To start, let's link to what Pope Francis actually said:
Another curious thing in relation to this is that for the most poor people, a child is a treasure. It is true that you have to be prudent here too, but for them a child is a treasure. Some would say 'God knows how to help me' and perhaps some of them are not prudent, this is true. Responsible paternity, but let us also look at the generosity of that father and mother who see a treasure in every child. (read the rest here).
I think Pope Francis is smart, but many people misunderstand him on a myriad of levels, and this is becoming a common form of disrespect. I think his modern approach (at least in this conversation) arises- probably- from his training. His intellectualism is actually intimidating, and people take zingers out of his intelligent conversations, maybe just because they don't understand what he's saying! - but also, because they do not understand one basic fact about him… that he’s Jesuit-trained. He is the first Jesuit Pope. This significant, not least because Jesuits are bound by oath not to take higher office. It is a paradox for a Jesuit to be a Pope. At the risk of sounding silly, I want to share that one of my best friends at Westmont College was a childhood (cradle) Catholic, whose brother is now a priest and studied with the Jesuits at Georgetown. Take a minute to compare the Jesuit training to different types of Catholic training. They are dealing with all kinds of intellectual issues, problems, and cultural clashes as a norm, that people from a small town or people on a different intellectual level will clash with.
I think Pope Francis is smart, because he is taking into consideration the medical risks that face every pregnant mother - but in this specific case, an unsafe and risky 8th C-section. He isn’t necessarily saying “don’t have a lot of babies.” He’s addressing this issue - in fact- of the low birth rate in Italy and other places, as more of a healer approach- what would your doctor say? But he's saying it in such a way as to say: You don’t HAVE to have a lot of babies to call yourself a serious Catholic (Um. especially if you're risking your own health). He’s taking into account all sides… a whole lot of different sides, here….poor, uneducated, as well as those who don't think they need any babies at all-- and I feel like this is goes without saying (it should), but of course the media takes it and pushes the implications of "three per family" to a distorted extreme, when the context is Italy, where people are having 0-1 per couple (contrasting with the lady mentioned from the Philippines, where it's no big deal to have an eighth child, amirite?!). It’s newsworthy, so it can be taken out of context and people will jump to their own conclusions about it, and about him.
To quote this article from the Religion News Service:
“Jesuits are on the frontiers and in the heart of the Catholic church... and when you’re doing work on the margins, there’s going to be some natural friction with what’s happening in the center.”
No family of many, many children should feel shame to hear his statement, nor should we feel hurt by it. They (we) should feel, rather, great and tremendous amount of pride. They (we) should feel joy. I do and we have four with one on the way. Think of the obstacles big families have beaten, and the odds, especially in a culture of death here in the USA. Someone just recently asked me, "And are you excited about having another baby?" How strange and sad that people must even ask that question! I think when I hear someone is expecting of the verse, “Children are a heritage of the Lord.” It is God’s stamp of affirmation on a husband and wife- and many children means a lot of affirmation.
I think Pope Francis is smart, because he stirs the pot of expectation, hum drum Catholic cliche and he makes us RESPOND to his off-the-cuff seemingly crazy "liberal" thoughts. And boy have people jumped out of their skin with a response! He knows a lot about the poor, because of his days of leadership and service in Argentina, the latest news, and now is addressing the low birth rates in Italy. He's approaching it as an intellectual, and oftentimes it pushes us outside our comfort zone. (But it’s working, Papa Francis!) Don’t get mad at me if you don’t agree… write your own blog! I say that, knowing there are some extremely strong opinions, especially at my own parish!
And I say that Papa Francis is smart, because I know a lot of people take serious issue with his many thoughts and ideas (people that I know). But I think that in his wide and sweeping comments, we think he is perhaps being too loving and too gracious about people on the margins, but are we forgetting that in our quest to be holy (or perfect, or More Awesome Than Other People) we are forgetting to be kind? Or compassionate? Or most of all, Humble? And he’s doing an amazing job of reminding us in this time and in this season of the Body, that we really need it, right?!
He is smart, because he’s gotten a lot of people talking, and boy is that better than sleepy indifference. It will bear fruit… I truly believe it will! I don't think that's why he's doing it, but it is my opinion that God is using his perspective (and even some of his hare-brained,
I have been blown away by the comments on a recent Facebook thread, when I asked people's opinions of Pope Francis. My friends said things like this:
Yes, almost everyone who commented was very positive! However, that is not always the case in my personal interactions. There is some mistrust of the Pope and his careless words. But may I venture to inquire that we show a little bit less arrogance and a little more respect for him if our instinct is indignant? Most people profoundly respect what he is doing for the poor, and see him as a breath of fresh air. Some outside the Catholic church have said that Pope Francis made them do a double-take. I'd do just about anything to get people to take a second look, because let's be honest- and pardon my bluntness, the majority of people I know here in the South would rather turn a blind eye to Catholicism and forge ahead in their merry ways.
Doesn’t arrogance and indifference arise from ignorance? Doesn’t love arise from holiness? And in that vein, shouldn’t we respect him as a holy man, and a wonderful Pope? I think we should thank Papa Francis for his thoughts on rabbits. I know I needed them like a large spinach smoothie (something healthy but still drinkable;-) :-) And let's remember, before we go pushing Pope Francis out of our margins of respect, that as head of the Jesuits in his home country, he opposed the liberation theology that swept through Argentina in the 70's and 80's, and stood firm in his loyalty to the teaching of the Catholic Church, even while many of his priests supported it.
What do you think? Correct me where I'm wrong!
Cross-posting at ACWB