|Read the entire interview here|
Though AKSARBENT agnostics have no investment in the Roman Catholic Church or any other, we cannot hide our surprise over the first pontiff in our lifetime who betrays a firm connection to cultural reality. Here's part of what he said:
The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. We have to find a new balance, otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.We had assumed, at first, that Francis' well-publicized excommunication of the dipped-in-gold papal throne and his refusal to occupy the papal apartment at the Vatican (not as luxurious as you think, he says) were pure PR.
But Francis seems to be the real thing, if a pastoral Jesuit is the real thing.
When he describes himself as a sinner, it doesn't come across as the pro forma protestation of the RCC's CEO, but genuine. And while his occasional, unsolicited telephone calls to letter writers may be a publicist's dream, they are also evidence that he at least skims his mail.
AKSARBENT does not doubt that the reactionary core of the College of Cardinals is horrified at what they have elected, but these are the sleepwalking sycophantic deadwood that Fellini mocked in Roma's outrageous ecclesiastical fashion show scene (below; you're welcome!), not that we at AKSARBENT would ever stoop to such a bitchy allusion to Pope Benedict's penchant for Prada.
Unlike his staff, Francis sees the anger of those who have left his church and knows how hard it will be to try to lure them back.
In Europe, atheism is like a huge global warming ice melt, dripping down off the backs of Scandinavian first responders.
But Francis is more than a mere pragmatist who clearly sees the coming train wreck; he seems to be a genuinely candid and spiritual man, whom we already respect more than John Paul and his empty, Popemobile roadshow extravaganzas.
Love the adherent, hate the religion, we always say — especially if the adherent becomes the first pope to unabashedly admit in public that he likes the art of the provocative Carravagio. (Well, did you evah!)
Of course, an educated Jesuit like Francis is probably well aware of the role Renaissance painters played in the Catholic Church's ploy to use art as a weapon against Protestants to keep the allegiance of the illiterate. (See documentary below.)
|Above: Caravaggio's first and second iterations of the Inspiration of St. Matthew, which the priests of Contarelli Chapel in San Luigi dei Francesi removed from the altar. Marchese Vincenzo Guistiniani charitably bought the first painting, took it home, and Caravaggio painted another, with no bare feet appearing to come out of the picture frame, no guiding angelic hand implying that St. Matthew was illiterate, no provocative sheer gown or pursed lips for the angel, who was moved an arm's length away, all in accordance with issues of indecorum and erotic imagery clearly addressed in the 25th decree of the Council of Trent.|