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TIME Magazine Got it Wrong

WEB Pope Francis

Leonora Giovanazzi

Daniel McInerny - published on 12/10/13

Time Magazine has chosen Pope Francis as its 2013 Person of the Year. But did the magazine pick him for the right reasons?

Time Magazine got it wrong. 

Not in choosing Pope Francis as its Person of the Year. That was the perfect–and to my mind, obvious–choice.

No, what Time got wrong was its reasons for choosing Francis. 

“What makes this Pope so important,” Time observed, “is the speed with which he has captured the imaginations of millions who had given up on hoping for the church at all.”

Well, hopefully Francis has captured the imaginations of those millions. 

But what does Time think those millions have really learned from Pope Francis?

“People weary of the endless parsing of sexual ethics, the buck-passing infighting over lines of authority when all the while (to borrow from Milton), “the hungry Sheep look up, and are not fed.” In a matter of months, Francis has elevated the healing mission of the church—the church as servant and comforter of hurting people in an often harsh world—above the doctrinal police work so important to his recent predecessors.”

True enough. Francis has shown the world what it means to live with the evangelical fervor of an apostle of Jesus Christ. (Not that his illustrious predecessors were slouches in this department. I won’t be surprised if all three of them–John Paul II, Benedict, and Francis–end up being canonized.) 

But Francis has imaged particularly well, with moving sincerity, the combination of deep interior life and charity-in-action that the doctors of the Church have proclaimed as the ideal of Christian living. (For more on this theme, see Dom Chautard’s Soul of the Apostolate.)

Keep reading on the next page

Time Magazine, however, has chosen to view Francis as someone beyond “doctrinal police work,” beyond “the culture wars.” As if Francis is somehow taking us “beyond” the magisterial teaching of John Paul II and Benedict.


Time has also misread Francis’s recent remarks on homosexuality. It has distorted Francis’s statements on divorced and remarried Catholics receiving Communion

This isn’t the occasion to rebut Time point for point. I simply want to observe that whatTime has done with Francis is what we–all of us–so often do with Christ. That is, paint him in our own image

Francis is trying to take us beyond stale categories. But those categories do not include the moral doctrine of the Catholic Church. No, the categories that Francis wants to take us beyond are those which attempt to reduce the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, to a human construct, one that fits comfortably with our increasingly secular vision of how the world ought to be. 

I’m glad that Time Magazine has chosen Pope Francis as its Person of the Year. But my hope and prayer is that this media bubble will turn out to be an opportunity for people to look at the whole reality of Francis. 

And so see, through a glass beautiful yet still imperfect, the whole reality of Christ. 

Daniel McInerny is the editor of Aleteia’s English language edition. You are invited to contact him at, and to follow him on Twitter @danielmcinerny.

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