These are exciting times for the Roman Catholic Church. Maybe you’re not a Catholic, or even a believer in God, so why is this important? Because there are 1.2 billion Catholics in the world, making it one of the most influential cultural-social-religious groups out there. The direction of the RC Church has an impact on everyone, like it or not.

As the head of the RC Church, the pope is more that just a figurehead: he represents the center of gravity in the church, what the church is creating for itself, just as the US President shows us what Americans are focused on. Whether we agree with that direction or not – in the US or the Vatican – we are affected by the choices these presentative leaders make.

Pope John Paul II started out as a relatively liberal leader, following on from Vatican II and its intention to bring the Papacy and the Church up to date. Unfortunately, he stayed stuck in a Cold War mentality made worse by the natural hardening that comes with age. With his long reign, John Paul II appointed most of the cardinals who then elevated rigid Cardinal Ratzinger to the papacy. Pope Benedict XII added to the pool of conservative cardinals who then selected Francis. In a way, this was not a surprise, because the Cardinal of Buenos Aires is a man of experience with the Curia (the bureaucrats who run the Vatican), in good odor with his fellow cardinals, and about the right age to have a reign of reasonable length. No one wanted another elderly pope who would force a succession crisis any time soon.

It’s important to see this election from a larger perspective. Yes, the pope will have to deal with issues of clerical celibacy, the ordination of women, and the position of homosexuals in the Church. Above all, Francis will have to acknowledge and deal with the widespread sexual abuse by priests that the Church has been evading for 40 years. And yet, great though these concerns may be to us, they are primarily ‘first world’ issues that are almost completely irrelevent to vast portions of participants in the Catholic Church.

Now, in sociological terms, the Church is solidly at level 4 ‘rules and roles’: that is, it runs on hierarchies rather than the individualism of scientific rationality (level 5) or progressive networks (level 6). It is impossible for anyone to rise to the top without climbing the rungs and showing respect for the core principles and the hierarchy itself. So any pope is going to be on the conservative side compared to the world outside the church. And yet, within the Church there are different strands and flavors, and we are already seeing how differently Francis approaches his job and his world.

The surprising part – the part that really shows what the Church as a whole is concerned with – is that Francis is not Italian, not based in Europe, and not overly concerned with pomp and position. Espcially in contrast to Benedict, Francis leads from simplicity, prefering to take the bus rather than a limo, to live in an apartment rather than the episcopal palace, and to talk with ordinary people as well as his peers in the Church hierarchy. He has already started to address the sexual abuse scandal, and recently announced the formation of a council of non-Italian cardinals to advise him on reforming the Vatican – including the Curia and the Vatican bank. He continues to set the example of simplicity and compassion that made him remarkable as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Francis has even – in his first forty days – reaffirmed the central role of women in Christianity and the Church.

It’s impossible to predict where the papacy will go from here, and that is itself a refreshing change from the Cold War attitudes of John Paul II, and the formality of Benedict. After a lifetime in the Church, the new pope is Catholic to his bones, and yet because of this unique combination of orthodoxy and liberation, perhaps he is the right bridge to bring the whole Church across the abyss of alienation and into – or back to – the dynamic faith it held before it put Catholicism in front of the true and living God. Perhaps Francis is a maverick when it comes to Catholicism; at the same time, yet when it comes to the true, original definition of ‘universal’ and all-inclusive, I am cautiously optimistic that this Pope is Catholic indeed!

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Kyre Adept is a certified Geotran human programmer and integration coach, offering spiritual and energetic detox to bring your passion back to life. Her practice ART of Integration is based in Santa Barbara; she helps high-flyers all over the world to create their rich, delicious lives. Find out how human reprogramming can help you soar! Sign up now for your FREE strategy session at