The Pope and the Church at the Nexus of History and Faith

To the true followers of the biblical traditions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the spiritual descendants of Abraham – Pope Francis brings a welcome and necessary attempt to help reinvigorate the Holy Spirit in our grim times.

People around the world, in sacred traditions not rooted in the Bible, also look to this pope to help unify those who aspire to the higher virtues found in all cultures: faith, hope, charity, justice, and love.

His obvious love for all humanity radiates from his joyful smile, which at times seems to cast an aura around him as he proclaims God’s love for all humanity.

In the pontiff’s espousal of universal love from the Sacred to mankind, and in turn, calling on our human responsibility to the Eternal, to express this love to each other, the pope mostly fulfills the inspired advice of the Prophet Micah (6:8).


Perhaps if Martin Luther were alive today, that “pesky priest,” as Pope Leo X described him, might have some points of disagreement with the current pope, too. 

When Luther posted his 95 Theses on that church door in 1517, the devout Augustinian monk, priest, and Catholic theologian had no idea that his questioning of church doctrine would crack the foundation(s) of Christendom in the West.

Luther’s complaints were both doctrinal, and more importantly, about the mission of the Church in the world.

Not only God is present and active in universal history, but the Sacred is also active in each of our lives.  As the basis of all biblical faith, it is of course at the heart of Catholic wisdom and should inform the pope in all his teachings.

Today, perhaps Luther would not have many complaints about church doctrine.  Its practices in the world are another story.  In particular, Luther would call out Pope Francis for three important omissions in his travels here and around the world.

Call it “Luther’s 2015 Theses, or Three Complaints against the leader of the Church and his failure to seek justice in the world.”

First, in Cuba, the Holy Father failed to confront publicly the continuing evils of the Castro regime.  The sight of dissidents dragged away, not allowed the most basic of human rights, freedom of speech, mars the image of a pope who seeks justice in democracies but loses his voice in a communist dictatorship.

Second, in the pope’s historic appearance before a joint session of Congress, he neglected to speak out loudly for the most defenseless of humans.  Standing in front of so many legislators, some of whom proclaim their Catholic faith at every politically opportune moment yet never speak out against abortion (Pelosi, Biden), the pope was deafeningly silent.

The pope’s third great omission in facing present-day evil is in his failure to continuously and loudly call the world’s attention to the decades-long ongoing slaughter of Christians and other innocents in the Mideast, Africa, and Asia.  To call it a holocaust is not journalistic hyperbole.

Yes, the pope has spoken about this man-made tragedy on occasion, but not loud enough, not often enough, and not in venues where his voice cannot be ignored as the United States Congress or the U.N. General Assembly.

As some of the earliest holy communities of Christianity face annihilation at the hands of demon-possessed cults in the Mideast, the world is silent.  The world and its churches have remained silent for decades, as the slaughter of Christians and animists in Sudan was allowed because of the indifference of both our political and spiritual leaders.

The pope is an ordained Jesuit, the order of scholarly priests founded to be the warriors of Church, the defenders of the faith and Catholic doctrine against the withering assault of the Reformation. 

Since the founding of the order of Jesuits, frequently in opposition to the Church establishment, the black-robed teachers have courageously confronted evil.  We should expect no less courage from this Argentine, this spiritual son of St. Ignatius Loyola, the Spanish knight who founded the Jesuits.

Appropriately to his nature, this pope chose the name of Francis in honor of St. Francis of Assisi – the founder of the order of Little Brothers, who was known for his loving devotion to all life and his celebration of the goodness of creation.

Pope Francis must be both the spokesman for the loving kindness and charity of St. Francis and, at the same time, must be a warrior for justice in the world, as was Loyola.

Micah 6:8 – “... what the Lord requires of you: only to do justice and to love goodness and to walk modestly with your God.”

The world sees that Pope Francis loves goodness, but in order to walk modestly with his God, he must fulfill the other requirement mentioned by Micah – to do justice.

He and the church, along with the courageous of all noble faiths, must help to do justice for the victims of totalitarian regimes like Castro’s in Cuba. 

He, of all believers, in order to do justice, must speak out against the horrors of abortion and its attendant evils, like the selling fetal body parts by Planned Parenthood, sponsored by the U.S. government.

Christians dying for their faith is not new in history.  What is new is the near silence of the churches, including the Catholic Church.  Silence is consent.  Silence is complicity.  To do justice, Pope Francis must lead his church in calling the world’s attention to this slaughter.

In fact, words are not enough.