If I met the pope

Pope Francis is coming to America next week. It’s a big deal. And it’s got me wondering…what if someone tells him about my blog, and all the critical things I’ve had to say about the Catholic Church? Because, you know, I’m followed by some pretty heavy hitters in religion and politics.


But what if? What if he asked to meet with me with the intention of winning me back into the fold…into the “one, true church”? What would I do?

Well, I know some things I wouldn’t do. I wouldn’t genuflect or kiss his ring. I wouldn’t call him Your Holiness or Holy Father. I wonder how he’d take that? He’d probably be okay with it. I would treat him with honor and respect as a fellow human being and one with great influence and responsibility. And then, because my brain goes into sleep mode whenever I’m nervous, and meeting anyone important makes me nervous, I would refer him to my series on why I left the Catholic Church and politely make my apologies and leave.

And I would wash the hand that shook his.

While most Catholics revere the pope as Christ’s representative on earth, I frankly see him as a usurper…as one who has assumed a position and authority that rightly belong only to God. Jesus Christ is the cornerstone, foundation, and head of his church. The Roman Catholic Church’s insistence that Christ meant to establish a continuing, visible, human authority over all his church is nowhere supported in Scripture and effectively denies Jesus’ promise that he will be with us to the end of the age, or that he is able to govern and direct his church though he is no longer here bodily.

As I talked about here, God saw the Israelites desire for an earthly king as a rejection of his own kingship. holy-spirit-doveSimilarly, the Catholic Church’s eventual establishment of an earthly primate is a usurpation of Jesus’ sovereign and exclusive role as the head of his body, the church, in the person of his Holy Spirit.

The incredible reality of Jesus’ continued presence on earth in the third person of the Trinity, indwelling each and every true believer, is disregarded, misunderstood, or ignored by many Christians. It’s a New Covenant truth largely lost on many in a church enmeshed in a materialistic culture increasingly resistant and hostile to belief in the immaterial and supernatural. But if God by his Spirit truly lives in each member of his Body, as his word says…

Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. – John 7:39

even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. – John 14:17

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. – Romans 8:9

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. – 1 Corinthians 2:12

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? – 1 Corinthians 3:16

and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. – 2  Corinthians 1:22

Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. – 1 John 3:24

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. – John 14:23

…then it stands to reason that he is active in leading his church and no visible head is necessary.

Pope Francis may be a warm, likable fellow but I see him as a usurper nonetheless. And if I met him perhaps the Holy Spirit would give me the courage to tell him so. But in the battle between the Spirit and the flesh, I have a feeling my nervous flesh would probably win out.