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Francis (born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1936) was elected the 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church on March 13, 2013. He took the name Francis to honor Saint Francis of Assisi.
As Pope Francis, he has cultivated an extremely successful, positive image with his pastoral style. To his credit, he has prioritized economic justice and sustainability from his pulpit in a way that few modern popes have.
- 1 Education
- 2 Public Image and PR
- 3 Views
- 3.1 On gender, sex and sexuality
- 3.2 On capitalism and poverty
- 3.3 On immigration and Trump
- 3.4 On atheism
- 3.5 Science
- 3.6 Role of women
- 3.7 Abortion and euthanasia
- 3.8 Exorcism
- 4 Cardinals
- 5 Child abuse
- 6 Conspiracy Theorists
- 7 Summary
- 8 References
Public Image and PR
Pope Francis has successfully crafted an image based in part on truth, in part on rumour and in part on his agreeable pastoral style. Under his reign the Catholic Church has made few changes. However, based on his communication style people believe the Catholic Church has changed its doctrines, or believe that Francis himself holds progressive positions he does not actually hold. (See section on views below.) Not only was the Pope listed as Time's Person of the Year, but the name Super-Pope began to catch on among some circles.
However, many credit former Fox News journalist Greg Burke with crafting the Pope's image since he became the Vatican's Secretariat of State in June of 2012. This in combination with the way Pope Francis makes Catholic doctrine and bigotry sound acceptable through his agreeable pastoral style.
One truthful kernel at the centre of the Pope's public image is his rejection of ostentation. As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio was known for having taken his Jesuit vow of poverty extremely seriously. He refused to stay in the archbishop’s palace and to use a chauffeured limousine, instead living in an apartment, cooking his own meals and riding public transportation. 
As pope, Francis has rejected luxurious papal apartments, choosing instead a small two-room suite customarily regarded as suitable for visiting cardinals. Francis also toned down the ostentation of his robes, his ring and the like, generally adopting a more 'humble' papal style.
Early on rumours began to circulate that the Pope used to sneak out at night, dressed as a regular priest, to minister to the poor or homeless—a report the Vatican denied.
“”We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall like a house of cards.
“”He says wonderful things but he doesn’t put them together all the time, so you’re left at times puzzling over what his intention is. What he says is clear enough, but what does he want us to do?
|—Cardinal Francis George, formerly of Chicago|
“”His [Pope Francis] is a decidedly different persona from his immediate predecessor[']s. His tone is deeply pastoral, kind, and merciful. But that is all it is: tone. Nothing has changed in terms of the teaching and policies of his Church.
|—Former Epispocal Bishop, Gene Robinson|
“”This is a balancing act. They have to hold together two increasingly divergent constituencies. The church has lost its ability to dictate what people do. Right now, the less-developed world is staying true to the old world values, but it’s gradually eroding even there. [Pope Francis] doesn’t want to lose the legitimacy of the more educated people.
|—Ronald Inglehart, writing in the Washington Post|
Ordinary observers may be unsure what change Francis is bringing to the Roman Catholic Church and bishops are also unclear. Areas of where change is discussed include allowing the Eucharist for remarried divorcees, same sex partnerships, unmarried couples living together, even polygamy (
...cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria!).
Although Pope Francis is (or at least, is seen as) more liberal than his predecessor, he brings a mixed bag of social positions. Real significant change in the Roman Catholic Church is possible but by no means certain. Francis has faced criticism within and outside the Roman Catholic Church from conservatives for being too progressive and from progressives for being too conservative. Pope Francis is significantly swayed by his influential friends. This has led both to some of his most liberal moments (and subsequent walkbacks by Vatican) and to some questions about the independence of his papacy.
“”Are you seeing the pattern yet? Pope Francis didn’t “shake up the Catholic world.” He didn’t “widen the church's mercy.” All he did was repeat the fact that if you are a sinner — which you definitely are — you can be forgiven by acknowledging and confessing your sins to priests. And hopefully giving them money. That is essential Catholic doctrine, and has been for many centuries. Come on!
On gender, sex and sexuality
Of course, as the leader of a religion that opposes gay marriage, contraception and abortion, Pope Francis takes a conservative stance on these issues. As with most issues, he has said things in a way that leads to easy misunderstanding: wrapping up Catholic doctrine in easy-to-sell sound bites. Pope Francis thinks that the Church must not be obsessed with gender, sex and sexuality. Many believed this was a sign of changing the Catholic view on LGBTQ rights. Instead, Pope Francis was merely saying that the Church should obsess over other, "bigger" issues.
On condom use and childbearing
Still, Francis may have introduced some marginal ambiguity by making some vague comments which might arguably be interpreted as conceivably condoning the hypothetical use of condoms to prevent the spread of diseases like AIDS.
In a case where Bergoglio may have been sorry that he spoke impromptu, he said in the Philippines that good Catholics did not have to "breed like rabbits" and instead implied that they could breed like gambling rabbits by playing Vatican roulette.
On transgender people
The Pope, being incredibly transphobic, like his predecessors, has advised against sex-reassignment surgery, saying that transgender people should just "accept the body God gave you". He has attacked gender theory, saying that trans individuals "are actually just struggling with same sex attraction".
The Pope has also compared transgender people to nuclear weapons, saying that both are equally destructive.
Causing much misunderstanding, Pope Francis said that the Catholic Church focuses too much on sexuality. Many believed this was a sign of changing the Catholic view on LGBTQ rights. Instead, Pope Francis was merely saying that he believes the Church needs to shift its focus as to which sins it obsesses over. Francis talks about not judging gays and apologizing to gays but his actions and the actions of the Church under him are about limiting gay rights where they can. The Pope is and always has been opposed to homosexuality; in his book, "The Name of God is Mercy", he urged homosexuals to go to confession.
On same-sex marriage
“”[Marriage equality] is not a political struggle; it is the destructive attempt toward God’s plan.
In 2010, Bergoglio stated that an Argentine bill that would allow gay marriage was "a real and dire anthropological throwback", and further a "‘move’ of the Father of Lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God." Francis espoused the idea of civil unions as a "compromise".
“”[The push for marriage equality is] the envy of the Devil, by which sin entered the world, which cunningly seeks to destroy the image of God.
In July 2013, the Pope issued an easily misunderstood comment about homosexuals: "If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?" Although the idea of God reserving all judgement and the Catholic Church existing to bring people to God is well known, people again thought this was a change in doctrine. His handlers immediately went into damage control, insisting the Pope was not changing the Church's view on homosexuality, and that gay sex is still a sin:
Pope Francis' remarks reiterate Catholic teaching that the Church is open to all people, including those with same-sex attractions, but homosexual activity is contrary to the Gospel of Christ — just as all sexual activity outside of marriage would be. A priest must be able to live a healthy, celibate lifestyle, whether or not he has ever experienced same-sex attractions.
On same-sex couple adoption
“”What is at stake here is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother, and children. At stake are the lives of so many children who will be discriminated against in advance, depriving them of the human maturation that God wanted to be given with a father and a mother.
Francis strongly opposes gay adoption. Child welfare is allegedly the highest priority, but the hurt to gay children and to children with gay parents when gays are branded “intrinsically disordered” is disregarded.
Francis has heavily promoted the moral panic of the gender ideology, which is a catch-all straw man argument for most sexuality and gender-related issues the Church doesn't like, including, but not limited to:
- Transgender and gender dysphoria.
- Same-sex marriage (or even civil unions).
- Same-sex parenting.
- Forcing male children to wear lipstick at school.
- Teaching children how to masturbate at school.
2015 visit to the United States
Pope Francis addressed the US Congress during his 2015 visit to the United States. In this address he implicitly said that same-sex marriage was a threat to the family. In an example of dog-whistle politics, he used the code phrase of a threat to family:
I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.
Some people did not see this as condemning same-sex marriage or LGBTQ issues. However, the Pope clarified his position on the following weekend: the Pope was displeased that a secular government would allow same-sex marriage while not permitting government workers to "conscientiously object" to performing the duties their voluntary positions require, such as issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples. This seems to have been direct but implicit support of the recent Kim Davis controversy. Specifically, the Pope said that "conscientious objection is a right", without seeming to realize that in optional jobs that is called a resignation.
The Vatican and Pope Francis found themselves in an uncomfortable situation. After the Pope implicitly endorsed Kim Davis's breaking of the law by not allowing same-sex couples to marry, the Christian group Liberty Counsel released the fact that the Pope had met with Kim Davis. Now that the Pope had been publicly entangled with a government official who was breaking US law, the Vatican went into damage control. First, they downplayed how important the meeting was, pointing out that it wasn't a private meeting. Second, they accused her of exploiting her meeting with the Pope for her own political gain, denying that this was unusual or support for the "complicated" situation of Kim Davis' refusal to issue marriage licenses. However, none of this absolves the Pope of having previously voiced support for government workers who choose not to fulfil their duties according to law.
The day before his meeting with Davis, Francis met alone with a former student, Yayo Grassi, and his partner; Grassi and his partner have been openly in a same-sex relationship for 19 years. Francis and Grassi have maintained their friendship over the years and the three men embraced at their meeting, the only private one Francis had had at the time during his U.S. visit. Grassi denied that Francis has animus against gay people and stated: "Obviously he is the pastor of the church and he has to follow the church's teachings... But as a human being he understands all kinds of situations, and he is open to all kinds of people, including those with different sexual characteristics." It is understandable why some people would be confused about his position if they don't understand Church doctrine. Just because the Pope believes that same-sex sexual activity is sinful doesn't mean the Pope, or the Catholic Church, will reject LGBTQ people. Being a sinner is not a reason to be rejected or hated, because all sin. So, while Francis in many ways seems like a 21st-century leader he does hold that gay sex is sinful, that same-sex couples should not be married and that they should not be allowed to adopt. Further, he believes that the rights of same-sex couples should be at the discretion of the beliefs of government officials.
On capitalism and poverty
Francis solidly supports social-justice programs, stating publicly he wants "a poor Church, for the poor". His policies on treatment of the poor are much more socially minded than those of his precedessors. He has ties with liberation theology though he formerly opposed the movement. The Society of St. Pius X, a traditionalist Catholic group, has criticized Francis's stance on poverty as it indicates a focus on "man-centered philanthropy" as opposed to "religious leadership".
Pope Francis urged world leaders to prevent excessive respect for money, and claims human beings are sacrificed to the idol of money. Francis further urged world leaders to help poor people more. Dealing with the financial crisis, the Pope criticised unbridled capitalism and claimed it is a "tyranny" that judged human beings purely by their ability to consume goods, and that the "cult of money" was making people miserable.
On immigration and Trump
Francis said of Donald Trump, "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel." Trump called that comment disgraceful and argued that a religious leader should not question another person's faith. Francis did not question Trump's faith, only whether Trump acts as a Christian.
Equally, Pope Francis's views on atheism and atheists are confusing to most people. As a committed Catholic, Pope Francis opposes atheism on principle and ideology. More specifically he believes that the “attempt to eliminate God and the Divine from the horizon of humanity” is disastrous. While opposed to atheism, he does not oppose atheists any more than other people he disagrees with. He has said that the Church should work with allies who agree on specific areas like environmental protection. Such allies could include people of other faiths and or of no faith, explicitly including atheists.
Continuing his manner of speaking in a way that repackages Catholic doctrine such that it seems new and inviting, the Pope said that atheists are like anyone else: Jesus died for them, too. And they, too, are able to get his reward:
“”The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all!
|—Pope Francis, |
However, this is established Catholic doctrine, as pointed out by Catholicism.org's Brian Kelly:
If you read the article here you will see that the Pope was simply reminded [sic] the faithful that there can be, and is, goodness, or natural virtue, outside the Church. And that Christ’s death on the Cross redeemed all men. He paid the price so that every man could come to God and be saved. If Catholic Online is insinuating that Pope Francis has “reformed” the irreformable dogma, outside the Church there is no salvation, then that is shameful and disingenuous.
For Francis atheists are at least better than criminals:
“”And so many Christians are like this, and these people scandalize others. How many times have we heard — all of us, around the neighborhood and elsewhere — "but to be a Catholic like that, it's better to be an atheist." It is that, scandal. You destroy. You beat down.
Conversely, there is no consensus view among atheists on Pope Francis. Atheist views on Pope Francis vary from cynicism over excessive hype or complete indifference through to hopes that he can have a positive influence on his church.
Francis claims science has its own "autonomy" but should keep away from the "transcendent".
Francis believes that God did evolution; Francis also believes God did the Big Bang. God did both and more: this is consistent with Roman Catholic teaching on science but Ken Ham, Michael T. Snyder and other creationists strongly disagree.(What did you expect?)
“”...a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity. Concentrated in the atmosphere, these gases do not allow the warmth of the sun's rays reflected by the Earth to be dispersed in space. The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system.
|—Pope Francis on global warming fossil fuels, being mostly right for once.|
Pope Francis has blamed "human selfishness" and greed for global warming, has called it a threat to humankind, and has blasted global-warming deniers, saying that "the poor and the Earth are shouting".
However, 71% of Catholics in the United States agree with the Pope's view on climate change. Although Republicans are more likely to be in denial about climate change than Democrats,
which shows an idiotic political polarisation of a scientific issue and proves America is full of morons this divide is less amongst Catholics – even the majority of Catholic Republicans believe global warming occurs!
Role of women
A few initial moves, notably washing the feet of women on Maundy Thursday 2013, suggested possible openness over the relationship between women and the Catholic Church. This made Church members anxious that Francis may intend to allow the ordination of women, although Francis has indicated that he would oppose that. Leading female Roman Catholics such as scholar Carolyn Osiek hoped Francis would allow women some religious leadership, as he has also stated that women play an important role in the Church and that the Church was wrong to downplay that role. For Francis, without women the Church "would be missing maternity, affection, tenderness". While that reflects the patriarchal nature of the Church—the idea of special roles for each gender—it's an improvement on some of the more blatant sexism that the Church has engaged in.
On July 29, 2013, Francis said the church must develop a more profound role for women in the church, but “the door is closed” to ordaining women to the priesthood. Women cardinals have also been ruled out, though a cardinal does not need to be an ordained priest. Francis said, "Women in the Church must be valued not 'clericalised'".
“”The look and feel of the papacy may be changing under Francis, but the fundamental understanding magisterium's authority and the requirement that the women obey the men … will continue to stay the same.
Erin Saiz Hanna of the Women's Ordination Conference notes that Francis selects precedents he personally likes and ignores those he dislikes. John Paul II is taken as authoritative over female ordination because JP was against women priests, while Benedict XVI's refusal to accept gay priests is disregarded:
The LCWR situation has not changed under Francis, who demands that they accept the authority of the Magisterium. In 2014 the LCWR planned to honor feminist theologian Elizabeth Johnson at their annual conference. Someone decided that LCWR conference programs in the future will need Vatican approval - and Francis did nothing to prevent this. People question how far Francis actually will modernise the Roman Catholic Church.
Abortion and euthanasia
Causing much consternation or pleased surprise (depending on one's viewpoint), Pope Francis said that he believed the church obsessed too much over abortion. He declared that the Church focused too much on those sins at the expense of others. Francis does, however, completely believe that abortion and euthanasia are both sinful.
The Pope caused a lot of confusion when he said priests will be allowed to forgive abortions around the world. Previously, only priests in the United States had this authority. Also, repenting and being forgiven is an ancient Catholic practice. But people felt it was new for no good reason when the change was announced:
Pope Francis shook up the Catholic world — again — on Tuesday by announcing that priests around the world will be authorized to forgive the “sin of abortion” when the church begins a "Year of Mercy" this December.
“The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented,” the Pope said, adding that he has met “many women” scarred by the “agonizing and painful” decision to have an abortion.Francis' announcement will give all priests full authority to absolve Catholics contrite about their role in a procedure that the church considers a grave "moral evil". In the United States, many priests already have that power, but Vatican officials portrayed Tuesday’s announcement as “a widening of the church’s mercy.”
Previously, abortions could be forgiven, but at a higher level than that of the priest. Now that authority has been marginally decentralized in the Catholic hierarchy. Despite people thinking that this was a change that "shook up the Catholic world", this was a very minor change. Unlike other reports, this is an actual change in the rules, however.
Francis has chosen several new cardinals, most of whom are from the Third World. This reflects the shifting demographics of the Church, as most believers now live outside of the industrialized nations.
As Pope, Francis is head of an organization mired in a massive child abuse scandal. The Catholic Church in Latin America has been slower than North America and Europe to face its problems in this area, perhaps because of its close relationship with the state (until 1994, only Catholics could become president in Argentina), Francis, sometime after the Grassi affair, took a more proactive role than many of his fellow cardinals, and ordered his bishops to report all abuse allegations to the police.
Soon after assuming the papacy, Francis ordered Vatican officials in charge of dealing with abusive clergy to "act decisively as far as cases of sexual abuse are concerned, promoting, above all, measures to protect minors, help for those who have suffered such violence in the past (and) the necessary procedures against those who are guilty" and stated further that the credibility of the Roman Catholic Church was at risk. A leading sex abuse survivors' group has responded with skepticism, saying "actions speak louder than words."
Conspiracy theorists are usually divided on Francis's role in their investigations. One side believes he's the false prophet in Revelation for the Antichrist, Barack Obama, and will therefore establish a National Sunday law. Others will say he's the Antichrist outright. It's not like any previous popes were accused of this but no previous pope could be accused of being Petrus Romanus.
- David Batty, et al. Cardinal Bergoglio elected Pope Francis after two days of conclave - live, The Guardian. 2013 March 13.
- Pope named after Francis of Assisi heralded by gull atop Sistine chimney, The Guardian, 2013 March 13
- The PR Guru Behind the Pope Who Is Charming the World
- Stop being surprised that the pope is not your friend
- Stop calling Pope Francis progressive: You might love his pastoral style, but don’t fool yourself on Vatican substance
- David Batty, et al. Cardinal Bergoglio elected Pope Francis after two days of conclave - live, The Guardian. 2013 March 13.
- Pope Francis shuns grand apartment for two rooms
- Pope Francis' first moves hint at break with past
- Report: Disguised Pope Francis sneaks out of Vatican for night charity patrols
- Pope Francis: Church too focused on gays and abortion, BBC
- Pope Francis: has his revolution even started?
- Pope Francis: Epic Innovator
- Pope Francis Pushes the Church Another Step Further on Gays
- Pope Francis faces church divided over doctrine, global poll of Catholics finds
- Change Urged by Pope Francis Is Rattling Hierarchy of Roman Catholic Church
- The Secret Pope Francis Haters
- ‘FOBs’ driving the train under Pope Francis
- http://freethoughtblogs.com/axp/2015/10/01/stop-being-surprised-that-the-pope-is-not-your-friend/ Stop being surprised that the pope is not your friend]. The Atheist Experience, 2015 October 1.
- [Gawker.com: archive.is, web.archive.org Cool Pope Francis: Church Is “Obsessed” With Abortion and Gay Marriage]
- Pope Francis' View on Contraception Could Impact AIDS Work
- Pope change his mind on breeding "like rabbits"?
- The Pope's advice to trans people Pink News
- Pope Francis Says Gay People Deserve an Apology, but His Actions Show Otherwise
- [http://www.catholichawaii.org/media/224245/bergoglio_to_carmelite_sisters.pdf Same-sex Marriage: The Letter from Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J. to the Carmelite Nuns of Buenos Aires]
- Tim Padgett. The Vatican and Women: Casting the First Stone, Time. 2010 July 19.
- Pope Francis Supported Civil Unions as Cardinal
- Statement of Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted reflecting on Pope Francis' message of love and truth
- Pope Francis enters debate over Italy’s same-sex unions Bill
- Pope Francis 'shocked' by gay adoption says Bishop of Malta
- Amoris Laetitia § 56
- Expresses “Concern for the Family” Before Congress in Allusion to Same-Sex Marriage
- Govt workers have right to refuse gay marriage licenses -pope
- Kim Davis And Pope Francis Had A Private Meeting In D.C.
- Vatican: pope did not show support for Kim Davis
- Vatican Says Kim Davis 'Exploited' the Pope
- Pope Francis wants 'poor Church for the poor'
- CDF head: 'Pope Francis has close ties with liberation theology'
- Pope Francis in plea for poor as inauguration Mass held
- Society Of St. Pius X (SSPX) Criticizes Pope Francis
- Pope Francis claims global economy is close to collapse and describes youth unemployment rates as an ‘atrocity’
- Pope Francis hits out at global 'cult of money'
- Squires, Nick (18 May 2013). Pope blames tyranny of capitalism for making people miserable
- Pope Francis attacks 'cult of money' in reform call
- Pope suggests Trump 'is not Christian'
- Backlash Over Pope Francis’ Wall Comments Shows GOP Hypocrisy "The Pope's comments referenced Trump's practice of his faith; whether he “walks the walk,” so to speak. He didn't say Trump isn't *a* Christian. He said people who behave as he does are not Christian. It's about behavior, not faith."
- Pope Francis says atheists can be 'allies' for the church
- “ ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists.”
- Dreadful Misleading Headline of Catholic Online Pins Heresy on Pope
- We’ve taken the first step in deconverting the Pope
- Pope insults atheists, comparing them to bad Catholics
- Must Read Quotes
- Pope Francis declares evolution and Big Bang theory are right and God isn't 'a magician with a magic wand'
- Creationists Criticise Pope Francis' Backing Of Big Bang And Evolution Theories
- An extract from Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change, the environment and inequality, courtesy of The Guardian. Published Thursday 18 June 2015 11.41 BST.
- Pope Francis blames 'human selfishness' for global warming. BBC News. 18 June 2015.
- Pope Francis: Global warming is a threat to humanity, Mashable.
- Pope blasts global warming deniers, The Sydney Morning Herald.
- Pope Francis blasts global warming deniers in leaked draft of encyclical, The Washington Post.
- 51% mind, so it's not too much. Also, only 24% believe that humans are actually to blame. But I guess it's a start...
- Read more: U.S. Catholics weigh in on global warming, Pope Francis in Pew survey, The Catholic Sun.
- What's wrong with a little harmless
- Pope Francis: papal feet washing sparks fears over women priests
- With New Pope, Catholic Women Hope To Regain Church Leadership Roles
- Pope Francis Stresses "Fundamental" Importance Of Women In Church
- I won't create female cardinals, says Pope Francis
- Pope Francis: There Will Be No Women Cardinals
- For LCWR, the more the papacy changes, the more it stays the same
- Pope Francis slams door on women's ordination
- Vatican crackdown on U.S. nuns echoes of a modern day witch hunt
- It's time to judge Pope Francis
- Pope denounces euthanasia as 'sin against God and creation'
- Pope Francis says all priests can forgive women who've had abortions. CNN, 2015 September 01.
- Pope Francis makes exorcisms official Catholic practice
- Vatican gives official backing to exorcists
- Francis Looks to the Developing World in Appointing New Cardinals
- Pope Francis is poised to change Catholicism forever
- Pope Francis calls for action on clerical sex abuse