I consider myself a struggling Catholic and haven’t been to church for over a year, though I still give money, earmarked only for my parish, none of it to go to the diocese.
Pope Francis is certainly no progressive and anyone who has labeled him that doesn’t understand the Roman Catholic Church. OTOH, his tone is certainly different from the previous popes, and he appears to focus less (notice I didn’t say “not” focus) on the regular list of sins that conservative bishops and priests rail against. Apparently he has made annulments easier to obtain and has said that priests should offer absolution for women who’ve had abortions and who seek forgiveness. I’m not aware of any pope expressing these ideas, and in fact, JPII said annulments were too easy to obtain. He’s also said clerical celibacy was something that could be changed, as it was not dogma; again, quite different from JPII’s comments.
Francis seems genuinely interested in the daily struggles and issues of his flock, more so than previous popes. He has bucked some traditions, like washing the feet of women on Holy Thursday, one of who was Muslim. Liturgical law says only men can participate in this ritual. Is that earth shattering? No, but it certainly rankles the church’s hierarchical way of operating.
Why he canonized Serra I have no idea, and he hasn’t really said anything to help me understand. His comments have been more on the fantasy end of what Serra *should* have done. Serra was also referred to as “Hispanic” and something special for the Hispanics in the USA, which sounds like pandering to me. Also, I wouldn’t refer to him as Hispanic (actually I hate the word and never use it). Francis’ words in Bolivia about the role of the church in the Conquest were correct, and yet he’s obtuse about Serra’s role here in California. (I wouldn’t refer to Serra as a “genocidal maniac,” as some have, but his missions certainly oppressed the natives.) There were then, as now, good priests and bad priests.
While I have my own issues with the church, it irritates me when people think the church should be hip, or on the cutting edge of modernity. Religion isn’t and shouldn’t be something that changes like the weather. That being said, religions should change as understandings of our world change. But I simply can’t stand faux tolerant-minded liberals who refer to “imaginary friends” or insist that the Vatican empty its coffers and take care of all the poverty in the world.
The church, which I consider my spiritual home, has comforted me in times of sorrow, supported me in my weakness, challenged me in my complacency and angered me beyond belief. While I may currently be wandering in the desert, I know that it will always be there waiting. I’d also like to add that I think my Mexican Catholicism is quite different from the more fire and brimstone brand of Irish Catholicism that has long been the standard here in the US. (And my parish is more on the liberal side, unlike our bishop.)