The Pope’s kinder, gentler Catholic Church- The Washington Blade- 9/25/13

In 1978, Joan Rivers made “Rabbit Test,” a movie about the world’s first pregnant man. In his first movie role, Billy Crystal played the lead and Imogene Coca, George Gobel and Paul Lynde wandered through in cameo roles. The movie was panned as visually coarse, too jokey, and lacking continuity. The critics complained that Miss Rivers never even bothered to reveal how Crystal’s character got pregnant. Apparently her plot point explanation that he was a bottom was not enough for them. Gays in theaters everywhere must have been blowing popcorn out their noses.

The scene with the pope is my personal favorite. Stock footage of the cheering throngs in Vatican Square. Camera pans in on the tiny white figure of the Pope waving from his balcony. Quick cut to the room behind the balcony, where a young cleric is crouching behind the railing laboriously waving a large, cardboard cutout of the Pope slowly back and forth. Soundtrack of the roaring assembled crowd below.

In the room off the balcony, the actual Pope is having a mani-pedi. At the end of the pedi, he asks for his Ah-di-das. Accent on the Ah. More than a pregnant man, that little transgressive scene laid me out.

Once again a transgressive papal scene has knocked me out. This time it’s a very real, newly installed Pope Francis I. No red Prada pumps for him. No mani-pedi for him. He washes and kisses the feet of the poor. My recovering Catholic friends and I have been marveling for days.

When asked about gay priests searching for Jesus in their hearts, Pope Francis responded, “Who am I to judge?” It sounded like “BTDT, been there, done that.” Wait, did he just come out?

In a long interview, Pope Francis said that the church must not be so obsessed with gays, gay marriage and birth control. He said pastoral duties must trump the fixation on such dogma.

He takes selfies! He has eschewed the Popemobile for a Fiat and encouraged people to buy less expensive used cars, making him very popular with the used car salesman faction.

Sidebar: Has the retired Pope, Ex-Benedict heard the news on his little radio in the renovated mother-in-law cottage out behind the Vatican? And is he steamed?

What will be the effect, if any, of Francis’ shift in tone? Selfishly, if this keeps up, it means about 15 fewer minutes devoted to papal outrages per show.  I will offer it up.

After the Pope’s Wednesday interview, U.S. clergy must have been up all night re-working their Sunday morning sermons. Cardinal Dolan of New York, the jovially dangerous president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, outspoken critic of gay marriage initiatives and federal funds for contraceptives, said it was a “magnificent” interview. Less cheerily he concluded that bound as Pope Francis is by the timeless doctrine of the church, his words really won’t change church doctrine or policy.

As someone who has lived through popes Pius XII, John XXIII, John Paul and Benedict, this new Jesuit Pope Francis is a stunning surprise. Yet because of my personal history and lived experience, I find myself waiting for the other Adida to drop. I hope this Pope is not just Vaticannily rebranding Catholicism to a ‘kinder, gentler Catholic Church.’ The Pope has established a group of eight advisers and has signaled that he wants to shake up the Vatican hierarchy, but the proof is in the poping. We will be the judge.

Also, I would recommend the Pope have a food taster on standby in his cafeteria.

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