Yesterday, the Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, elected a new Pope. Pope Francis I, formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina. By his election, Pope Francis sets a number of firsts, being the first Jesuit and first Argentinian to be elected Pope, and the first to name himself for Saint Francis de Assisi. While his is not the first non-European Pope, is his the first non-European Pope in over a thousand years. Being the new kid is hard. Having to be the new kid in front of half the world, probably more so.
So, Pop Francis is the new kid, albeit a 78 year old new kid. Being the new kid, in charge of the largest denomination of Christianity in the world comes with a lot of scrutiny. Scrutiny is good, doubly so for those who lead others, religiously or secularly or both. Who is this man, what does he stand for, how will his pontificate affect the Church, etc.? The new Pope's opening speech and prayer, and asking to be prayed for, in keeping with his Papal name, all suggest a deep humility. He is a man who took the bus to work. He prays to the virgin Mary. He has also been implicated, albeit with no supporting evidence, in cleric disappearances in the Dirty War and has a staunch anti-gay rights stance.
The general reaction I've seen to the election of Pope Francis seems to move in one of three directions. Either he is the best thing since sliced communion wafers, a person with a troubled past but with hopeful prospects in the future, or evil. To me, the first and last reactions are understandable, and both can be worrisome. In the case of the former, there is a jubilation at having a new Pope, the father of the Church. We can let bygones be bygones, or ignore them as slanderous, even if they are not because, you know, he's the freaking Pope. Here the issue is that the man is Pope and that's enough. Nothing else matters.
The later reaction has generally focused on Francis' anti-gay rights stance. To be fair, I'm not sure why anyone would have expected anything else at this time. And, despite evidence of Francis being a moderating voice, even if not being a moderate. Disappointment in this stance is understandable. Not respecting the stance equally so. Condemning the Pope as essentially evil, irredeemable, and in all ways bad for the Church and the rest of the world, for this stance alone, not so much.
Okay, this goes somewhat beyond "not pleasing everyone." The issue is an important one in the lives of hundreds of millions of people, and the Pope's choices and beliefs will affect over a billion people, both directly and indirectly. But I have a hard time seeing the Pope as evil because of this. I absolutely disagree with his position on the subject. I think it is a damaging perspective that ultimately causes more harm than good, if it causes any good at all. But does that mean everything this new Pope will do will be equally bad? I have seen nothing to suggest this.
From where do these reactions come? It is something I see in American politics a great deal. If you disagree with me you are not only wrong, but evil. Often this centers around one primary ideology. Some people will vote for a candidate almost solely because they are pro-life or pro-choice. Nothing else matters.
Except it does.