I got up early this morning to watch the Pope's address on the White House lawn.
I am excited about the Pope’s visit. I have to admit it, he has occupied his office in a way that I value, and so in coming to America I am interested in what he is going to say and how he is going to spark conversation and bring the idea of faith to the forefront of our national dialogue.
I have to say I don’t agree with the Pope though - on many things. I don’t agree with his views on women in authority, his views on sexuality, his views on the family. I do agree with him on many things, like climate change and the fact that our economic choices have a moral dimension to them that cannot be ignored. I don’t know what he thinks on some other issues. I am pretty sure he has a catholic view on abortion or euthenasia, but I have not heard him speak on that subject… not that he hasn’t, I just haven’t heard him speak on those subjects so I don’t know exactly what he thinks.
I am willing to listen though.
I think I am willing to listen because he says that he wants to start by listening to us, and I believe him. He has not just said it, but has assumed a posture of listening. As Pope it could be assumed that he speaks and we listen, but this Pope has not adopted that model. Some have accused him of just being interested in public relations - that he is changing tone not substance. I am pretty sure his core views on homosexuality have not changed, and being a Gay priest with a partner who was raised Roman Catholic I wish they would, but that does not mean I am unwilling to listen to him.
We have to be wary of the desire to rule someone out in any dialogue because they do not fully share our views. We will only grow as a country and a world if we are willing to do the hard work of dialogue.
Dialogue does not start with speaking, it starts with listening. It starts with abandoning our assumptions of the other and being open to who they are. I like this Pope because he shares some of my views, I am wary of him because he does not share others, I am open to him because he does not rely on the authority of his office, but is willing to be open to others with integrity and sensitivity.
As a man who also occupies a public role I am inspired by the way he occupies his - with all its limitations and expectations. I like that he breaks rules and errs on the side of compassion. I like that he breaks into the crowd and calls people up on the telephone to tell them he is praying for them.
I like that he listens. I am going to try listening more.
From the UK, Matthew loved US culture from the first time he picked up a Fantastic Four Comic when he was 12.