Today I read several comments from people concerned that they "couldn't tell what side the pope is on." Because he doesn't click with their application or interpretation of how they live out their Catholic faith, he's a heretic who wants to destroy the Church from the inside...or something.
Even worse, it goes beyond questioning. Some outright call the Holy Father a heretic; some outright accuse him of abandoning orthodox principles; some outright gossip about him "liking attention too much" or "needing people to like him."
Without exaggerating in the least, this behavior from Catholics is disgusting.
Not only is Pope Francis a human being and therefore inherently owed a certain level of respect and reverence as being created in the Image of God, he is the Vicar of Christ on earth. He is permanently marked and set aside for Christ in a unique way as a priest, and he is owed due honor and respect from the entire Catholic faithful as the successor of St. Peter. This respect and reverence is due Pope Francis in a special way not because of who he is, necessarily, but Who he represents; and by the grace of his reception of Holy Orders, Who he represents is eternally knit into the fabric of who he is.
And if anyone doubts that Pope Francis is the representative of Christ on earth in a unique and special way, simply pay heed to his behavior and the responses it gets. He is a man of character, compassion, and orthodoxy, who understands that the Person of Jesus Christ is what is central to the law and not the other way around. He meets and eats with sinners, he identifies with the downtrodden, he is a beacon of hope and a voice crying out for repentance and mercy.
And people hate his behavior. He is kind, so they aren't sure if he's faithful. He is generous and unassuming, so they aren't sure if he's Catholic.
Does this remind you of anyone? Has anyone else in all of human history been met with hostility and disdain for being compassionate and identifying with the outcasts of society and those who are seen more as political issues more than human beings? The Pope is truly the Vicar of Christ on earth.
So go ahead, if you like. Run to the law to crucify his character in spite of his never having advocated for its abandonment. Openly criticize this man carefully chosen for this time in history who is bringing life back into the Church. Mock his personality. Strip away his reputation and spit in the face of all the good work he's done.
I only ask that you remember Whose he is, Who he serves, and the Man he represents as you do it.