by Jacob Fuhrer |
Few could have anticipated the wave of changes that Pope Francis’ papacy has ushered in since his inauguration in 2013. Much of this is due to the fact that Pope Francis has brought about Catholic renewal through words and actions much more than via changes to religious dogma.
Since the beginning of his papacy, the pope has chosen to instigate change through a focus on his own character. Instead of adorning himself in velvet and Prada shoes, the pope selected nondescript garments to show solidarity with the working class and the poor. He is driven around in a Ford Focus, a stout shift from the Mercedes-Benz “Popemobile” of his predecessor.
The pope has also shown sympathy to those long treated as outcasts by the church. Pope Francis has stated atheists living a good life can go to heaven, women who have had abortions can be forgiven and his famous line regarding gays in the church (“Who am I to judge?”), show that he is open to questioning deeply held sentiments by churchgoers and the clergy.
Pope Francis’ words and actions ought to resonate with religious and nonreligious people of the world. Even those who do not practice the faith must acknowledge Francis’ efforts to bring about structural change in many facets of daily life. He has gone as far as to call out the financial institutions and denounce the greed he believes has driven people to ignore sensible values. He once said at a Mass to a crowd of diplomats, "The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.”
This attack on greed marks a new tone for the church, which has its own perception problems with money. A study by The Economist in 2012 determined the Catholic Church has an annual operating budget of about $170 billion in the United States alone. Surely it is a bold move to question the power of money, but Pope Francis appears unfazed in addressing critical issues in the world.
However, this is coming at a cost. Core conservatives are questioning the pope and his outspoken views. According to a Gallup Poll, the pope’s favorable rating among those who identify as conservative dropped significantly from 72 percent to 45 percent this year. As Gallup analyzed, “This decline may be attributable to the pope's denouncing of ‘the idolatry of money’ and linking climate change partially to human activity, along with his passionate focus on income inequality — all issues that are at odds with many conservatives' beliefs.”
While he may be losing the battle among core conservative Christians, Francis is clearly opening the doors to those who have long felt unwelcomed by the Church — and it’s about time.
Jacob Fuhrer is a junior communications major and can be reached at email@example.com.