I'm glad that Pope Francis came and I'm glad that he went. The impact and the distraction were considerable.
I really like Pope Francis, to the point of getting misty when I hear what he has said and hear about what he has done. If the rest of the Roman Catholic Church could snap into line behind him quickly then I would go back in a heartbeat.
I know that it won’t happen. I recall a conversation with another Jesuit, at one of the two Jesuit universities that I attended, telling me that it would take my generation to die off before the reforms of Vatican II would be fully implemented. Though I was raised in the Vatican II era, my parents were pre-Vatican II and that left an influence on my generation.
That’s how the Roman Catholic Church works, along generational lines, and so I know that Francis is not going to change the practical, daily operating attitudes of the church. Francis acts like Jesus and he is in love with his ministry and the world.
In the process of the annulment initiated by my ex-wife, I encountered church officials who are in love with their own sense of power. This form of idolatry, a violation of the First Commandment, is not unique to the Roman Catholic Church. I have recently encountered it, in destructive and aggressive form, in my own Episcopal Church.
The root is the same, too: persons entrenched and stagnated in years of the same role, identity conflated with duty and power, white-knuckled terror of lost status, white-collar violence to protect the self and the status quo.
The difference, though, is this. In the Roman Catholic Church, the laity are accountable to the clergy. In mainstream Protestant churches, the clergy are accountable to the laity. An arrogant, aggressive, power-hungry Episcopal priest is probably not long for his or her job, as the church that hired that priest has the authority to dismiss that priest and it will.
No, that stagnated power-hungry aggression on the Protestant level happens among lay leaders, who cannot retreat into Latin and life-apart, incomprehensible laws beyond the challenge of the common parishioner. Intelligibility and accessibility are standards for Protestants. Anyone can read the Bible. Anyone can read the Book of Common Prayer, which includes Episcopal theology in common terms, right there in the pews. Take a heavy-handed approach in a Protestant church and you will face rapid and powerful challenges from your peers.
In Francis, I see a true servant leader, and I fear for his safety. The world has little tolerance for good men intending change. Martin Luther King, Mohandas Gandhi, and Jesus himself have been among the casualties.
Pope Francis amazes me. He has my total respect and I would dearly love to be part of a church that followed him, but I know how glacially the Roman Catholic Church changes and so I will keep listening to and reading about him and keep attending my Episcopal Church, where I find God.