Pope Francis, You Had Me at Hello, and Lost Me at Sinner

(Huffington Post) Other than the significant ongoing issue of women as deacons and priests, Francis is everything I ever wanted in a pope. He is Christ in the temple overthrowing the money changers and upsetting the power cabal of the corporate religion. He is, so far at least, the man of the hour rising to every occasion, pastoral and political, identifying with his flock instead of the elitist hierarchy. In light of all that, I risk sounding small-minded when I ask him to think twice before he identifies himself or really any of us, as sinners first.

Don’t get me wrong; I sin. And even before Francis said so, I knew he did too. I suppose admitting it in public is a different thing, especially for a declared holy man who has pledged himself to the highest moral code. For the rest of us, though, sinning is old hat. As a cradle Catholic I was accustomed to piously pounding my chest in mea culpa to the Hail Holy Queen and any number of other prayers that demanded it, including the Kyrie, Eleison during Mass. I have a collection of old, family holy cards that use language like “Lord, forgive this miserable sinner…” which my grandmother had me repeating after her when I was five years old. I continued mindlessly repeating it until I was in my thirties, when I suddenly realized there was something inherently wrong with the interior message I was feeding myself.

We all sin to varying degrees and frequencies, depending on our definitions of sin, which might vary in the context of our indulgent culture. We humans are as imperfect as anything else you’re likely to find on this entropic three-dimensional plane. We’re a bit lazy or maybe a lot. Even the best of us gravitates toward breakdown, decay, potato chips, hot fudge sundaes, a few glasses of cabernet and the most convenient way of getting anything done, which often involves corner-cutting. And well, sinning.

But with all due respect to the spectacular new pontiff, (and he is spectacular), a sinner is not who I am, or for that matter, who he is. Or anyone. At least not who we really are. Identifying ourselves as sinners is unhealthy, and when you think about it, has gotten us absolutely nowhere in the last few millennia or so, except into a lot of trouble. It’s a bar so low we have to stoop to reach it. At best it inspires humility, as with Francis. At worst it inspires devastatingly low self-image, utter lack of self-esteem, and the kind of grossly debauched behavior that meets even the most lax definition of sin. [More]


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