A lot of discussion has arisen about Pope Francis' recent interviews. Whatever you think about it, a lot of people are confused. Two things are good to keep in mind.
1. When Pope Benedict wrote his book on Jesus, he said that it was not a work of the magisterium and so "Everyone, then, is free to contradict me." That is important to remember when it comes to non-magisterial statements of the pope. An off-the-cuff interview falls into that category. So it's healthy that Catholics are debating what Francis said and sometimes disagreeing with it. He is not speaking infallibly in these interviews.
2. I started to notice that a lot of praise was coming to Francis from unusual quarters, that is, from people who are generally not on board with Church teaching. In other words, the world has been praising him. But some of that praise is coming to him for the wrong reasons.
Some people think that he is softening the Church's teaching on the hard issues, like abortion, contraception, and same-sex unions. Actually, he is not. But that is the perception. And in the media, perception often counts more than the truth.
I think it is a lot like Palm Sunday. The crowds who turned out to praise Jesus would, just a few days later, shout violently, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Why? Because they were praising Jesus for the wrong reasons. Perhaps they thought he would overturn the hated Roman government and be a political Messiah. But as soon as they realized Jesus was not following their agenda, they turned on him.
The same thing will happen to Francis. Once the world and the media start to realize that he is not soft-pedaling the hard teachings of the Gospel, they will turn on him too. The day will come when Francis has to proclaim some of those hard truths, and many who praise him now will turn away. And such it has to be.
Jesus said, "I have chosen you out of the world--therefore the world hates you" (Jn 15:19). If the world didn't hate the Church, if its shepherds only accommodated the worlds' demands, we would really be in trouble. Jesus was very stark: "If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. . . . If they persecuted me, they will persecute you." (Jn 15:18-20).
That's why I feel uneasy when the world treats the pope like a rock star. He's not meant to be a rock star. He is the Rock of Peter, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Right now Francis is living his Palm Sunday moment. But just as assuredly his Good Friday will come, when he will have to climb his own Mount Calvary. Let us pray for him!