The College of Cardinals has chosen a new Pope and the big winner is Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina. He has chosen the name Pope Francis. The first non-European Pope, he's known as an advocate for the poor and disadvantaged. Unless, of course, you're an LGBT person.
In a letter sent to monasteries in Buenos Aires about Argentina's now-approved marriage equality legislation, Bergoglio wrote: "Let's not be naive, we're not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God."
The new Pope is known for being a member of the more conservative faction of the Church - as was Pope Benedict. This isn't surprising since most of the Cardinals were chosen by the previous two conservative pontiffs. Despite my resignation to the idea that the new Pope would continue the church's 15th century stances on social issues, this saddens me more than I expected.
I'm not a Catholic but, like many worldwide, I tend to think of the Pope as a supposed holy man. Realizing that man is always fallible, I categorize the Pope beside other leaders like Mahatma Gandhi or Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King Jr - mostly non-political leaders for the forces of good. As I've grown older and older, I've begun to grasp that the political negotiations that always surround any spiritual movement may be more discreet, but it is always a struggle that exists. Gandhi fought for India's independence from England. MLK fought (and worked within) the American system of laws. And the Pope has to negotiate internal church politics while also juggling governmental and institutional pulls from outside of the Holy See.
So I wonder how much of this pick is simply internal politics. Who can handle the cleanup of all the recent scandals? Who's face and mannerisms will inspire the right emotions in followers? Who has the right background to seem like a force for change combined with the necessary historical knowledge and management capabilities to run the Vatican? How many of the votes have come from years of promises and whispered loyalties?
I wanted the same qualities in the new Pope that I wanted from President Obama. I want an advocate for the poor, the disadvantaged, the outcasts, and the unloved. Just as I was disappointed when the political reality came crashing back in after Obama's election, I can already feel my hope ebbing for the new Pope. As with any politician, the more things change, the more they stay the same.