I've always liked Pope Francis. What I like about him, above all, is that he gets out of his security and walks among the people. He's ready to die every day. That's what I look for in a man of God: if he really is what he is supposed to be, he ought to be ready to die at any moment. I don't doubt that God loves Pope Francis for this reason alone, without regard to anything he believes. That is living faith.
For that reason, I don't care especially about the particulars of his statements. Gosh, a lot of people obviously do. I think they're missing the point. Human knowledge is always limited. There are a few points of theology Francis can state that are obviously firmly binding on Catholics. The teaching on abortion is one of these. But they aren't binding because he believes it, or because he says it. They're binding because standing behind him is a massive weight of authority. No one man, Pope or otherwise, can alter it in more than the slightest degree.
Why is that? The Church is the largest religious organization on Earth, with just about 1.2 billion members. That is not binding. To appeal to that would be an ad populum fallacy, an appeal to the popular. What is going on with the Church's authority is something more. The Church does not think it represents 1.2 billion people. The Church thinks it represents all of the members gone before those 1.2 billion into the grave. It takes seriously the proposition that it must remain in fellowship with the dead, because it expects to meet them again -- perhaps tomorrow afternoon.
There is a huge power in that, even apart from the authority it draws from community with the divine. To hold the human family together not just across space or culture but across time, that requires speaking and thinking with the greatest care. When the Church speaks as a whole, it speaks with some thought to the Pope (2015), to St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), St. Augustine (354-430), with Jesus who defines the calendar, with the prophets of old who came before. It considers the writings of fairly ordinary men, even, such as Tobias of one of the books taken as apocryphal and in any case written by a fairly ordinary person of his age.
Nothing like it exists. Certainly no greater human organization than it exists. We can imagine a similar organization that somehow embraced the whole of the human traditions of wisdom, from Hinduism and Judaism to Buddhism and Christianity. But there is no such organization, nor could one be constructed now. The Church is as powerful an organization of humanity as has ever been built, whatever you think of its claims of connection to the divine.
Of course it doesn't agree in all its specifics with anyone. It pursues a greater agreement with everyone.
It is good to see the Congress pause and consider. It will do whatever it wants, of course. So does everyone else. But the wise pause. The wise consider.