What difference does the Pope make?
I ask this, not as someone who wishes to minimise the Pope and declare the office to be irrelevant. I ask for other reasons.
We hear about the Pope constantly. We are bombarded with incessant feed about what the Pope said today, and yesterday, with people interpreting and spinning his every word and action. He seems to have become the Church itself. Some people threatened to leave the Church when Benedict was in charge, while others said they came into the Church because of him. Now we have Francis, and some say they are ready to leave if he does one more thing like whatever it was he did last while others say they are coming back because of him.
It was not always thus. When I was a child the Pope lived in Rome. He hardly ever travelled. We heard from him rarely, Somehow, we soldiered on.
I understand the concern about much that is happening in the world, but, really, how much of a difference can we make to most of it? When the Pope or some high ranking prelate says this or does that, how does that change our experience of the faith? How does it change the burdens we bear and the truths we believe? If we have a good Pope, or a bad one, or a good bishop, or a bad one, does it in any way change our obligation to live our lives as best we can. according to the truths as we best understand them? Even with a bad shepherd, we are still required to be good sheep. The burden will weigh heavily on those that lead the sheep astray, but the sheep still have a responsibility to not be lead astray.
As I said, the Pope is important. I am not trying to blow off his importance. But, at the same time, most of what I do as a Catholic has little to do with the Pope. Sometimes a Pope helps with the burdens that come from being Catholic. Sometimes he makes them heavier. But one way or another, I am still responsible for those burdens. I do not understand why so many people who profess to believe in the truth of the Church gear themselves up to leave it because they don't like this man or that man sitting in the office. Pope's change, Christ and His Church remains. We have been promised that we will be protected from error. Catholics on both sides should act like they believe it.