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Father Thomas Reese, SJ, Portrays Compellingly Simple Pope

Friday, Sep. 13, 2013

Father Thomas Reese, SJ, Markkula Center Visiting Scholar and Senior Analyst, National Catholic Reporter, provided humor, inspiration, and savvy commentary on "all things Pope Francis" during the September 12th Ethics at Noon session, entertaining and informing the lunchtime crowd of 80 attendants.

What's in a name? Pope Francis is known for his simplicity, love of the poor and of Creation, and as a celebrant of peace and interreligious understanding. Indeed his first actions are best defined as "simple:" paying his hotel bill, refusing to live in the papal apartments, driving a Ford instead of a Mercedes, and washing the feet of prisoners. As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he cooked his own meals and took the bus over limousines. We can almost refer to him as the "cold call Pope," who is not afraid to make his own phone calls and request a direct connection to "he Jesuit switchboard."

And yet, Reese's excellent grasp of the Pope's positions reveal complexity behind the simplicity, and a real ability for both Reese and the Pope, to call it like they see it. For example, the Pope's pastoral priorities conjure a church of the heart, that serves as both reconciler and conduit for justice, charity, and love. His priorities for Bishops include increased involvement of women in the church, a rediscovery of "mercy," and a proactive and entrepreneurial mindset.

Following are additional key soundbytes and questions from the presentation:

  • We are a church of symbols, and this is how we communicate
  • On sexual abuse: zero tolerance
  • Celibacy: "it's a matter of discipline, not faith. It can change."
  • The Appointment of Bishops: they should be close to the people, as well as gentle, patient, as merciful.
    No princes. "Shepherds should smell like their sheep."
  • Denying Communion: One can deny communio to a sinner, "but it's very difficult to check such things."
  • The Church: Are we still capable of warming hearts? "I prefer a church that makes mistakes because it is doing something, to one that sickens because it remains shut in."
  • On The Vatican and Change: Don't make curia officials bishops or cardinals; call for separation of legislative, executive, and judicial power; Vatican needs to become a modern bureaucracy.

Formerly the editor of America magazine, Reese is the author of a trilogy examining Catholic Church organization and politics on the local, national, and international levels: Archbishop: Inside the Power Structure of the American Catholic Church (Harper & Row, 1989), A Flock of Shepherds: The National Conference of Catholic Bishops (Sheed & Ward , 1992), and Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church (Harvard University Press, 1997). Reese is a frequent commentator for national news outlets such as NPR, and major news networks.

MORE: Listen to the podcast here.

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