Esquire‘s Joe Keohane spoke with the American Humanist Association’s Executive Director Roy Speckhardt to ask him what’s up with Pope Francis lately, what with him being all nice and tolerant and inclusive toward atheists:
In a column you wrote for the Huffington Post in February, after Benedict resigned, you proposed an ideal pope — one who emphasizes universality and good works — figuring a guy like that would never get the job. But then he sort of did, right?
I continue to be pleased with what Francis is talking about and his openness — despite papal authorities’ attempts to retract his statements [laughs]. He’s offering very universal ideas — not closing the door and saying you have to be a Catholic in order for good things to happen. This is the kind of world leader that we need in a position of power that the pope has if we want hope for a more universal community.
What would you want him to do next?
Well, frankly the issue of contraception is a big one. I understand that the church isn’t likely to reconsider its position on matters like abortion, but there is just no reasonable group in society that thinks that you should avoid contraception in a world where overpopulation is rampant and disease can spread without protection. It’s just — the idea that sex is only for making more babies, and not for enjoyment and part of a healthy lifestyle, is just so backwards. It’s time for the church to revisit that. It would make the church stronger if it did.
The interviews great all the way through. Speckhardt’s comments reflect my own views — Pope Francis has done a stellar job so far of marketing the Catholic Church to people who had nothing good to say about it, reaching out through his rhetoric to atheists, gays and lesbians, and the poor, but he still has ways to go when it comes to dealing with the Church’s biggest social problems, including sexual abuse, attitude towards women, and contraception.
Oddly enough, Francis’ Catholicism may be his biggest liability when it comes to saying and doing even more incredible things.