When Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis, I wasn't particularly interested, not being a Catholic and seeing myself, at least ethnically, as a survivor of the exterminations and repressions and expulsions the Church he leads has perpetrated; seeing us all as damaged by it's long war on science and technology, on democracy, liberty, freedom of thought and speech and even personal hygiene, I wasn't about to see any more than a cosmetic change. Certainly the Church's attitude toward sexual freedom, the right to terminate a pregnancy, the right to read what we want to, the right to have intimate relations with a partner of one's choice? That's not going to change.
Maybe I was wrong. No, do as thou wilt isn't going to become doctrine any time soon, but respect for others, reluctance to condemn and perhaps adopting persuasion over fiery threats of damnation and excommunication may become, at least during his tenure, the order of the day.
Is this more like stoning the sinner with marshmallows or is it a new return to the kind of non-judgementalism, that is attributed to Jesus? Is the Church really going to make an effort to back away from being all about sex and the iron handed control of sexuality; about making sex a dirty necessity we have to feel guilty about and keep to a minimum?
The church has the right to express its opinions but not to "interfere spiritually" in the lives of gays and lesbians said Pope Francis in an interview just published. in a Jesuit magazine. For an institution that has seen itself as a gatekeeper for God, that's a welcome surprise, at least to those who think their God doesn't mind answering his own phone; who think God doesn't have to consult his parish priest before allowing himself to judge people.That he feels women must play a key role in church decisions, although the extent of the intent remains to be seen.
None of this, of course, affects me, being a non-believer, and I'm pretty sure the Church isn't going to begin recommending abortions or gay marriages or anything at all like that, but preaching and teaching instead of damning and condemning and blowing sulfur smoke seems like one small step for a pope and one great leap for the Vatican.
Will the Baptists, the Evangelicals and the Pat Robertsons of America join the enlightement?