Mona Charen

"Father Jorge" was often found in the slums of Buenos Aires, and in 2001 showed up at a hospital and asked for a pitcher of water. He proceeded to wash and kiss the feet of 12 AIDS patients. He was harshly critical of Argentinian priests who had denied baptism to children born to unwed mothers, saying "These are today's hypocrites; those who clericalize the church, those who separate the people of God from salvation." Even after being chosen as Pope by the College of Cardinals, he rejected a car to take him back to his lodgings and took the bus instead. He showed a flash of humor when, later that evening, he toasted the cardinals, quipping, "May God forgive you."

Francis is humble but not simple. Reportedly a star student, he trained as a chemist (and taught chemistry for a time), and also mastered, in addition to his native Spanish, Italian, German and some English.

While secular liberals tend to frame questions about the church in terms of "moderate" or "conservative" views on abortion, homosexuality and contraception, the new Pope's humility and piety may breathe new life into matters that require moral leadership. Of course he will have to deal with the scandals and institutional problems of the church itself, but a man who has lived up to his own vows of chastity and poverty may be able to break through the ideological rigidity of listeners when he speaks, for example, of the rights of the unborn.

By taking the name Francis, the new Pope reminds the world that the mighty, globe-spanning church was founded on humble ideas and has been best represented by humble people, like St. Francis of Assisi. Not everyone can be a saint. But particularly at this historical moment, it would be so good just to witness a good man being what he claims to be.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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