Thursday, March 14, 2013

Union Tribune Article on Pope Francis (Featuring Comments from Yours Truly)

The Union Tribune, San Diego's paper of record, has a new article by Elizabeth Aguilera on Pope Francis that features comments from yours truly. I hope the new Holy Father would approve of what I had to say!

In the day since Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis, religious scholars have begun dissecting his writings, teachings and philosophy.

Exactly who is this Argentinian Jesuit chosen to lead the Roman Catholic church? Why did he take the name of the founder of another order, the Franciscans? Is there a message in his decision to visit Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major, where he arrived in a Volkswagen and not the papal Mercedes, before celebrating the traditional first papal Mass at the Sistine Chapel?

In San Diego County, religious experts are hungry for more intel on the new Holy Father.

For Jimmy Akin, that means using his elementary and rusty Spanish skills to learn first-hand what the former cardinal from Buenos Aires believes and advocates as he waits for English translations of Bergoglio’s works.

“We are in the process of learning about him. I’m very encouraged so far,” said Akin, senior apologist for the publisher Catholic Answers, a radio host and the author of books such as “Mass Confusion,” “The Salvation Controversy” and “Father Knows Best.”

The new pontiff is being highlighted for his seeming humility — living in a small apartment and taking the bus — and outreach to the poor. He’s also being painted as a social activist, unlike his immediate predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who was best known as a theologian.

But scholars caution against making hasty comparisons.

“Be careful of the all-too-simplistic narrative that pits Benedict against Francis as ‘traditionalist’ and ‘modernizer,’” said Michael Barber, a professor of theology, scripture and Catholic thought at John Paul the Great Catholic University in San Diego. “Simply put, Francis has advocated the teachings of both John Paul II and Pope Benedict. Benedict was no ‘business as usual’ pope: He appointed the first woman as undersecretary of a pontifical council. He systematically revised canon law, enacting stricter regulations for clergy involved with sexual abuse. He implemented key reforms of the Vatican bank.”

Akin and Barber are both experts on Catholicism and devout Catholics.

After studying the different paths of Christianity, Akin converted from the evangelical church to Catholicism. He studied philosophy of religion at the University of Arkansas.

As a boy, Barber aspired to play baseball for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Then a lecture by Scott Hahn, a former Protestant pastor who became a Catholic, changed his mind.

“This man gave up everything and risked his whole career to become Catholic,” said Barber, who went on to earn a doctorate degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena. “I found his arguments compelling and wanted to learn more.“

Akin and Barber point to several important factors in understanding Pope Francis: his Jesuit order, his papal name and the clues offered by his first few actions as pontiff.

The Society of Jesus

Jesuits and Franciscans are two of the church’s orders, each with its own focus but all united in the core tenets of Catholicism.

The orders represent communities of members who take certain vows such as poverty, chastity and obedience, Barber said.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola founded the Jesuit order in the 16th century. Since that inception, the order has concentrated on spreading the faith, promoting education, helping the Holy Father and pursuing missionary work. Some of the world’s most famous universities and preparatory high schools are run by Jesuits.

“In the 16th century, Protestantism was also beginning to spread and Jesuits were enlisted at that time by popes and other officials to help explain the Catholic faith,” Barber said. “Many of the early Jesuits therefore were sent to Germany, the place where Martin Luther launched the Reformation.”

There are about 2,900 Jesuit priests and brothers in the United States and roughly 20,000 worldwide, he said.

Read the rest here.

No comments: