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Who Is Pope Francis? Part 1

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AP Photo / Gregorio Borgia

My father was a Jesuit seminarian for 12 years who left the Society of Jesus and wound up writing CCD books for a living. (His company was located on Wall Street across from the Stock Exchange, not far from TPM’s headquarters, and the irony was not lost on him.) With that background, I don’t think we can examine Pope Francis without understanding the significance Francis’ Jesuit background has on his papacy and on the move with respect to Burke. As a Jesuit, Francis has always lived in a community. Obviously, Francis enjoys people’s company which why he is living in the Vatican hotel. His experiences in community seem to inform Francis’ actions as Pope. The Church is just community on a grander scale. It seems that Francis recognizes that we cannot grow and strengthen the Church with scolds, like Cardinal Burke, in charge. We certainly cannot have men like Cardinal Burke selecting American bishops if we seek a more open, loving and pastoral Church.

Burke is obviously famous in American political circles his 2004 comments about denying John Kerry communion. It is hard to imagine that Francis’ actions have anything to do with Burke’s specific comments from almost 10 years ago. Hopefully, Francis’ removal of Burke serves as a warning to bishops, like Burke, who attempt to weaponize the Eucharist. We are taught that the Eucharist is one of the most powerful tools to bring people into “Communion” with the Church, not drive them away. We must remember that Judas was at the Last Supper and Jesus did not deny him Communion. We don’t need a Ph.D in theology or a degree in Canon Law to know that.

As an aside, here in Philadelphia, Archbishop Chaput, selected by Burke, was overt in his criticism of Francis. About a year ago, Archbishop Chaput instituted a Fortnight of Freedom, two weeks of prayer regarding the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act. Our pastor announced it at the end of mass in our Philadelphia parish. A few weeks ago, the same pastor called out members of Congress for the drastic cuts to food stamps during his homily. I looked around to see if I was still in the same church.