One of the things I've gotten used to is being off on my own on a lot of broad intellectual fronts.
I have strong classical theist leanings, but I think ID asks valid questions, and even makes valid (if limited) inferences - so, I'm taking a pretty unpopular position for a Thomist.
At the same time, I don't think ID is science - so I don't fit in perfectly on the ID front either.
I have some serious criticisms about the tone of Social Conservatives, which is sufficient to piss a whole lot of them off - but I still oppose gay marriage, abortion, sodomy, etc, so social liberals can't stand me.
I'm in favor of small government, so economic liberals regard me as an enemy.
But I have distributivist leanings and I believe in cultural pressure for wealthy people to invest their money in their community via charity, etc, willingly - so a whole lot of economic conservatives distrust me.
The list can go on. The only reason I mention all this is because I'm pretty used to arguing from a population of roundabout one. I find a lot in common with some people, but I inevitably end up making arguments or taking positions that make me an outlier. Maybe I'm naturally disagreeable. There's worse bets to make.
I'm finding myself in the exact same situation with regards to Pope Francis. On the one hand, I can't stand the whole 'Defend the Holy Father from all criticism, no matter how muted!' angle a portion of Catholics are engaged in. I can understand attempts to read him charitably, but this weird holier-than-thou Mark Shea style 'the complainers are all a bunch of bedwetters' thing strikes me as pretty foul.
On the other hand, I can't get behind the attitude a good amount of conservative Catholics have, which at this point amounts to 'Hurry up and panic!' It's as if there's this urgency in the air that what's very important right this second is to be very, VERY worried and suspicious of the Pope. Not that this accomplishes anything at all, of course. But holy hell, it's quite urgent that we freak out right about now all the same. Perhaps it's therapeutic? If so, sorry, I'm always the one who gets the placebo with this treatment.
I can accept some of the criticisms - better yet, interpretations of the criticisms - that the Pope offered in interviews. Yes, I think for better or for worse, 'Faithful Catholic' has come to be defined as "talks about abortion, gay marriage, maybe contraception - and little else". I think social conservatives have screwed up delivering their message on these topics, and part of the screwup lies with the social conservatives themselves. The media is out to get them, but the media can sometimes just step aside and let a group shoot itself in the foot too.
Naturally, at the same time, I find the idea that 'changing our message, trying to reach out to people' means 'abortion's fine! gay sex is great! contraception is understandable! get divorce - God doesn't care!'... this is utterly repulsive on so many levels. Intellectually wrong, morally shallow. I'm strongly in favor of reaching out to the poor, and also sinners (I better be, since I am one), but I find social justice to be an unintentionally hilarious joke, and don't think 'reaching out' means 'capitulating, even in part, to show how modern we are'. People who equate 'helping the poor' with 'voting Democratic' almost in a 1:1 fashion strike me as, pardon me, a bunch of goddamn tools.
All of this is part of the reason I, for now, feel entirely comfortable to sit back and wait to see what Pope Francis actually does. Maybe the Pope is in a situation similar to myself - where he thinks the problems facing the Church are pretty complicated, require nuance, and there's no way to avoid some miscommunication, while at the same time realizing that there must be a way to make some alterations to the message the Church puts out while at the same time retaining orthodoxy. I look around and see a world that assumes if you say people should be compassionate to (for example) gays, you must be in favor of gay marriage and gay sex because a loud group of idiots licked their finger and touched the word and called 'dibs' and now THEY get to use that word from now on. Just as the cultier atheists sweated on the word 'skeptic' and now 'skeptic' means 'atheist who totally and uncritically accepts the scientific consensus about everything except the big bang and anything else the freaks them out'. Pardon me if I decide that the rules on that front are stupid and should be changed.
One thing I find very odd with Pope Francis' critics is that they treat him as if he was created ex nihilo this year. The Pope Francis who fought against gay marriage in Argentina? He rarely gets mentioned. Maybe he learned something from that fight. Maybe it wasn't all a bit of extended play-acting in case he rose to the papacy. Of course, maybe a million things.
Either way, this is a bit of a ramble, but it hopefully outlines a bit more of where I'm coming from here. When there seems to be zero to be gained by being frantic, I'm inclined not to be frantic. In the meantime, I shall try to devote my energy towards something which at least seems to have the potential to be productive - when I'm not lost in video games and reading, anyway.