“Who am I to judge?”
With this provocative question, Pope Francis fueled the passions of liberals who long for a Catholic Church that embraces human abortion, contraception, and (so-called) gay marriage.
They thought the new Pope was suggesting that these sins don’t matter. Even more, they believed he was leading us on the path toward embracing and normalizing sins that the Church has opposed for two thousand years.
They were wrong.
The Pope was trying to tell us that Christ meets us where we’re at: in our sin. He came to rescue us from it. His love, His mercy is stronger than sin.
But he doesn’t want us to remain in our sin. He calls us to grow in our faith, to repent, and strive mightily to avoid falling back into all the sins that separate us from Christ.
If Christ is all about mercy, so is His bride, the Church. Pope Francis relentlessly invokes Christ’s Divine Mercy:
“The Church is a mother: she has to go out to heal those who are hurting, with mercy … She must travel this path of mercy. And find a form of mercy for all.”
Pope Francis refers to the beautiful parable of the Prodigal Son as the model for the Church:
“I believe that this is a kairos [ie. opportune moment]: this time is a kairos of mercy.”
Although the Pope is a role model of mercy and humility for us all, he still demands adherence to the tenets of the faith. This was demonstrated in his decision to excommunicate Australian Catholic priest, Greg Reynolds, who was an advocate for gay marriage and ordination of women as priests.
Is Pope Francis merciful? Yes.
Is he Catholic? Absolutely.