Last week I watched the movie: The Two Popes on Netflix. With a score of 89% on rotten tomatoes I was hoping for more. Frankly, it was poor. The movie quickly fell into simplistic stereotypes. A right wing Pope who is an academic with glib answers, detached, conservative and traditional versus a left wing Pope who was pastoral, compassionate, enlightened and progressive. 

And you guessed it; the right wing Pope blindly and stubbornly oversaw a period of slow demise that turned a blind eye to corruption and abuse. Whereas the new progressive Pope is a breath of fresh air who oversees a revitalisation of the faith.

The simplistic stereotypes were shallow. It is possible for a left wing progressive to be simplistic, closed minded, and to abandon the core in their pursuit of progress. Likewise it is possible for the right wing to be thoughtful, considerate of people’s needs, and oversee a season of development while holding to core values. There are good and bad versions of both the right and the left.

Were there scandals in Ratzinger’s era? Sure. Was there some initial wonder about Pope Francis and his old shoes, his concern for the poor, and his unwillingness to live the life of privilege? Absolutely. But has Francis been able to turn around the long slow demise of Catholicism? No. The answers are not in the left, or the right.

This reminds me of a conversation I once had with former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson. He said: It’s not our task to align ourselves with either the left or the right. It’s our task to bring the Christian perspective. (BTW, Ratzinger does love Fanta!)

Rev David Rietveld

Senior Minister

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