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The Pope has everybody a bit off balance and not at all bored with his strong language and on-the-plane, off-the-cuff candor, which, along with quips during daily homilies at St. Marta's House, have jarred both sides of various issues.

There was the remark about "who am I to judge?" (taken out of context by the media to mean the Pope approved of homosexuality, when he was really commenting on accepting a candidate to the priesthood who was gay; what he said was that "if a person has a homosexual orientation and is struggling to follow Godís way in his life, then who am I to judge?").

There was the "rabbits" remark, about those who have more children than he believes is feasible (three is the Pope's ideal, though he later said he endorses large families when there is responsibility and no medical issue).

There was the recent remark, in South America, last week, imploring prayer for the upcoming Synod on the family in October (a general remark, but because he mentioned turning "what might seem to us impure, scandalous or threatening" into a "miracle" was taken to indicate that he favored Communion for the divorced-and-remarried; time will soon enough tell.) There was a remark about visionaries who have daily apparitions as if the Blessed Mother were "a post office"; this referred, it seemed plain, to Medjugorje, which began in 1981 but where three seers still say they see her and relate her missives. Is he against it? (As far as the ongoing ones, it seemed so.)

Tough stuff. Surprising. Off the cuff. Stream of consciousness. He has called world leaders "cowards" for allowing exploitation of the world's resources and has used terms like "hypocrites," "Pharisees," and "false Christians" to depict those who do certain things of which he disapproves, in and outside the Church.

It has cut both ways -- the candor, his flow of words.

If liberals cheered what they believe is a tolerant stand by the Pontiff on homosexuality, they may have been less pleased about his remark that same-sex marriage is a "deception of the devil." Some are put off by use of terms such as "dung of the devil" (describing money that comes from destroying the environment).

Some phrases are plucked like low-hanging fruit to support socialistic and liberal tendencies (that the Pope may or may not actually have, though he certainly is not a cheerleader for unbridled capitalism). He and his aides have spoken about an intergovernmental oversight of the global economy and a "new world order," the latter a term Benedict XVI also used but which resonates to many in a wrong way economically, politically, and prophetically; some have panicked and proclaimed the Holy Father to be the anti-christ (these usually being Evangelical Protestants).

Come September, when he journeys to New York, Washington, and then Philadelphia, we may find out a lot more about the Pope's true feelings, which up to this point (except on the poor, greed, and the ecology, the views of which are made clear in his recent encyclical), have been expressed in clipped and often exuberant at times disjointed turns of phrase as opposed to full thoughts or sentences and paragraphs. It has not been a boring papacy. He has been jarring and refreshing and consoling and worrisome at the same instant. He has engaged the world (including many young and poor). People like him. Love him. A good thing for the Church.

But during these journeys there is a danger zone, and exuberances, quips, barbs, and ejaculations can bring a public figure in range of enemies -- of which our Church has its share.

There's that -- the Latin way of expression, the candor, the effusion, the sinew -- that has served as an influence in how he is perceived and sometimes (it seems) misperceived. As one fellow noted, Francis often gets lost in the translation. There are non sequiturs. Paroxysms. He often admits that he has not yet studied an issue enough, or that he could be (gasp) wrong or misconstruing a situation (a writer this week called the Pope's new "dogma that of papal fallibility"). There is -- banish the notion! -- spontaneity. He is colloquial -- unexpected for those who believe every utterance from a Pope should be a new appendix to the Catechism.  The stoic world is not used to this style, and his words sometimes seem and may at times be somewhat contradictory. And so there is suspense.

September the Holy Father arrives on the big stage: Cuba (still a geopolitical hotspot), New York City (media capital of the world), Washington (big government) and Philadelphia (the Liberty Bell), all in one trip, complete with plane interviews and thus danger zones, when one is fighting fatigue.

His words will ring loudly. He wields a lash! We may find out much more about his views.

It isn't far away, and barring a new policy with the media, it won't be boring. Expect the unexpected. Stay tuned.


[see also: The Pope and a new dogma of fallibility and Prophecy and prose]

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