Today, the Vatican confirmed that while Pope Francis was road-tripping across America, charming even the staunchest liberals (it would be fair to call some straight-up communists!) along the way, he also met with conservative icon Kim Davis, the Kentucky County Clerk who was recently jailed after refusing to grant marriage licenses for gay couples. Reports of the two meeting first circulated yesterday from the Davis camp, but were met by some amount of skepticism since who amongst us wasn’t thirsty over the Pope’s visit, with thousands of New Yorkers waiting on hours-long lines just to catch a glimpse of the 78-year-old virgin who can’t drive.
But now, of course, tons of liberal New Yorkers who were just so thrilled about this left-leaning Pope that’s a vast improvement over the last, Hitler Youth-attending Pope, are really disappointed. How could the Pope let us down? How could the head of one of civilization’s most repressive, patriarchal institutions—one that is literally based on medieval thought—not have the same belief system that we as 21st century liberals do? It’s all very confusing!
Except, of course, that it isn’t. It is not even slightly confusing that the head of the Catholic Church is actually perfectly consistent in espousing the tenets of said organization, some of which align with liberal philosophies (the death penalty is wrong! be nice to poor people! don’t destroy the environment!) and some of which align with conservative ones (gays will destroy marriage! abortion is never acceptable!). The simple fact is that the Pope—and the Catholic Church as a whole—just doesn’t fit into any reductive dichotomy about what liberals think is good and bad—which is fascinating when you think about it since it is literally premised on a reductive dichotomy, i.e. heaven and hell, god and the devil.
Rather, this Pope is actually, in a sense, the perfect globally significant figure for our time. He can contain multitudes, can be embraced by traditional conservatives and liberals alike without fully embracing either side back; he has no real authority, other than what we give him (he does have real wealth though—the Catholic Church is loaded); and his attraction is mostly because he is a celebrity, in possession of a celebrated role, and a pretty sick car. And so, in the sense that every generation gets the Pope that it deserves (which, I don’t know what the early 16th century did to deserve Alexander VI, but it must’ve been bad), perhaps Francis is the perfect Pope for right now, one who can make us question the inconsistencies within our own internal logic, and one who can make us realize that no matter how much we wish that there was a world leader who acted in every single way that we wanted him or her to, that particular unicorn just doesn’t exist. And, frankly, never will.
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