Unless you have been hiding in a cave in Antarctica for the past week, you already know that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was elected on Wednesday, March 13th as the new Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. The new Pontiff has taken the name of Pope Francis I in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. Several people have asked me what I think about the choice and the man. I really don’t know anything about the man except what has been reported in the press which obviously was written and disseminated by the Vatican. He is a member of the Jesuit order of priests (the first such to be Pope), is reported to live a frugal lifestyle, and cares deeply for the poor.
As for as the choice, my immediate impression is that Pope Francis
will most likely continue the more conservative (in the Catholic sense) track of his two predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Don’t expect to see any radical changes in Catholic theology or moral positions anytime soon.
From an evangelical perspective that is a mixed blessing. On the positive side it means the Catholic Church will continue its strong opposition to secularism, abortion, and gay marriage. Most evangelicals would agree with and applaud those stands. On the other hand, most evangelicals are uncomfortable with the vast amount of unbiblical teaching that has crept into Catholic doctrine over the past centuries. Sacramental salvation, the veneration of Mary, Papal Infallibility, church tradition, and other unbiblical aspects of the Roman Church are seen as hindrances to the spread of Christianity. All total, I don’t see the new Pope really making any major changes, good or bad, in the Roman Catholic Church. But stay tuned.