I’m just mild about Francis: Pope Francis, that is. I’m afraid I can’t get that excited about either the Synod of Bishops, whose first session just ended, or the Pope himself. I don’t deny that gay marriage, admitting divorced Catholics to Communion, and the like are serious issues that warrant discussion and should be resolved. And I commend Francis’s statement about the “hostile inflexibility” of conservatives within the church. But in the meantime gay Catholics will continue to get married, and divorced and remarried Catholics will continue to go to Communion, let men clad in soft garments in Rome expostulate as they will. (My aged Irish mother once told her Jesuit son over her martini: “You know, I never believed half that stuff you’re supposed to.”)
But what about the moral issues presented by modern war and nuclear weapons, something that nobody’s talking about? What would be the greater transgression, giving the green light to gay marriage or failing to condemn the world’s lockstep march towards a nuclear Armageddon—for example, President Obama’s recent announcement of $355 billion for nuclear weapons modernization over the next decade—without provoking the least murmur of dismay from the American Church hierarchy despite the condemnation of such a policy in “The Challenge of Peace,” issued a generation ago by their predecessors, Catholic bishops who were made of sterner stuff.
By daring once more to confront the grave moral issues posed by modern war, the Catholic Church could regain a measure of the moral credibility that it squandered in rushing to consult its lawyers rather than the Holy Spirit when the clerical sexual abuse crisis arose. And then and not till then will I start to get wild about the first Jesuit pope.
Michael Gallagher, a coeval of Sr. Megan and a former Jesuit seminarian, served as a paratrooper during the Korean War. His book on Catholic activists, The Laws of Heaven, won the National Jesuit Book Award in theology in 1992, and his translation of Yukio Mishima’s Spring Snow was a finalist for the National Book Award in translation in 1972.