GodGrrl on the Radio: Pope Francis, “The Joy of Love,” and WGN-Radio Chicago

I had SUCH fun talking to Wendy Snyder and Bill Leff on Chicago’s WGN radio yesterday about Pope Francis and Amoris Laetitia. Have a listen below.

Religion journalist Cathleen Falsani: People love ‘Papa Frank’!

Papa Frank’s “apostolic exhortation” Amoris Laetitia is at times beautiful and challenging and worth a read (all 250+ pages of it). For those of you less inclined, here are a few of my favorite bits from the his “Joy of Love”:

++ “By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and of growth, and discourage paths of sanctification which give glory to God.”

++”We also find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful, who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations, and are capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations…We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them.”

++”At times we have also proposed a far too abstract and almost artificial theological ideal of marriage, far removed from the concrete situations and practical possibilities of real families.
This excessive idealization, especially when we have failed to inspire trust in God’s grace, has not helped to make marriage more desirable and attractive, but quite the opposite.”

++”We have often been on the defensive, wasting pastoral energy on denouncing a decadent world without being proactive in proposing ways of finding true happiness.”

++”Conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel…It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal.”

++”A pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws to those living in ‘irregular’ situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives.This would bespeak the closed heart of one used to hiding behind the Church’s teachings, ‘sitting on the chair of Moses and judging at times with superiority and superficiality difficult cases and wounded families.”

++At times we find it hard to make room for God’s unconditional love in our pastoral activity…We put so many conditions on mercy that we empty it of its concrete meaning and real significance…That is the worst way of watering down the Gospel. It is true, for example, that mercy does not exclude justice and truth, but first and foremost we have to say that mercy is the fullness of justice and the most radiant manifestation of God’s truth.”

++”Keep an open mind.. Don’t get bogged down in your own limited ideas and opinions, but be prepared to change or expand them. The combination of two different ways of thinking can lead to a synthesis that enriches both.”

And in perhaps my favorite passage, which reminds me of a few people I’m blessed to know, particularly this guy:

++ “The most intense joys in life arise when we are able to elicit joy in others, as a foretaste of heaven. We can think of the lovely scene in the film Babette’s Feast, when the generous cook receives a grateful hug and praise: “Ah, how you will delight the angels!” It is a joy and a great consolation to bring delight to others, to see them enjoying themselves. This joy, the fruit of fraternal love, is not that of the vain and self-centered, but of lovers who delight in the good of those whom they love, who give
freely to them and thus bear good fruit.”

@PONTIFEXCELLENT: Papa Was a Rollin' Stone…

<> on May 18, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.For the first time in its 46-year-plus history, Rolling Stone Magazine has chosen to put a pope on its cover. (This also means Papa has scored the Holy Trifecta of Magazine Covers: Time, The New Yorker, and now this.)

Papa Frank is the cover-pontiff (and lead story) in Rolling Stone’s February 2014 edition. The story, written by contributor Mark Binelli (who has most recently also written about the Nuns-on-the-Bus controversy, the “hijacking” of Kansas politics by conservatives, and Johnny Depp the “last buccaneer”) is lengthy and as riveting as any of the magazine’s best narrative pieces.

In his story titled, “Pope Francis: The Times They Are A-Changin‘” (with the subtitle, “Inside the Pope’s Gentle Revolution”), Binelli writes in part:

After the disastrous papacy of Benedict, a staunch traditionalist who looked like he should be wearing a striped shirt with knife-fingered gloves and menacing teenagers in their nightmares, Francis’ basic mastery of skills like smiling in public seemed a small miracle to the average Catholic. But he had far more radical changes in mind. pope-francis-news-for-the-first-time-in-history-a-pontiff-has-graced-the-cover-of-rolling-stone-magazineBy eschewing the papal palace for a modest two-room apartment, by publicly scolding church leaders for being “obsessed” with divisive social issues like gay marriage, birth control and abortion (“Who am I to judge?” Francis famously replied when asked his views on homosexual priests) and – perhaps most astonishingly of all – by devoting much of his first major written teaching to a scathing critique of unchecked free-market capitalism, the pope revealed his own obsessions to be more in line with the boss’ son….

Down in the rainy square, the crowd cheers for its new friend, Cool Pope Francis, until he retreats back into the mysteries of the walled city he now rules. I’m reminded of another moment from the press conference on the plane, when a reporter attempted to pin Francis down on gay marriage and abortion. And what is His Holiness’ own position on these matters? The pope’s artful dodge struck me as brilliantly Clintonian. “That of the Church,” Francis said simply. “I’m a son of the Church.”

He didn’t add, because he didn’t have to, that he’s the father now, too.

@PONTIFEXCELLENT: "Nuns Are Grrreat!

<> on May 18, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.After Mass in St. Peter’s on Feb. 2, Papa Frank spoke to the world about those leading the “consecrated life,” i.e., clergy and men/women religious. (Sunday was the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which the Catholic church marks as “World Day for Consecrated Life.”

According to Catholic News Service, Papa Frank said:

“There is such a great need for their presence, which reinforces and renews the commitment to spreading the Gospel, Christian education, charity for the neediest, contemplative prayer, the human and spiritual formation of the young and families, and the commitment to justice and peace in the human family,” the pope said.

Straying from his prepared text, Pope Francis told people gathered in the square: “Think what would happen if there weren’t any sisters, if there weren’t any sisters in the hospitals, no sisters in the missions, no sisters in the schools. Think what the church would be like without sisters — no, that’s unthinkable.”

Consecrated life is a gift that moves the church forward, he said. “These women who consecrate their lives to carrying forward the message of Jesus — they’re great!”

I couldn’t agree more, Papa.

Below are a few shots of some of the thousands of sisters who gathered to celebrate Papa Frank’s inauguration mass not quite a year ago. I LOVE nuns. 


<> on May 18, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.During a special ceremony in the Sistine Chapel on Sunday where he baptized 32 infants, Papa Frank told the mothers present to go ahead and nurse their babies if the children were hungry.

Right there. In the chapel. Under the Michaelangelos. In front of God and everybody.

“Some will cry because they are uncomfortable or because they are hungry,” the pope said. “If they are hungry, mothers, let them eat, no worries, because here, they are the main focus.”

How awesome is that?

Many mothers are reticent to breastfeed their children in public, particularly in “sacred spaces,” such as houses of worship. Obviously if the pope himself doesn’t have a problem with it, neither should anyone else.

This isn’t the first time Papa Frank has given his blessing to breastfeeding. Last month in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa the pope recalled a young mother who was holding her crying baby behind a screen at one of his general audiences at the Vatican.

“I said to her: ‘Madam, I think the child’s hungry. … Please give it something to eat!’ ” the Pope said. “She was shy and didn’t want to breastfeed in public, while the Pope was passing…I wish to say the same to humanity: Give people something to eat! That woman had milk to give to her child; we have enough food in the world to feed everyone.”


@PONTIFEXCELLENT: Sneaky goodness

<> on May 18, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.Papa Frank is a cheeky monkey. Apparently, he’s been sneaking out of the Vatican at night, dressed in civvies, to hang out with homeless folks.

According to the Huffington Post:

A recent interview with Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the “Almoner of His Holiness,” raised speculation that the Pope joins him on his nightly trips into Rome to give alms to the poor, and it turns out that the rumors are probably true.

A knowledgeable source in Rome told The Huffington Post that “Swiss guards confirmed that the pope has ventured out at night, dressed as a regular priest, to meet with homeless men and women.”

Krajewski earlier said, “When I say to him ‘I’m going out into the city this evening’, there’s the constant risk that he will come with me,” and he merely smiled and ducked the question when reporters asked him point-blank whether the Pope accompanied him into the city.

When he was still Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio, Papa Frank used to do the same thing, sneaking out at night “to break bread with the homeless, sitting with them on the street and eating with them to show that they were loved,” HuffPo says. So the next time you find yourself riding the bus at night in the Eternal City and the priest across the aisle looks really familiar, it may be Pontifex Rex himself (or an angel in disguise.)

Just a stranger on a bus …

Argentina's Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, second from left, travels on the subway in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Via HuffingtonPost
Argentina’s Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, second from left, travels on the subway in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Via HuffingtonPost



<> on May 18, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.So it’s almost Advent and winter’s chill has arrived in the Eternal City.

Papa Frank is a good shepherd and he’s concerned for the welfare of his flock — particularly those who aren’t dressed appropriately for the weather.

The folks at Catholic News Service’s Rome bureau posted this awesome Vine of Papa Frank talking to someone in the audience in St. Peter’s Square where you can see him saying something to the effect of, “It’s cold outside and you’re wearing short sleeves?!

Ah, Il Papa. He’s a hugger and he worries. He’s like a Bubbe (or a Zayde, actually). Reason #890,398,471 why we (heart) him so much.


<> on May 18, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.At the end of Wednesday’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Papa Frank embraced a man. He took the man’s disfigured face in his hands, cradled it in his chest, kissed him, and blessed him.

I’d imagine the man is not used to being embraced like that — not by strangers, maybe not even by family and friends.

But the Pope is a lover and, as I’ve mentioned before, a hugger.

A photo of the embrace went viral (as it should have):

Pope Francis' General Audience


According to CNN:

The man the Pope comforted suffers from neurofibromatosis, according to the Catholic News Agency. The genetic disorder causes pain and thousands of tumors throughout the body. It leads to hearing and vision loss, heart and blood vessel complications, and severe disability from nerve compression by tumors.

Earlier today, Papa Frank tweeted the following: 11h

Saints are people who belong fully to God. They are not afraid of being mocked, misunderstood or marginalized.

I can’t help but wonder whether Papa Frank was thinking of that man when he tweeted that.

Also Wednesday at the general audience, @Pontifex congratulated a newlywed couple who are members of L’Associazione Arcobaleno Marco Iagulli-Onlus (an organization that uses clowns and humor to cheer sick children). They’re known by their red plastic noses — the international symbol for healing humor (think Patch Adams). They couple were wearing their wedding garb and their noses.

So Papa Frank put a nose on, too. (Have I said today how much I love this guy?)

Photo by Alamy Live News via the Daily Mail
Photo by Alamy Live News via the Daily Mail

Magical Thinking: Could Papa Frank Name a Woman Cardinal?

Painting by Taras Loboda via http://www.tuttartpitturasculturapoesiamusica.com/2012/09/Lady-in-Red.html
Painting by Taras Loboda via http://www.tuttartpitturasculturapoesiamusica.com/2012/09/Lady-in-Red.html

Now wouldn’t THAT be something?

I don’t know enough yet to speculate (though I’m chuffed the woman mentioned most often is the Irish theologian Linda Hogan).

Below is an smattering compendium of further speculation by my media colleagues (pay special attention to my friend David Gibson – I trust him more than most…)

  1. Could Pope Francis make women cardinals? A pipe dream, and an
    www.religionnews.com/…/pope-francis-make-women-cardinals-pipe-dre…‎ Oct 17, 2013
    On his list: Linda Hogan, a professor of ecumenics at Trinity College …. in the episcopate, an all-female college of cardinals is a must-have.
  2. Could this married feminist be the Catholic Church’s first woman cardinal? Rumours rife that reforming Pope Francis is
    Daily Mail ‎- 7 hours ago
    Linda Hogan is being tipped as a contender to become the Vatican’s first female cardinal. A woman has never held the title, and while current ...
  3. First catholic female cardinal may be an Irish woman
    Irish Examiner‎ – 8 hours ago
  4. Could Linda Hogan be the Catholic Church’s first woman cardinal

    www.dailymail.co.uk/…/Could-Linda-Hogan-Catholic-Churchs-woman-c‎3 hours ago
    Linda Hogan is being tipped as a contender to become the Vatican’s first female cardinal. A woman has never held the title, and while current 
  5. Lady in red: Linda tipped to be cardinal | The Sunday Times

    www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/…/article1335691.ece‎ 21 hours ago
    Linda Hogan, a professor at Trinity College, Dublin, could be a There has never been a female cardinal, but since Pope Francis took charge 
  6. Will Pope Francis appoint a female cardinal? Not as crazy as it

    www.irishcentral.com › News‎ 5 days ago
    Linda Hogan, an accomplished professor of ecumenics at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), listed as a possible choice for a female cardinal by top 
  7. Clerical Whispers: Lady in red: Linda Hogan tipped to be cardinal

    clericalwhispers.blogspot.com/…/lady-in-red-linda-hogan-tipped-to-be.ht…‎5 hours ago
    Lady in red: Linda Hogan tipped to be cardinal There has never been a female cardinal, but since Pope Francis took charge in Rome eight 
  8. Irish Sunday Times tips a Trinity College professor of gender as first

    protectthepope.com/?p=8999‎ 5 hours ago
    Prof Linda Hogan is a signatory of the so called ‘Catholic Scholars tipped internationally to be the Catholic church’s first female cardinal.
  9. Newstalk – Irish woman may be first female cardinal

    www.newstalk.ie/Irish-woman-may-be-first-femalecardinal‎ 8 hours ago
    International speculation grows that Linda Hogan may be appointed. The Catholic Church’s first female cardinal may be Irish. There is 
  10. Trinity Professor Tipped as First Female Cardinal: There has been

    universitytimes.ie/?p=21473&utm…rss…femalecardinal‎ 10 hours ago
    Trinity Professor Tipped as First Female Cardinal There has been international speculation that Vice-Provost of Trinity, Linda Hogan, could be 
  11. Libreprensa – Sacred College of Cardinals

    libreprensa.com/k/Sacred%20College%20of%20Cardinals/1014859‎ 54 mins ago
    Linda Hogan is being tipped as a contender to become the Vatican’s first female cardinal. A woman has never held the title, and while current 
  12. Will Pope Francis Appoint A Woman Cardinal? – DavidMixner.com


    College, started a post on his Facebook page recently by reportedly soliciting nominees for the first female cardinal.


<> on May 18, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.Papa Frank is a romantic.

According to RomeReports:

Each week, Pope Francis breaks down barriers between him and the pilgrims at Wednesday’s General Audience. But even so, finding a good spot to see him at St. Peter’s Square is tough, not everyone can be front and center. But the privileged group who can have easy access to the front of the line are newlyweds. All the couple needs is to don their wedding gowns, and access is virtually guaranteed. …Pope Francis greets each newlywed couple personally, once the General Audience ends. These two couples were among the forty or so that made it to this week’s audience.



On Monday, Papa Frank welcomed Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese Nobel Peace Prize-winning heroine, to the Vatican where, among other things, he told her they were “fundamentally on the same wavelength” regarding nonviolence, democracy and “peaceful coexistence in today’s world,” according to the UK’s Catholic Herald.

I love this.

She’s  a Buddhist. He’s a Catholic (obviously). Same wavelength.


The Catholic Herald says:


The Holy Father told me that emotions such as hatred and fear diminish life and the value of the person,” Suu Kyi told reporters after the 20-minute meeting. She said the Pope also told her “we need to value love and understanding to improve the lives of people.”

Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, called Suu Kyi “one of the most significant personalities in Asia in the area of peace, democracy and peaceful coexistence” and a “symbol of non-violent commitment to democracy and peace.”

A military junta governing Burma kept Suu Kyi under house arrest for a total of 15 years between 1989 and 2010. An elected parliamentary government took power in 2011, and the following year Suu Kyi was elected to parliament, where she is now chairwoman of the Committee for the Rule of Law and Tranquility.

Father Lombardi said Pope Francis “naturally assured (Suu Kyi) of his prayers for Burma and for the Catholic community and the Church in her country, and of his appreciation for the lady’s commitment to development and democracy in her country, assuring her of the collaboration of the Catholic Church in these great causes.”

The Vatican does not have diplomatic relations with Burma, whose overwhelmingly Buddhist population of 55 million is only 1 percent Catholic.




Because we all know that Papa Frank is mah boo and you should love him too. Here’s the first in a series of daily reasons why…


<> on May 18, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.

So, over the weekend, thousands of Catholic families jammed St. Peter’s Square to hear Papa Frank give an address on the Year of Faith. In the middle of things, a little boy wandered up on stage and walked over the pope. (See some awesome gifs of the whole exchange via Buzzfeed HERE). Rather than shoo the tyke away, Papa Frank – BECAUSE HE’S SO FRIGGIN’ AWESOME – just let the kid do his thing, eventually inviting him to take a seat in the papal chair when the pontiff had to get up to greet grown-up dignitaries.

Here are a couple of photos of the encounter (take a moment to pray for strength so you don’t crumple from the overwhelming cuteness):

via Osservatore Romano / Reuters
via Osservatore Romano / Reuters
AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino
AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino
via Osservatore Romano / Reuters
via Osservatore Romano / Reuters
via Osservatore Romano / Reuters
via Osservatore Romano / Reuters