The best Catholics seem always to be the ones who get excommunicated or at least thrown in prison. Margaret McBride, the nurse who allowed an abortion in a Catholic hospital to a woman who would otherwise have died, and Daniel Berrigan, whose Vietnam war protests are legendary and earned him lengthy prison sentences spring to mind--and the Jesuits seem near the top of the list of excommunicadoes or at the very least those who push to the limits. Berrigan is a Jesuit, and then there's Father Andrew Greeley, who drove the Vatican crazy writing novels steaming with priestly and other sexuality, criticizing the Church's position on birth control, taking it to task on the status of women. Somehow or other Greeley hasn't been excommunicated. It's almost an insult. Hey, wasn't he enough of an apostate?
And can we consider our Jesuit Argentinian pope to be heading in the same honored tradition? He's not that much younger than his more radical counterparts, Andrew Greeley and Daniel Berrigan. He's a pro-social-justice kind of a guy but he says allowing gays to adopt discriminates against children. We didn't expect better in that department, though we can always hope.
Reports, however, about his various undercover roles in Argentina's dirty war, about his conventional stance on women, abortion, birth control, and sexuality, are anything but encouraging. Snce he's a Jesuit and since the concise Oxford still offers Jesuit as a secondary definition of "equivocator" I offer you Macbeth's drunken old porter, who seems to me to have the very best view of the situation:
Faith, here's an equivocator that could swear in both the
scales against either scale, who committed treason enough
for God's sake, yet could not equivocate to heaven. O,
come in, equivocator. Knock
Knock, knock, knock! Who's there?
We don't yet know who is there--which Francis will face the world. He's committed treason enough to become pope. He's got a certain absolute power, the kind that corrupts absolutely. If one thing's for sure about becoming a politician of any kind, and especially God's politician on earth, you've got to do a powerful lot of equivocating. As Oscar Wilde remarked, a man who can't talk morality twice a week to a large, popular, immoral audience is quite over as a serious politician.
I'm quite sure our Francis can manage Wilde's instructions. But what he'll really do, we have yet to discover.