Monday, September 23, 2013

Don't panic

After reading and hearing lots of things about Pope Francis' interview all through the weekend, the one thing I think really needs to be said is this: don't panic.

Pope Francis isn't really saying anything new (see the blog post below this one for proof of that).  But what he's saying really is challenging.  Of course, that's not new either.  But for some reason whenever Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI said anything particularly challenging to conservative American Catholics, it was greeted with yawns or, worse, totally ignored.

This pope isn't going to let the decadent West keep playing that game, that game which goes like this: We, the good Catholics who are fighting at the front lines of the culture wars, have nothing in particular we need to worry about (except the liturgy, because until we get the liturgical perfection we deserve it's our solemn duty to bicker, nitpick, and gripe about it all).  The fact that we're capable of waiting in line to buy the latest iGadget we don't need or that we're caught up in the same pursuit of materialism as our non-believer neighbors means nothing at all.  The reality that we see families at Mass with fewer children than we have and immediately judge and condemn them for the sin of actual contraception or the other sin of using NFP with a contraceptive attitude is also not a moral failing; if anything, it proves how good we are.  We aren't caught up in the love of money; we're just careful with our money, and don't see why the lazy poor should get any more of it than the dollars our unfair government already confiscates.  God doesn't mind that we like nice things and fill our homes with them; He doesn't care if our favorite TV shows routinely portray the seven deadly sins as if they were more or less obligatory; He really isn't interested in our habits of casual gossip or leaving really ugly comments under news articles on the Internet.  He sees our pro-life bumper stickers and knows that when we speak slightingly of "welfare moms" we're not really contradicting ourselves.  Oh, and He knows that when we speak of "homosexuals" with absolute hatred, contempt and disgust dripping from our voices or our pixels, we really just mean their sinful acts, not they themselves as precious human beings made in His image--even though we rarely bother to explain the difference to those hell-bound cretins we encounter in real life or online (or both).

As I said, Pope Francis is challenging us in the West to quit playing that game and start acting like actual Christians.  We don't need to panic; it's the same thing Christ asks of us every single day.

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