What do you think about Pope Francis? Is the first pope ever to utter the words Who am I to judge? really someone new, or is his warm, humble style only a new cover on the same old book of hidebound doctrines?
Antonio Spadaro, editor of La Civiltà Cattolica had this to say (quoted in a wonderful New Yorker piece by James Carroll):
Style is not just the cover of the book. It’s the book itself! Style is the message. … This is what the Gospel looks like.
In my evangelical Protestant days, nothing was more important than the content of the Book. Getting it right was literally a matter of eternal life and death, for salvation depended on right belief.
I am transfixed by this new pope. Surely he believes all the traditional, Catholic dogma, but his head and heart are totally occupied with love and compassion. His style truly is his message.
It seems to be his only message. For the leader of a religion, he is remarkably unconcerned with advocating for its more abstract tenets. He must believe in the immaculate conception of Mary, the primacy of the Catholic Church, and all the rest, but you’d never know it. He is totally engaged with loving the poor and the marginalized, and calling the whole world to do the same.
I’m not the first non-believer to love this pope. Heck, a writer on Richard Dawkins’ website comes just shy of making him honorary atheist. If a lot more Christians were like him, one of my big reasons for leaving the faith would never have come up.
As it is, when I read about the pope’s latest simple but dramatic gesture, tears come to my eyes and I realize I have a lot to learn about style and message.