed to ignore for years.  How would he look and feel in a warmer jacket? Do you have one to spare? Would he enjoy a hot cup of coffee or tea, or a hot sandwich? Speak to him. Let him know that you recognize that he is a fellow human being. If that makes you uncomfortable, then you should enroll in the Pope Francis School of Thought that is guaranteed to shake up your world.  Step outside of your “tradition” and do the right thing.

Many Catholics as well as non-Catholics find Pope Francis to be open and refreshing!  He reaches out to everyone, and when he speaks his words resonate with many outside of the Church.  What a blessing to have such a man as our pope! 

Some dare to suggest that Pope Francis is causing a scandal in the Catholic world.  If listening to and loving and trying to help the poor is a scandal, then let the scandal continue!


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