(American Prospect) -- The philosopher Michael Walzer argues that a passionate approach to politics is always risky, but its hazards “cannot be avoided altogether, unless one gives up the hope for great achievements.” This quest for greatness ends, he adds, “when conviction and passion, reason and enthusiasm, are radically split and when this dichotomy is locked onto the dichotomy of the holding center and the chaos of dissolution.”
Whether or not Pope Francis has read Walzer, this passage offers a key to the success of his papacy and to the astonishing popularity he enjoys around the globe. The pope is not conflicted: His convictions are harnessed to a powerful passion for a merciful God, and he reasons his way to an infectious enthusiasm for life, love, and justice.
But even more important is his rejection of fear—fear that modernity has called forth an onslaught of secularism that threatens to undermine Christianity’s cultural and social role, and fear that Catholicism itself is endangered by these larger forces that might have worked their way into the Church in the name of reform. Francis emphatically does not worry too much about the center failing to hold. He does not court chaos, but he certainly believes in the saving power of surprise.
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