Recently, several articles have been released alluding to the health of Pope Francis. As much of a radical breath of fresh air as he may have been for some, Jorge Mario Bergoglio is 77 years old. He is an old man. His ideology, liberation theology of the sort popular in Latin America, is only new in the Vatican's halls of power. It has been around for decades and is only finally getting its deserved time in the spotlight.
People do not live for centuries. I know as well as anyone that death is waiting for all of us, patiently, and it will come whether we are ready or not. Francis has a good quarter century on this planet at most before he heads off to wherever he does.
Whether the rumors of illness are true or not, and the Vatican denies them, Pope Francis took the ailing body of Catholicism from life support to be able to run and play tennis within a very short time. One friend of mine, a self described former Christian, said that he really did not think that the Catholic Church would survive in to the twenty first century if it had another reactionary like Ratzinger in power and I agree. There is a long tradition of radical, thoughtful and, God forbird, socialist intellectual thought and action of a Catholic variant but, until Francis, it was hard to sell others on its validity.
With Francis, suddenly people like Paul Farmer, a human rights activists who has worked in the poorest parts of the planet, was being quoted by the New Yorker. He said of Francis' refreshingly radical rhetoric, "Even if it's just for show, keep showing it." Farmer has collaborated multiple times with Gustavo Gutierrez, a Catholic thinker who created Liberation Theology in the 1970s.
The Catholic Church's sins are storied - but they need not be as scarred on the church as they became. As horrifying as the sex abuse scandals were, American public schools are as filled with incidents of sex abuse on children as the Catholic Church. It was the response of the Church - moving priests in to different jurisdictions after they got caught - that really messed up the Catholic Church's image. While many have criticized Francis as just turning up the volume on public relations, the most significant thing he has done has been putting victims of sex abuse in to positions of authority in the Church.
Francis' simple human normalcy - talking about having worked as a bouncer, saying casually "Who am I to judge?" when asked about homosexuality - an answer which not only refuted conservative Catholics but also was a whole lot better than some sort of official announcement of Vatican policy toward homosexuals and a host of genuine, heartwarming photos with average people all made the Papacy human again.
A wealthspring of healthy and refreshing Catholic writing has already come up in a short time - the New Yorker article is added by this great one in The Daily Beast by Nathan Schneider - "12 Ways Catholicism is More Radical Than Pope Francis." Whatever his lasting contribution to both Christianity and to the world is, this website and articles like that wouldn't exist without his contribution. In only a short time, he has marked in place in cement as a historical figure of weight.