I'm being knocked for being too critical of Francis. This, after doing quite a lot of defense for the Pope early into his papacy. I don't complain about this criticism - my earlier benefit of the doubt is no talisman against my being wrong now.
But I do intend to fight for my view. So, here's one chunk of evidence.
ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (AP) — Pope Francis says he wasn't offended by the "Communist crucifix" given to him by Bolivian President Evo Morales during his South American pilgrimage.
Morales surprised the pontiff with the unusual gift, a crucifix attached to a hammer and sickle, when Francis arrived in La Paz on Wednesday.
The crucifix was a replica of one designed by a Jesuit priest, the Rev. Luis Espinal, who was tortured and killed by Bolivian paramilitary squads in 1980. Francis prayed at the site of Espinal's assassination upon his arrival in Bolivia.
The modified crucifix immediately raised eyebrows, with some questioning whether Morales, whose socialist and anti-church rhetoric is well-known, was trying to score a questionable political point with a questionable, and possibly sacrilegious, melding of faith and ideology.
Francis, an Argentine Jesuit, said Espinal was well-known among his fellow Jesuits as a proponent of the Marxist strain of liberation theology. The Vatican opposed it, fearing that Marxists were using liberation theology's "preferential option for the poor" as a call for armed revolution against oppressive right-wing regimes that were in power in much of Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s.
During a news conference en route home to Rome on Sunday, Francis said he interpreted Morales' gift through the prism of Espinal's Marxist bent and viewed it as protest art.
After taking into consideration the time in which he lived, Francis said: "I understand this work. For me it wasn't an offense."
Francis added that he brought the crucifix home with him.
Now that's Yahoo news, complete with its own slant.
But there you go. For the Pope, this is all quite fine. For more perspective, here's the wikipedia entry quoting Morales on his belief in God:
Morales has commented that he is only a Roman Catholic in order "to go to weddings", and when asked if he believed in God, responded that "I believe in the land. In my father and my mother. And in Cuchi-Cuchi.Quite the guy to be presenting Catholic art.
So, I put it to the resident Papal defenders. Nothing to criticize here? Totally reasonable response from the Pope?
Let's up the ante: let's say Morales presented the Pope with an immaculately carved crucifix, except Christ was painted to look like a clown, and also Morales took a big shit on it before handing it over. The Pope responds by praising Morales' creativity and passion, and mentions how he views it as a commentary on how 'so many of us nowadays preach Christ, but it is this mockery of Christ who we are really preaching, like those of us who treat abortion as a grave sin which could separate someone from God, who loves all'.
Would you nod your head and say, 'Nothing to see here. Everything is fine.' then?