Pope Francis went farther than just acknowledging that atheists aren't going to be tortured for all eternity. He also said that if we live virtuous lives, we will be "redeemed" by Jesus just like Christians. That last part goes a little too far for me.
As shocking as it may be to some observers and Catholics in the Global North, Pope Francis' informal exorcism neatly captures the rise of the Global South, where prayers for deliverance from evil are common Catholic currency.
Pope Francis takes the Gospel warnings against Satan very literally, seeing the modern tendency to write the devil off as a kind of mythical expression or literary fiction as a kind of victory for evil's influence in the world. Having been trained by Jesuits, I understand where he is coming from.
Stretching back to the Apostle Peter, the papacy has been a near constant superpower that has outlived empires, survived world wars and shaped western history perhaps more than any other office. An incredible list of men have held the highest position of the Catholic church.
I am Catholic deep in my heart, though I don't practice in the accepted ways. I know there are many like me, waiting for a community modeled on the community around Jesus, who, in my view, didn't intend to found a religion but to inspire a sane and beautiful way of life.
Pope Francis is brand new to his job, and it would have been odd for him, as some may have expected, to essentially undo a process that has been in the works for several years.
The papacy won't be a mamacy any time soon, but at least we know that Her Holiness is an option.
The new pope seems to be signaling is a commitment to following Jesus down the dark alleys of the human journey, in spite of the fact that most of the rest of the religious world appears too busy protecting the 16-lane super highways we built to accommodate the long-since-died-down-increase in traffic.
It was not unusual in those days for the children of the "disappeared" to be taken by members of the junta and passed off as their own. It was theft of human beings, and it was grotesque.
Pope Francis now faces an institutional church in need of substantial rebuilding and reform: a deeply divided church theologically; an entrenched and flawed, some would say incompetent, Vatican bureaucracy; a legacy of decades of scandals (in particular pedophilia) and of deception by members of the hierarchy; and an exodus of Catholics in Europe and America.
As a gay dad, and a professional, I thought it would be fitting to send a note of congratulations. Our note includes a suggested four point plan based on the principles that I have used with my sons, and that they have found effective.
The Church cannot be all change, all flux, lacking all core or conviction. But at the same time, the Church has been most alive when it has been swept by change.
In both cases, Western reporters spoke of complex bureaucratic organizations that had been rocked by scandals, that many outsiders viewed as plagued by corruption, and that had traditionally been loathe to admit that they had made mistakes.
I am deeply hopeful that a pope who speaks so eloquently about protecting the fragility of creation likewise respects the science that has made it possible for us to learn so much about the natural world on which we all depend for life.
I hope that Pope Francis will do what he can to work with Muslims and others in order to build an ark that will save this common humanity of ours. May God bless us all to be friends to one another.
Setting a good example can be as simple as getting someone a coffee. Every good example doesn't have to be a grand gesture. In fact, sometimes a small action can have a big impact.