This week Pope Francis said a thing. He said a thing he has said before, so it wasn’t entirely new, but when a Pope says something (as compared to a Bishop), people listen.
When he said this thing, I rejoiced. You see, it is hard sitting in the pews of a church who would turn away some of your very best friends simply because of the way God made them.
This week the Pope came out in support of Civil Unions between people who are gay. His words caused nothing less than a full-on ruckus (to use a word from my grandparent’s generation). Some people in the church were irate. Some people in the church were overjoyed. All people in the church cared, which should tell us something very important.
When people care deeply about an issue, it is because it matters deeply, and it is time for the church to listen.
For clarification, church teaching has not changed. The Pope’s words are not considered infallible in most situations, including interviews like this one. But that doesn’t mean his words don’t matter. Popes are very careful with what they say precisely because they know people are listening. What this week told me is that the Pope cares about God’s people and that he is listening, both to us and to God.
As a prior employee of the Catholic church, I have feared losing my job for voicing the very words the Pope voiced, so this week felt a bit like a tipping point.
It felt like a return to a Catholicism I grew up with, one that not only allowed, but encouraged questions and conversations on ideas that matter in faith. Not everything is unchangeable in the church. In fact, once we stop listening because we are certain that we know what is right, we stop listening to God. We can never be certain of anything when we choose to follow an unknowable God.
So, let me raise a toast to Pope Francis. Here’s to leaders who listen and speak and act. Here’s to you who are practicing a faith that may not always reconcile with all of your beliefs, but still brings you closer to God. Here’s to life and here’s to love. And here’s to discovering God’s joy is boundless.