Pope Francis and Caravaggio: Part Two
4 October 2013
The Calling of Saint Matthew, Caravaggio, San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome.
NAPLES, FLORIDA - Pope Francis said, "That finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew. That's me. I feel like him. Like Matthew."
From my Pope Francis and Caravaggio, published last week, in http://www.italianinsider.it/?q=node/1694, about his recent interview:
"At the same time that some Catholics are worried about the pope being soft on important issues, the secular media is ready to definitively pronounce that church doctrine has been changed on controversial matters this week."
Many who are agenda-driven have misread the Pope and have not understood the subtleties in how, without changing anything, Pope Francis has changed the order in the statement "Condemn the sin, love the sinner" to "Love the sinner, condemn the sin." In so doing, he has done more than cause the "l" of love to be capitalized rather than the "c" of condemn; he has proposed a real life change in determining which action should come first sequentially.
If you condemn, ears become shut. If you love, ears become open. Only then can you assert that you can have a moral system; you can even insist that you have a right to have a moral ethical system that permits you to call your own sins, sins, and to believe that some behaviors are objectively sinful.
Then, if someone calls you homophobic you can say: well, I disapprove of murder, does that make me a murderaphobic? Then I must also have theftaphobia, and adulteryaphobia. Isn't a phobia a fear? I am not afraid of homosexuals, but I maintain that we have a right, the privilege even, under the Freedom of Religion, to have religious beliefs that differentiate good and evil. Yes, we get it from our religion, we get it from the Bible. It may be guaranteed by civil authority. And we can try to apply it to ourselves and to our own lives.
Enough of the rash, wishful thinking of those with agendas who misinterpret the Pope's call for understanding and mercy as a commendation of their own lifestyles.
What is more puzzling is the fact that so many Catholic experts and theologians have found fault with the Pope's words. Much of what they say comes from a poorly disguised provincial pride that goes, "I would have said it differently."
Other than that, the only point that the experts make that has any emotional resonance at all, is the idea that some faithful members of the Church have not been praised. An example would be those pro-lifers who work tirelessly in support of the Church's position on the sanctity of all human life.
In response to that, I say that it is not an accident that all of the Jesuit publications released the Pope's interview on September 19th and that the gospel for that day, read around the world, is about the woman who, known as a sinner in a Pharisee's house, washed the feet of Jesus with her tears of sorrow. In the same way that it is not an accident that the Pope talked about Caravaggio and Saint Matthew, both sinners, it is not an accident that this gospel is coupled with the Pope's words about understanding and forgiveness. Characteristically, in the gospel, Jesus did not rush to praise the Pharisee for being righteous, but was quick to forgive the sinner.
We can understand how Caravaggio, the sinner, connects with Saint Matthew and how the Pope's words are truly pontifical, meaning bridge-building, the word derving from the Italian word for bridge, ponte.
As far as praising the faithful members of the Church, that is indeed part of the Pope's job. He beatifies and he canonizes, he meets with Bishops from around the globe, and he continually meets with worthy groups. He praises virtue. So let's give him a break and understand what he is doing when he acts on the gospel truths and occasionally reaches out to the lost sheep.