"It's fun to be Catholic Again!"
Thomas G. Plante
As our dear SCU friend and go-to-person on all things Catholic, Thomas Reese, S.J., said of Pope Francis in a fall 2013 interview with The Washington Post’s Sally Quinn: “I haven’t been this hopeful about the Church in decades . . . it’s fun to be Catholic again!”
This quote has been repeated since his interview and has been commented on by many thought leaders including the well-known conservative writer, George Weigel. Many of my friends and colleagues share Fr. Reese’s enthusiasm. Even those from other religious traditions seem thrilled with the new Pope and the direction of his Pontificate.
The world seems hungry for Pope Francis’s message of mercy, compassion, love, and concern for all and especially for those who struggle and suffer from poverty, oppression, injustice, and indifference. Our broken and troubled world needs messages from religious leaders that are focused on non-judgmental love and concern. In a nutshell: more love and mercy and less finger wagging and dogma seem to be what people really respond to today. It almost seems like a spoonful of water has fallen on a very dry sponge...it just soaks it up and wants more.
The Catholic Church has taken a lot of big hits regarding the clergy sexual abuse crisis and financial scandals. For a casual observer reading press accounts it must seem like the Catholic Church only cares about sexual issues and nothing more. It seems to be a Church of “no” (i.e., focused on what you can’t do) as opposed to a Church of “yes” (i.e., what you can do). For many engaged and active Catholics it has been a tough time. I have found myself defending being a Catholic too many times in professional and personal settings.
Here at SCU it is fun to be Catholic. With an active and engaged campus ministry, remarkable speakers and programming through the Ignatian Center, and a fairly large number of Jesuits (including more young clerics than any of the other Jesuit universities in the U.S.), SCU is a great place to be Catholic. The new Pope’s Jesuit messages are familiar with many here at SCU. Now the rest of the world seems to be getting a taste for this more positive part of the Church that has been hard to find in recent years.
Pope Francis has offered listeners an important message of humility, hope, and compassion that is refreshing in our cynical, narcissistic, and skeptical times. Catholics and non-Catholics alike might be better for it. Fr. Reese is correct: it is fun to be Catholic again!