The tradition-minded Catholic, much to the other’s shock, is not angry and obsessed, or hurling anathemas. He is actually a caring, thoughtful person.The “progressive” Catholic, much to the other’s surprise, is not a thoughtless squish who cares only for the latest intellectual fashion, and nothing for truth. If they are human and open-minded, they will learn something about each other, and about themselves — and will improve in their love and care for souls.
For both sides, Pope Francis is that challenging guy at the party. He puts a loving face on doctrine for those who wish they could change it, and a faithful face on human sensitivity for those who stress doctrine.
One side might never listen to a guy who passionately denounces social economic ills — they are used to dismissing such a person as a Marxist in a thin disguise, someone who wants to cozy up to the world instead of taking the strong medicine faith gives us. The other side might be used to tuning out a guy who warns about the devil, promotes strong Marian piety. and quotes the Catechism; they hear that guy and see someone who is a pietistic at best, and fanatical at worst.
But when both those guys are the same guy, and he is dressed in a white cassock and skull cap to boot, then the challenge Pope Francis represents might make us all grow closer in spite of ourselves.
Tom Hoopesis writer-in-residence at Benedictine College.