It should go without saying that the Catholic Church, its teachings, and its many organizations greatly impact the lives of not only its 1.2 billion members but also the world as a whole. Thus the election of Pope Francis – the 266th Pope – was a very important historical event by any measure.
Predictably, however, most news organizations failed to grasp the larger picture of the election and instead often focused on the now half-century old claims of sex abuse by priests. Most reporters were perhaps simply unable to look beyond their cramped political biases against Catholicism, while others may have wanted to accent the salacious in hopes of reviving a dead story.
So special kudos go out to the Chicago Tribune for bucking this lazy and narrow-minded practice and focusing instead on the Catholic Church and the role it plays in the world.
In a recent editorial, the Tribune opined on the election of Pope Francis for what is actually was: the election of a Pope and not an opportunity to once again bash the Church over decades-old episodes.
Upholding multimillennial values
The Tribune reminds readers that the Catholic Church is not an organization that chases new trends or bends to popular culture. It focuses on its Gospel mission of evangelization and its commitment to the poor:
"[Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio's] elevation to the papacy matters for reasons that reach far beyond his vast and philosophically cleaved flock: traditionalists and modernists, free-thinkers and doctrinaire purists, all-in loyalists and "cafeteria Catholics" who select which teachings they believe and which rules they follow: In this nation and many others, Catholics and their institutions are the largest private providers of education, health care and charitable services. And whether the rest of us agree or disagree with its positions, the U.S. church is a rigorous voice on social issues — a voice of multimillennial values in a culture prone to preach that what's new is therefore good."
And to those individuals – especially those in the United States – who think that the Church should revolve around them and their pet issues that are often in opposition to Church teachings, the Tribune delivers a clear and stark message. The Catholic Church cannot change its role as the ancient guardian of Christian truth to follow the latest fads in sexual ethics or gender politics:
"To the extent that Pope Francis focuses his church on root teachings about poverty and justice, he may leave some U.S. Catholics wondering what happened to their issues — the role of women in Catholicism, a push for (or against) liberalized doctrines, damaging effects from sexual abuse scandals, bureaucratic reform from the Vatican on down. His history suggests that, like Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI before him, he'll want a church true to its beliefs, not one that tailors principles to please those who disagree."
Bravo to the Chicago Tribune for its clear-thinking view of the true and much larger picture of the election of Pope Francis.