I mention the Cuomos because their comments well illustrate the central challenge of our time: secularism. Despite their status as a prominent Catholic family, they are advocates of legal abortion. Mario Cuomo is best known in this context as an early leader of a "personally opposed, but ... " approach to the issue in political life. It's an outgrowth of surrender to secularism, a capitulation to the privatization of religion, even or especially among professed believers. But that's not religion. Religion infuses life. Religious people who truly seek to live radical lives of love and service make democracy and civil society succeed.
"The Lord brings about a change in those who are faithful to Him," then-Cardinal Bergoglio said in an interview in 2007. He was talking bare-bones Catholic faith.
When he prepared to greet the crowds outside St. Peter's, flowing out and filling not just the Square but also the Via della Conciliazione, there was an odd peace. Odd, because it was so countercultural. Normally in cold, wet, packed crowds who find themselves waiting, there might be conflicts. Not anywhere I stood. It was as if that Holy Spirit the cardinals had said they would be conferring with had a presence outside the Sistine Chapel, too.
In that 2007 interview, Bergoglio said: "Staying, remaining faithful implies an outgoing. Precisely if one remains in the Lord one goes out of oneself." In other words, we don't change the faith, the faith changes us. We Americans, who tend to see the world in terms of politics and personality, might consider regarding Pope Francis as one who might just be able to help us, lead us out of unjust division and into a future with a deeper understanding of the source of his hope. He's not just another name in the news, but an apostle, the successor of Peter, a Holy Father.