Padre de Amor

Watching coverage of Pope Francis' visit to the White House this morning I heard a crazy stat: More than a billion people worldwide are ex-Catholics. Isn't that nuts?

I can relate. It's not important to me what religion (if any) people identify with, so long as they're not assholes. Being a good person isn't exclusive to any particular dogma.

I abandoned Catholicism with my training bra. The reasons are boring and shared by many (a billion apparently) so I won't rehash them here. But I have to say: I love Pope Francis.

No fancy cars, no papal mansion, and a belief that you're not working with those in need unless you've left with "the smell of the poor upon you." A religious leader who actually acts like Jesus? I'm not sure I know what to do with that. But the crowd of joyous faces in D.C. does. They love him. Arms outstretched and smiles gaping, the masses reach for his presence like the answer is in it. Happiness in a white cassock.

I've listened to so many so-called religious people spout hate in the name of Jesus that my heart was numb and skeptical of a man whose behavior so closely resembles the actual love and judgment free teachings of Jesus Christ. Whether you believe he was the son of God, or even if there is a God, there is plenty of evidence that Jesus was a good man. And I truly believe this pope is too.

Some people call Francis a radical and a leftist. They'd probably say that about Christ now too - he hung out with hookers and held the sick without shame or judgment. The pope hasn't changed doctrine. He holds up the teachings of The Church and its social doctrine. There's nothing radical about that. Nuns still can't lead mass. Gay marriage is still not recognized. What's so radical?

Watching the first black president welcome the first Latin pope is like a work of fiction come to life. Only 20 years ago it would've been a laughable dream. It gives me hope. I don't agree with most beliefs of either man. But tolerance is a beautiful thing. I hope we can all learn from Francis' character and his behavior. He walks his talk - if only we could all be so brave and peaceful.