Pope Francis Did What I Didn't

A man I know said to me yesterday that I must be outraged about what Pope Francis is saying. I inwardly rolled my mind's eye.

Let me just tell you who this guy is. He's a professed non-believer. A former Catholic. The worst kind, right? And he's a bit in your face about it too, if I'm being honest. (I've told him that so I think it's ok to write here.) He occasionally reads my stuff here at The National Catholic Register because his wife is a Catholic who comes across my stuff occasionally.

He's a funny guy who loves his wife and kids but when it comes to religion we're not typically on the same side of the issue. Doesn't mean we don't have fun together when we're standing on the sidelines at the kids' games but it means that I just about never bring up issues about religion. He does, especially whenever there's something particularly embarrassing in the news about the Church. So to put it bluntly he's had a lot to talk about the past decade or so.

So anyway, he came up and said that I must be outraged about the pope. I asked him why he thought so. "Well, he's a liberal, isn't he?" I told him that I didn't understand what that meant in the context of Catholicism. I mean, I know what he meant but I was at least going to make him do a little work to get there.

He said, "He told all the Catholics to can it on abortion and gay marriage and all that stuff and just get back to loving your neighbor and all that." My first instinct was to school him and tell him that's not actually what the pope said. I wanted to tell him that may be what MSNBC told you the pope said but that's not actually what the pope said. But I stopped myself. I was also conflicted because here's this guy who knows me a little and he thinks there's a difference between the Catholics he knows (which includes me) and loving your neighbor. If that is true, I believe I have failed in a terrible way.

Now, I'm sure part of it is him just needling me but the fact that he even thought to make the joke is disturbing to me. What it means to me is that he sees a mutual exclusivity between my stance on abortion and marriage and loving one's neighbor. It means I need to do a better job explaining the Church's position. It's all clear in my head how all these issues are connected to loving one's neighbor. But I think I need to do a better job of explaining it.

But here's the important thing that happened. This guy then told me that he really likes this pope. He said he thinks Pope Francis is "a breath of fresh air." In the end he told me that his wife was now bugging him to go to Church and he said he wasn't sure but he was thinking about it. Let me tell you something, this guy thinking about going to Church is a big turnaround. If not a 180 degree turnaround, it's at least high 170's. I don't know if he's going to go but I'm praying that he does.

Pope Francis did what I didn't. I mean, he's pope so that's to be expected. But I think there's tons of people out there on the sidelines of the Church just waiting to feel welcomed back into the Church. Pope Francis is doing that. It's something I'll try to join him in doing.

Note to guy on sidelines: I hope you go to Church this Sunday. Why? Because I'm a pro-life, pro-marriage Catholic who loves my neighbor.