This guest post is provided courtesy of my husband Peter, a social studies/math teacher at a charter high school in Central California. He is in his 18th year of teaching in both public and private schools in Texas, Arizona, and California; he is also in his third official year of homeschooling. He is a lifelong Catholic, and a talented mineral collector and family historian/genealogist.
For those who haven’t come across this article yet, it is one of the best I have seen so far in terms of summarizing the new Pope’s vision for the Church and the world. Weigel is uber-connected as far as inside sources, and he includes here some fascinating details regarding the 2005 conclave, in which Cardinal Bergoglio finished second, as well as some good (though brief) analysis of the fact that he is a Jesuit.
It is quite amazing to see just how much vitriol has been thrown his way in just the last two days. Some people, it is true, simply can’t wait to levy verbal attacks against the Pope, regardless of who that person may be, but I am quite surprised at how many of these attacks are so poorly-conceived and researched, as if his critics have not even bothered to do their homework first and are jumping on any rumor they come across in hopes of smearing a man who, quite frankly, unnerves and perhaps even frightens them. I’ve been seeing this sort of thing online from ultra-traditionalists, who are accusing him of being some sort of closet heretic bent on perpetuating all of the liturgical abuses and doctrinal deviations of the post-Vatican II era (one site even claims to know that he will do these things, despite all of his previous actions and statements to the contrary, simply because he is a Jesuit and thus must be hiding his true intentions!). And, on the other side, I have seen him accused of hating gays, hating women, and hating all sorts of other people simply because he has always upheld (as we would expect him to do) Church teaching on issues such as gay marriage and abortion. Now we also have these creepy accusations of “not speaking out” sufficiently against the actions of earlier Argentinian dictatorships. Apart from some clear inaccuracies concerning actual sequences of events, I find these attacks especially nauseating because a) they often require no proof or substantiation in order to be persuasive to some people, since accusing someone of not doing something is so much easier than accusing someone of having actually done something, b) they often neglect the fact that action behind the scenes – unnoticed by critics such as themselves – is often more effective at accomplishing good than loud protesting, and c) they reflect the very “Americanist” viewpoint that the proper way to address injustice is to verbally protest publicly, which is a reflection of our culture’s naivete and the fact that we have never been ruled by a regime under which such protest is not safe and under which quieter routes of resistance are often far more effective. Besides, how many such critics here in the U.S. ever really “speak out” against injustices committed by our own government, which, for all of its faults, doesn’t imprison people or kill them for doing so?
The bottom line is that the new Pope is a person who does not operate by conventional social rules in terms of his own life priorities or his vision for the world, and that freaks some people out. There are many people who can tolerate those whose principles are different from their own, provided that those people are lukewarm in living those principles. What makes that tolerance disappear quickly is when such people actually take their principles to heart and live them.