Kathryn Lopez: The pope’s real message
“Heal wounds, warm hearts.” That’s what one sinner said the Catholic Church needs to do in the world today.
That sinner, as he describes himself, happened to be the pope.
Every time Pope Francis makes headlines — praying with more than 3 million young people in Rio, writing to world leaders and praying for peace, there are multiple layers to his message. As America magazine editor-in-chief Father Matthew Malone put it on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” the day after he’d published the English-language version of the first extensive interview Pope Francis: “We are created and redeemed and loved. Everything else ... only makes sense in light of that reality.”
On the same day the interview was released, National Review and the Independent Women’s Forum held an event in Washington, D.C., to debate whether there is more of a “war on men” going on, as opposed to the “war on women” that the Obama administration and its abortion-industry allies have frequently claimed. Kirsten Powers, who worked for Bill Clinton and is on the left side of Fox News Channel panels, cautioned that in addressing injustices against boys and men in our culture, we not do what feminism has done: pit women against men.
As he talked about women in his interview, the pope warned about this too: female machismo isn’t something the world needs, as it needs to know the genius of the feminine. There’s a glorious harmony in men and women as we are and the ways we complement each other.
On the same panel, Judy Bachrach from Vanity Fair affirmed my right to oppose abortion, but insisted that anyone who disagrees with the federal government’s view that female fertility is a condition in need of preventative medicine simply wants to assert control over a woman’s destiny. And she cited the pope’s words of love and mercy in support of her cause. But the pope isn’t saying that the Church should change its mind on contraception and abortion — what he is saying is this: The Gospels are for everyone. God created you and loves you and wants you to be at peace with him.
Pope Francis is challenging everyone, conservatives and liberals, everyone who claims to be Christian, every man and woman of good will.
“The anxiety underlying all modern anxieties arises from someone’s trying to be himself without God or from his trying to get beyond himself without God,” the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen wrote.
“Anxiety increases in direct ratio and proportion as man departs from God,” he continued. “Everyone in the world has an anxiety complex because each of us has the capacity to be either saint or sinner.”
To be a saint! That’s what we sinners are called to be. That’s what the Church exists to help with — to help make miracles happen, to bring people straight to the heart of Christ, to live in union with the Trinity, alert to God’s presence in the world and in our hearts. And this is the preoccupation of Pope Francis.
The pope is a world leader, yes, but he’s fundamentally a priest, a pastor and a shepherd of souls. This is something he emphasizes when he celebrates daily Mass and approaches people as the bishop of Rome, as a priest serving his Church. He hears confessions. He knows the wounds of the world in the most intimate way, as confessors do. And this is what he is trying to communicate: That the “field hospital” that is the Church is inviting everyone — that it must love and serve all.
In a new book, “These Beautiful Bones,” Emily Stimpson writes: “Our culture’s deeply confused understanding of human sexuality can’t be separated from its deeply confused understanding of all that makes us human and how, as humans, we’re called to live.”
In it, she addresses Pope John Paul II’s writing on “The Theology of the Body.” It covers sex, but it is so much more — it is “about what it means to be a union of body and soul, about what it means to be a man or a woman, about what it means to be made in the image of God.” It offers proposals — practical, with eternal possibilities — that the world needs to hear, illuminating all our debates and anxieties. And the pope in intent on it, so help us God.