Pope Francis (born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1936) was elected the 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church on March 13, 2013. He took the name Francis to honor Saint Francis of Assisi.[1] There is concern that reasons for skepticism over Pope Francis are being overlooked. [2]

Pope Francis is the first Pope from the Americas. He is also the first Jesuit Pope in the history of Catholic Church.


Before joining the priesthood, Bergoglio obtained a masters degree in chemistry from Buenos Aires University. He later took degrees in philosophy and theology after joining the order, and obtained a PhD.[3] There is speculation about the direction Francis will take the Church over science (some hope he will be more proactive about [[[w:c:liberapedia:global warming|global warming]]).

The church position about contraception, embryonic stem cell research, in vitro fertilisation and similar issues is unlikely to change quickly.[4] However, emphasis on these issues has changed.[5]


As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio was known for having taken his Jesuit vow of poverty extremely seriously: "Pope Francis, as he will now be known, gave up the archbishop’s palace and chauffeured limousine for a simple apartment and the city bus. The man, even at 76, cooked his own meals. To many, he was simply, 'Father Jorge.'"[6]

As Pope, Francis has rejected luxurious papal apartments, choosing instead a small two-room suite customarily regarded as suitable for visiting cardinals.[7] Francis also toned down the ostentation of his robes,[8] his ring and the like,[9] generally adopting a more 'humble' papal style.


—Pope Francis[10]

We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall like a house of cards.

He brings a mixed bag of social positions to the job.

Sexual freedom[]

Of course, as the leader of a religion that opposes gay marriage, contraception and abortion, he takes a highly conservative stance on these issues. Still, Francis may accept the use of condoms to prevent the spread of diseases like AIDS.[11] In a less positive direction in 2010, Bergoglio stated that an Argentine bill that would allow gay marriage was "a real and dire anthropological throwback." and further a "‘move’ of the Father of Lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God."[12] Francis espoused the idea of civil unions as a compromise.[13]

On July 28, 2013, the Pope issued a rather interesting comment about homosexuals: "If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?" His handlers immediately went into damage control, insisting the Pope did not exactly mean what he said, and that gay sex is still a sin.

Regarding the church's focus on social issues, Francis stated, “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods… " he thinks the Church was wrong to obsess over, "“a disjointed multitude of doctrines,” and believes, “We have to find a new balance; otherwise the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards." As of autumn 2013 it is not clear how much real change there will be. [5]


When he was made a cardinal in 2001, he asked his fellow Argentines not to come to Rome with him, but to donate the money they would have spent on airfare to the poor.[14] He is a solid supporter of social justice programs, stating publicly he wants "a poor Church, for the poor"[15] and called on all people to protect the environment.[16] This will be a shock to the celebrity-cardinals who prefer a luxurious lifestyle,[17] This affects others as well as cardinals. German Bishop Tebartz-van Elst also known as 'Bishop of Bling' was suspended from his post after using 31m euros (£26m; $42m) for luxurious renovations of his official residence as well as other unnecessary luxury. [18]

The Society of Saint Pius X, a traditionalist Catholic group, has criticized Francis's stance on poverty as it indicates a focus on "man-centered philanthropy" as opposed to "religious leadership."[19]

Opposition to contraception, however, will make it harder to fight poverty and overpopulation. Bergoglio previously fought the Argentine government when Kirchner introduced free contraception. [20]

Francis's position on Liberation theology is complex; he supports the approach's less ideological aspects.[21][22]

Rubén Rufino Dri, a philosophy professor at the University of Buenos Aires questions the sincerity of Pope Francis over poverty and believes the pope uses the poor to strengthen Roman Catholicism in Latin America, Dri states,

He's a great actor, trying to make us think this is a revolution. But he is not humble. He is simply leading the Vatican's attempt to win back the streets in Latin America, where popular left-wing governments and Pentecostals here have taken power and followers away from the church. [23]

On capitalism[]

Pope Francis urged world leaders to prevent excessive respect for money (which he says has become equivalent to idolatry), and urged world leaders to help poor people more.[24] Dealing with the financial crisis, the pope criticised unbridled capitalism and claimed it is a "tyranny" that judged human beings purely by their ability to consume goods, and that the "cult of money" was making people miserable.[25][26] Francis believes the economic crisis happened because we accept that money rules us:[26]


Worse yet, human beings themselves are nowadays considered as consumer goods which can be used and thrown away. We have begun a throw away culture. This tendency is seen on the level of individuals and whole societies; and it is being promoted! In circumstances like these, solidarity, which is the treasure of the poor, is often considered counterproductive, opposed to the logic of finance and the economy. While the income of a minority is increasing exponentially, that of the majority is crumbling.

Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel consulted Francis in the 18th May 2013 and later the same day called for more stringent controls of financial markets.[28] Bernie Sanders is also supportive.[29]

Francis has been warned that if he continues to criticise capitalist excesses consequences could follow. Wealthy donors may give less to the Roman Catholic Church. [30]


Francis's views on atheism are equally mixed. While he holds that the “attempt to eliminate God and the Divine from the horizon of humanity” is disastrous, he does not turn his back on atheists; rather, he recognizes that people without religious beliefs can be allies in areas like environmental protection, also the promotion of peace and human dignity. [31]

The role of women[]

Francis initially made a few moves that suggested possible openness on the question of the relationship between women and the Catholic Church. In March 2013, Francis broke with tradition and washed the feet of women for the first time during the Maundy Thursday ritual.[32] This made some members of the Church anxious that Francis may intend to allow the ordination of women, although Francis has indicated that he would oppose such a move.[33] Leading female Roman Catholics such as scholar Carolyn Osiek hope Francis would allow women some religious leadership,[34] as he has also stated that women play an important role in the Church and that the Church was wrong to downplay that role.[35] For Francis, without women the Church "would be missing maternity, affection, tenderness." While that reflects the lingering patriarchal nature of the Church - the idea of special roles for each gender - it's an improvement on some of the more blatant sexism that the Church has engaged in.

On July 29, 2013, Francis said the church must develop a more profound role for women in the church, but “the door is closed” to ordaining women to the priesthood:[36]

—Jamie Manson[37]

The look and feel of the papacy may be changing under Francis, but the fundamental understanding magisterium's authority and the requirement that the women obey the men … will continue to stay the same.

Erin Saiz Hanna of the Women's Ordination Conference notes that Francis selects precedents he personally likes and ignores those he dislikes. John Paul II is taken as authoritative over female ordination because JP was against women priests, while Benedict XVI's refusal to accept gay priests is disregarded:


He [Francis] could have quoted the Vatican's own the Pontifical Biblical Commission that concluded in 1976 that there is no valid scriptural or theological reason for denying ordination to women.

The LCWR situation has not changed under Francis, who demands that they accept the authority of the male Magisterium.[37]

The appointment of a woman Cardinal is considered theologically possible but unlikely in the near future. [39]

Child abuse[]

As Pope, Francis is head of an organization mired in |a massive child abuse scandal. The Catholic Church in Latin America has been slower than North America and Europe to face its problems in this area, perhaps because of its close relationship with the state (until 1994, only Catholics could become president in Argentina), Francis some time after the Grassi affair took a more proactive role than many of his fellow cardinals, and ordered his bishops to report all abuse allegations to the police.

Soon after assuming the papacy, Francis ordered Vatican officials in charge of dealing with abusive clergy to "act decisively as far as cases of sexual abuse are concerned, promoting, above all, measures to protect minors, help for those who have suffered such violence in the past (and) the necessary procedures against those who are guilty"[40] and stated further that the credibility of the Roman Catholic Church was at risk. A leading sex abuse survivors' group has responded with skepticism, saying "actions speak louder than words."[40]

Falkland Islands[]

During a 2012 memorial mass for Argentinian soldiers killed during the Falklands War in 1982, he referred to the British as "usurpers."[41]

Rumours of nastiness[]

Francis had an uncomfortably close relationship with the Junta which ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983.

He is rumoured to have been involved in the junta's kidnapping of two priests, but no solid evidence linking him to the kidnapping ever surfaced,[42][43] and one of the kidnapped priests denies Francis' involvement.[44] There are further rumours about Bergoglio's involvement over pregnant women taken from their families and murdered after giving birth while their children were adopted by supporters of the junta.[45]

In Argentina, opinion is deeply divided, mirroring the deep political division between those opposing Argentina's current government and those supporting it: some strongly support Bergoglio and admire his austere lifestyle while others disapprove equally of his opposition to gay marriage and are uneasy about his claimed ties to the junta.[46]

There are further difficulties in his history: he commissioned a private report asserting the innocence of Julio Cesar Grassi, a priest convicted of sexually abusing boys in Buenos Aires. The report helped Grassi, who is currently appealing his conviction, avoid prison.[47]


The fact that he was not christened Peter, and his decision to take the name of Francis upon his election to the papacy, means that the Prophecy of the Popes has rather run into the inevitable brick wall of reality into difficulties as all mystical predictions do. The papal ring inscribed "Petrus Romanus" still gives hope.[9]

See also[]

There is a good and a a bad side to Christianity, see the category page


  1. Pope named after Francis of Assisi heralded by gull atop Sistine chimney, The Guardian, 2013 March 13
  2. 5 reasons you should stay off the Pope Francis bandwagon
  3. [1]
  4. Vatican seeks to rebrand its relationship with science
  5. 5.0 5.1 Pope Francis: Church's 'obsession' with gays, abortion and contraception means it risks 'falling like a house of cards' Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Ramchurn" defined multiple times with different content
  6. [2]
  7. Pope Francis shuns grand apartment for two rooms
  8. Pope Francis' first moves hint at break with past
  9. 9.0 9.1 Pope Francis 1, The Fisherman’s Ring And Malachy
  10. Pope Francis: Church too focused on gays and abortion, BBC
  11. Pope Francis' View on Contraception Could Impact AIDS Work
  12. Tim Padgett. The Vatican and Women: Casting the First Stone. Time. 2010 July 19.
  13. Pope Francis Supported Civil Unions as Cardinal
  14. David Batty, et al. Cardinal Bergoglio elected Pope Francis after two days of conclave - live. The Guardian. 2013 March 13.
  15. Pope Francis wants 'poor Church for the poor'
  16. Pope Francis in plea for poor as inauguration Mass held
  17. Michael Day. Jorge Mario Bergoglio: first Latin American, first Jesuit and first Pope Francis to lead the world's Catholics." The Independent. 2013 March 14.
  18. Vatican suspends 'bishop of bling' Tebartz-van Elst
  19. Society Of St. Pius X (SSPX) Criticizes Pope Francis
  20. Argentina's Bergoglio becomes Pope Francis
  21. Hard questions about Francis in Argentina and a lesson from Chile
  22. Liberation Theology Supporters Say Pope Francis Can Fix Church 'In Ruins'
  23. Pope Francis: Is the people's pontiff a revolutionary?
  24. Pope Francis hits out at global 'cult of money'
  25. Squires, Nick (18 May 2013). Pope blames tyranny of capitalism for making people miserable
  26. 26.0 26.1 Pope Francis attacks 'cult of money' in reform call
  27. "We've Returned to the Golden Calf" – Francis on Money
  28. Pope Francis Insists Church Must Help Poor, Not 'Speak Of Theology'
  29. Bernie Sanders Applauds Pope Francis For Denouncing 'Cult Of Money,' Global Financial System
  30. Pope Francis is warned there may be consequences
  31. Pope Francis says atheists can be ‘allies’ for the church
  32. What's wrong with a little harmless paedo podophilia?
  33. Pope Francis: papal feet washing sparks fears over women priests
  34. With New Pope, Catholic Women Hope To Regain Church Leadership Roles
  35. Pope Francis Stresses "Fundamental" Importance Of Women In Church
  37. 37.0 37.1 For LCWR, the more the papacy changes, the more it stays the same
  38. Pope Francis slams door on women's ordination
  39. Vatican spokesman: Female cardinals 'theoretically possible'Pope Francis Will Not Appoint Women as Cardinals
  40. 40.0 40.1 Pope Francis calls for action on clerical sex abuse
  41. Haroon Siddique. Pope Francis appointment gives Argentina hope in Falklands dispute. The Guardian. 2013 March 14.
  42. Associated Press. Argentine Cardinal Named in Kidnap Lawsuit. The Los Angeles Times. 2005 April 17.
  43. Hugh O'Shaughnessy. The sins of the Argentine church. The Guardian. 2011 January 4.
  44. Article in German
  45. Pope Francis and Argentina's 'disappeared', BBC
  46. Pope Francis divides opinion in Argentina, BBC
  47. Pope Francis was often quiet on Argentine sex abuse cases as archbishop

Adapted from RationalWiki