I suspect that the Holy Spirit gives us not the Pope we necessarily want, but the Pope we need.
I loved Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, and I love Pope Francis. It’s just my opinion, but I think that different times call for Popes who emphasize specific callings, and who come to call the Church back to where it should be. The Pope we needed when the Nazis where the greatest threat the Church faced, or the Pope who faced down Soviet Communism, or the Pope who tugged the Church back towards orthodox teachings and did the most to stem the abuse crisis, had different episcopal and worldly concerns than our current Pope. In a world where people are increasingly polarized and alienated, where we feel people of a different political persuasion are not just wrong, but somehow morally evil for what they believe, Francis is urging a Church of Christlike simplicity and forgiveness.
We make the mistake of confusing our political ideologies with our faith, and so assume that if there is a seeming conflict between them, it must be our faith that is shoehorned into our political stance. This strikes me as part and parcel of the sin of Pride.
I’m as guilty of that as anyone else. I have always tended to political conservatism along with religious orthodoxy, and much of what Francis has said challenges me. But that’s a good thing. He’s my shepherd, and the shepherd’s crook is used to steer the fold back onto the right path when it’s necessary. If someone on the political left were to challenge my political presumptions, I would argue and point out where they must be wrong and reject their message. I can’t do that with my Pope. He’s il Papa, and I have to give his arguments greater credence than I would a polemical opponent. He’s not really of the Left (although many conservatives think he must be), any more than he is of the Right (although may liberals think he must be.) He leads the Universal Church, and he consistently reminds me that the lens through which I view the world must not be a conservative or a liberal one, but a Christocentric one.
I return again and again to that idea, when the World urges me away from it. As the great Catholic writer R.A. Lafferty wrote, “Things are set up as contraries that are not even in the same category. Listen to me: the opposite of radical is superficial, the opposite of liberal is stingy; the opposite of conservative is destructive. Thus I will describe myself as a radical conservative liberal… Beware of those who use words to mean their opposites. At the same time have pity on them, for usually this trick is their only stock in trade.”