Claire Ballor, News Editor
Fr. John Wauck, a communications professor at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, came to the University of Dallas on Friday to give a talk entitled “Church Communication in the Age of Francis.” Wauck’s lecture coincidentally took place just days after the pope’s recent, controversial interview with America magazine.
Since the beginning of his papacy, Pope Francis has distinguished himself from his predecessors with honest and straightforward interviews, which have caused much discussion and debate among Catholics as well as the media.
Many view the pope as a progressive leader moving the Catholic Church in a new direction, while others believe he is simply misinterpreted. Wauck explained the world’s reaction to the pope as a “hunger that has been around since the 1970s – a hunger for a religious figure.”
While Pope Francis’ predecessors led the Church with faith and courage, they did not lead with the same vigor and accessibility that Pope Francis has, explained Wauck.
“Benedict put forth an effort to downplay his papacy, but Pope Francis has let the world get to know him as a person,” said Wauck. “John Paul II was a world historical figure on a grand stage, [and] Benedict was an extraordinary scholar, but Pope Francis is someone … priests around the world can look up to as an applicable role model.”
Pope Francis’ engaging personality and dedication to service has won over the hearts of many.
“We’re in what seems to be a honeymoon in regards to the pope’s relationship with the masses and media,” said Wauck.
This so-called “honeymoon phase,” however, has resulted in the misinterpretation of what the pope has said in interviews on the subjects of contraception and homosexuality, among others.
“I think these misinterpretations are just wishful thinking,” said Wauck.
Many Catholics have responded to the pope’s most recent interview. Some are concerned about what Pope Francis may try to implement in the Church in the future, but others, like Wauck, believe that nothing he has said contradicts long-standing Catholic teachings.
“He is just paraphrasing the Catholic catechism in those interviews,” said Wauck. “He is saying nothing new here.”
As for the pope’s recent remarks on the questions of homosexuality and tolerance within the Church, “the pope is simply saying that you have to heal wounds before you can instruct,” said junior Mary Stone. “Father Wauck’s talk really hit home with this. He said the pope is saying nothing new; [the pope] is simply applying Church teachings to today’s issues. I would not call Pope Francis ‘progressive,’ but he is definitely a pope for our times.”
UD students in attendance took Wauck’s talk as an opportunity to further understand Catholic teaching and the papal stance on controversial issues.
“I really enjoyed the lecture,” said junior Cosette Kulda. “It made me proud to be Catholic.”