Chances with Francis

For Your Consideration

editorial@sierrastarFebruary 4, 2014 

When I was a young DJ in Syracuse during my senior year at Cathedral Academy, a Catholic school I had faithfully attended from fifth grade onward, Father Shannon called me into the principal's office for committing a sex crime before thousands in public.

The good priest reported he had been listening to my Saturday night radio show over WNDR, Central New York's most listened-to station, when I played, "Wake Up Little Suzie" by The Everly Brothers — a horror rendering him instantly apoplectic.

It was surely a mortal sin to have done so; he droned on, since the song "strongly suggested that a boy and girl were sleeping together without having partaken in the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony," an interpretation that had never remotely dawned on me or any of my classmates, particularly since the song's lyrics stressed exactly the opposite.

Sierra Star readers may note that my "For Your Consideration" colleague, Alan Cheah, submitted a wonderful column in the Jan. 2 issue heralding several initial achievements of Pope Francis the First during his first year as Pontiff, even as I also had the pleasure of referencing many promising signs indicating positive reform in the Catholic Church when Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was first elected back in March — becoming the first Jesuit Pope in history.

Consider these Papal quotes:

"Among our tasks as witnesses to the love of Christ is that of giving a voice to the cry of the poor, so that they are not abandoned to the laws of an economy that seems at times to treat people as mere consumers."

"If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, well who am I to judge them?"

"I have met many Marxists who are good people."

"Those who struggle to find a past that no longer exists – they have a static and inward view of things."

"No to a financial system, which rules rather than serves. Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God."

"Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those welding economic power."

And my personal favorite — "I have never been a right-winger."

To be sure, my own spiritual perspective still remains at sharp variance with certain teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, finding myself much more aligned with the visionary brilliance of theologian and evolutionary theorist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, whose "Phenomenon of Man" remains, in my estimation, a philosophical masterpiece.

Father de Chardin was a famous French paleontologist, mystic and Jesuit.

He found God in all things and believed mankind was inexorably evolving toward a collective sphere of human thought generated by integration and unification which will eventually culminate in what he termed, "The Omega Point" — the most sacred and highest form of consciousness — somewhat similarly referenced in Catholic Theology as "The Mystical Body of Christ."

It is stunning to reflect upon the awesome realization that our Internet of today, with all those blogs and chats and tweets and deletes, lines up precisely with what de Chardin predicted so many decades ago, however technologically unanticipated.

He was a favorite of Daniel Berrigan, S.J., former federal fugitive and "radical priest" of the '60s – the most demanding teacher I ever had during my four years at Le Moyne College. Father Daniel "Don't Call Me Danny Boy" Berrigan gave me the only F minus I ever received at Le Moyne for submitting a three-page book report on "The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah" (1883) by Alfred Edersheim, which I had never read. I had received an A plus from Father Carmody for the identical book report submitted a year earlier in Theology 101.

So I am becoming ever more enthusiastic about this Jesuit-in-charge-of-the church, although there's a great distance to go. It makes my heart happy. I find myself quoting our new pope to conservative friends at every turn, delighted he's at home in Rome — and quite content taking my chances with Francis.

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