It seems as though nothing can stop the runaway train that is Pope Francis' sky-rocketing popularity these days. He was even, in December, named person of the year by Time magazine and his antics have continued to go viral as the public and press alike laud the 'People's Pope'. I am sure you've all seen the sort of vapid praise I'm talking about (I feel I've rather shown my hand with that adjective). He's a humble man they say, a breath of fresh air they say!
To which I think, yes, he bloody well should be.
He is the Pope after all. Looking good, it's worth remembering, is a job made easy when succeeding the venomous Joseph Ratzinger. This is a man who personally implicated himself in the cover-up of institutionalised rape and abuse of children masquerading as 'pastoral care'. I'll have to concede then that Francis may well be an upgrade of sorts. Though this is easily done when your predecessor is about as appealing as a glass of hydrochloric acid.
He's also on record doing some admittedly kind deeds. Now, whilst I don't wish to detract from their individual benevolence, I will say this; ask yourselves what kind of person, let alone pope, he would be if he didn't do these things?
I don't deny the decency in him allowing a curious toddler to share his stage, but I do doubt very much that any of us would have grabbed the little tear-away by the collar and slung him into the aisles. It's the same kind of misplaced adulation that surfaces when one of our beloved Royals graces us with a cursory shimmer of personality. Did William just smile?! Rapturous applause and screams just for eking out a semblance of humanity a few times a year. Money well spent don't you think?
Francis, following a great tradition, is also making a habit of saying and doing things you really wish he wouldn't. He tells us that 'even atheists' can be redeemed and I hope I'm not alone in finding his support for the gay community a little hollow. He's previously made it quite clear that he views homosexuality as "a real and dire anthropological throwback". So, is he a demagogue or has he had divine revelation? And why is nobody asking? Either way, it's quite clear that this is not support, this is toleration!
He did, credit where due, begin to address child abuse by making it a crime in Vatican law (that it wasn't already is a revolting state of affairs) but shifting the papacy from an outrageous hypocrisy to a less repellent one is no great feat to me. Maybe I'm hard to please. It's a reform rendered especially unimpressive because he's frequently had, and swerved, the chance to take action against offending ministers in person.
I hope the enormous set of double standards in play here haven't passed you by either. Why hasn't Ratzinger been arrested? Why isn't Francis under more pressure? It's because they have benefited from the most historically permeable irrationality of them all: the privilege of the religious. That's why. You would never get away with such a thing if you were a teacher or a babysitter. So many people, for some reason or another, have their judgement clouded by a papal haze.
We're so caught up in the fanfare and aesthetics that the brute facts have become blurred. I don't know about anybody else but I don't much like being patronised and I don't appreciate being told that it's OK to be gay or not catholic.
Don't allow yourself to be lectured on morality by an organization which has made damn sure that it hasn't got a leg left to stand on either. At least there was some honesty about Ratzinger, he didn't hide his scorn for the ungodly. The church has been repackaged and re-branded but it seems that the change is primarily a cosmetic one. It's worked though hasn't it? No other man on earth could get away with such condescension, or such loosely veiled insult to our integrity, yet still manage to come out so clean.