“In his recent book Pope Francis’ Revolution of Tenderness and Love, Cardinal Walter Kasper contends that Francis is not a liberal (as some pundits would suggest) but rather a “radical” in the etymological sense of being rooted (radix) in the person of Jesus. Emerging from this root is a blossoming of Christian virtue that smells to many evangelicals like the aroma of Christ.” Chris Cataldo, Christianity Today.
Last week, the mainstream media gave limited coverage to the pope’s meeting with Charismatic Catholics in America. Yet, Francis’s reach has stretched beyond the evangelical wing of the Catholic Church and into the realm of evangelical Protestantism for some time. According to the National Catholic Reporter, the pope not only “played a central role” in an effort to bring Catholics and evangelicals together in Argentina, but he also provided significant support for the Argentine Bible Society. He shares his Argentinian roots and a close friendship with notable evangelical Luis Palau.
His efforts to connect with Protestant believers did not end when his papacy began. Last year, he met with the Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby–eighteen members of the Green family along with ten members of the American Bible Society. The meeting was not a quick hello-nice-to-meet-you-bye-kind of meeting. The pontiff talked with his guests for 30 minutes.
More recently, he met with evangelical leaders at the Vatican and with Pastor Rick Warren last week in the U.S. That this pope has been so involved in an orthodox unity effort was news to me. And I suppose it is news to most evangelical Americans.
The real newsflash may be that Francis is not the first pope to do so. Francis is following in the footsteps of Saint John Paul II. Pope John Paul II worked with Campus Crusade for Christ in Poland before his papacy began. He also joined forces with Billy Graham before and after becoming pope.
But the media acknowledged John Paul II’s conservative nature. It seems bound and determined to wish this pope into a liberal mold.
When Pope Francis issued Laudato Si, his letter to Catholic bishops about the environment, liberals lauded his apparent embrace of one-worldism and global warming alarmism. But conservative critics should take pause before leaping on a bandwagon of consternation.
Catholic scholar George Weigel tells us that labeling Laudato Si as the “global warming-encyclical” is misleading because there is so little discussion of climate change within the text and because that small discussion is the least important of the pontiff’s points about ecology. Such a reading, Weigel says, “is somewhat akin to reading Moby Dick as if it were a treatise on the 19th-century New England whaling industry.” Then he quotes the encyclical itself:
“It is troubling that, when certain ecological movements defend the integrity of the environment . . . [they] sometimes fail to apply those same principles to human life. There is a tendency to justify transgressing all boundaries when experimentation is carried out on living human embryos. We forget that the inalienable worth of a human person transcends his or her degree of development. . . . A technology severed from ethics will not easily be able, by itself, to limit its own power.”
If not for Planned Parenthood defending itself on Capitol Hill this week, that would look like fantastical prophesy. Instead, it is radical truth. Truth rooted in the person of Christ and our own nature, for we are made in the image of God.
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