Since becoming the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church in March 2013, Pope Francis has gone from strength to strength in bringing Catholicism into the 21st Century. He’s also shown himself to be a bit of a radical in the process! Here are six areas where we believe Pope Francis has taken radical and liberal steps in the last three years:
1. On Homosexuality
In 2013, Pope Francis famously asked, “If someone is gay and searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” He has consistently argued that God isn’t necessarily concerned with the sexual orientation of Catholics, but rather their faith and the love they show to others. He has also suggested that the church could be open to civil unions, and in October 2014, the Synod on the Family’s interim report affirmed the “gifts and qualities” of LGBT individuals. It seems that the Catholic Church is embracing a more modern view of the world and moving on from some of the historic texts and philosophies that criticise gay people.
2. On Refugees
Pope Francis has also repeatedly shown love and humanity towards refugees and those fleeing war and poverty. When European governments were attempting to come up with a quota for refugees, he reminded people that, “Behind these statistics are people, each of them with a name, a face, a story, an inalienable dignity which is theirs as a child of God…”
He also called on towns and cities across Europe to take in and house refugees “without distinction or limits”, an example he has set in his plan to welcome two refugee families into Vatican parishes. Surely we can all admire his commitment to the humanitarian principles set out by Jesus in his Beautitudes, blessing those who are meek, hungry and persecuted. He has prominently called for a peaceful end to the civil war in Syria.
And if you thought his sticking up for the weak was a one-off, the Pope has recently taken the fight to notorious racist Donald Trump, telling the mop-headed tycoon that his views are anything but Christian.
3. On The Homeless
When he was archbishop of Buenos Aires in Argentina, Pope Francis often secretly ventured out at night to feed and eat with the homeless, sitting with them in the street to show solidarity with those on hard-times. In September 2015, the Pope argued that “We can find no social or moral justification, no justification whatsoever, for lack of housing.”
He also said that we should all ask ourselves, “Why do these, our brothers and sisters, have no place to live? Why are these brothers and sisters of ours homeless?” Interestingly, Pope Francis named himself after the radical mystic St Francis of Assisi in order to remember the poor.
This impassioned concern for the poor and the homeless is accompanied by Pope Francis’s rejection of the opulent lifestyle normally lived by the Popes of the past. After being elected, he chose not to live in the traditional papal apartments, but rather to live in a Vatican guesthouse to demonstrate his humility – he is the first Pope in 110 years to do so. He said that he wanted to live a “normal life” and that he likes to be in daily contact with ordinary people.
In fact, the Pope demonstrates his desire to live a normal life every day: when he carries his own bags; when he wades through crowds in the rain to bless his followers; and when he holds Holy Thursday foot washings in Italian youth prisons, kissing the feet of criminals to demonstrate what he sees as God’s love.
Another example of his rejection of pomp and tradition was seen when a young boy climbed onto the stage during one of Pope Francis’s speeches. The Pope’s aides immediately tried to lure the child off the stage, but the Pope was unperturbed: in fact, he patted the boy on the head and let him sit in his chair whilst he carried on with his speech. This may not seem so radical in itself, but it shows the Pope’s concern for love and kindness over rules and traditions.
5. On Capitalism and High Finance
Now this is the juicy stuff. Pope Francis once said that unbridled capitalism is “the dung of the devil”. Though he recognised that capitalism and globalisation can have their benefits (in bringing down the percentage of the world’s population in extreme poverty, for example), in a noteworthy speech to American politicians in Washington, he urged that the poor must not be overlooked – he said that the modern world’s “spirit of enterprise” must be used for the common good.
Citing the Declaration of Independence, he argued that, “If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance.” The Pope also made the news in 2015 for his attempt to reform the Vatican’s old and arguably corrupt finance system.
6. On The Environment
Finally, Pope Francis not only believes that human-induced Climate Change is happening, but sees it as one of the biggest issues facing the modern world. Unlike Mother Theresa, who in 1988 asked “Why should we care about the Earth when our duty is to the poor and the sick among us? God will take care of the Earth,” Pope Francis sees it as our duty as humans to protect the world that nurtures us and provides for us. In the aforementioned Washington speech, he said that the “common good also includes the earth…We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.”
In his Environmental Encyclical, the Pope focuses on pollution and climate change, whilst also raising issues like extinction and deforestation. He wrote: “A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it.”
The Radical Tea Towel Company does not advocate or support any one faith, and this article is in no way an attempt to proselytise or convert. However, we do feel that the Pope’s novel radicalism should not only be recognised, but also praised and encouraged: for someone with such a powerful voice to speak out (often controversially) and share such liberal views is without doubt a good thing. This is not to say we see Pope Francis as a complete departure from the Catholic Church’s conservatism: his views on abortion and ambiguity about contraception remain in line with the church’s traditional stance.
Nonetheless, we think it’s arguable that there’s a radical in the Vatican: someone who spreads love and compassion rather than hatred and violence; someone who sees value in change and tolerance rather than judgment. Any Pope who says that belief in God is not as important as morality, and that atheists can go to Heaven for being good people, is surely worthy of attention from those who previously found the Church didn’t speak for them.