The Pop Cultural Conversation About Pope Francis
Bishop James D. Conley, of Lincoln, Nebraska, writes this month in First Things about the Rolling Stone article on Pope Francis. First of all, Pope Francis is on the cover of Rolling Stone! How cool is that? But, as Bishop Conley says, “The profile is an exercise in standard revisionism, bent on demonstrating Francis’ break from the supposedly conservative Church of old. Light on facts, heavy on implication, half-truths and hearsay, the piece remakes Pope Francis as the quiet hero of the liberal left.”
Pope Francis is his own man, just as Pope Benedict XVI and John Paul II were. Three different men, three different personalities, three different pontificates, but all the while the same Catholic Church.
The cover title, “Pope Francis: The Times They Are A-Changin”, implies that the Catholic Church is softening its stance on its teachings. Most Catholics know this to be untrue. The Catholic Church, the Church of Christ, is rock solid in its teachings. The Church doesn’t change with the times. It may present its teachings in different ways as culture and human understanding changes, but the message is always the same.
But what about those Catholics and others who believe the Catholic “teachings” of Rolling Stone? As Bishop Conley also says, “Pop culture is important, and powerful. The sign value of Pope Francis’ pontificate is immense. And liable to misinterpretation. But our task is to wed sign and substance. To use the new-found fascination of the world for the Holy Father for the quiet, personal conversations which lead to conversion. To use piqued curiosity to speak, from the heart of a disciple, to suffering souls.”
Pop culture is indeed very important. In fact, many people only know the world, the Church, even life in general, according to pop culture. If pop culture has taken notice of Pope Francis, then that means that the pop culture people have also taken notice of him. This is good news, and we, Christ’s disciples, need to pick up the ball and get into the game. The bishop rightly says “quiet, personal conversations.” While the game has begun, it is a soft-spoken game. We need to scatter the seeds of truth gently and according to the orthodox teachings of the Catholic Church to our pop culture brothers and sisters. Just little conversations. It’s God’s playing field. He’ll make the seeds grow, but we must participate in His plan.
Rolling Stone says “The Times They Are A-Changing”, and they’re right. The times are a-changing, but not as they think them to be changing. Let us all hope, work and pray that the pendulum is swinging back to a more God-fearing time!