What a shiner! Jake LaMotta himself might have been proud of the black eye Pope Francis was sporting at the end of his visit to Colombia in early September. The pope had banged his head on the popemobile’s plexiglass shielding when his driver stopped short. “I got bashed,” Francis told reporters, but he proceeded with his normal schedule, bloodstained cassock and all. It made for quite a visual in the following days. It also provided a powerful metaphor for Pope Francis’ ecclesial and personal style.
The pope and his retinue made no attempt to cover up the accident or its evidence, in sharp contrast to the secrecy of some previous pontificates, when even life-threatening illnesses were covered up for years. Francis has demanded greater transparency on questions beyond health. The 2014-15 Synods on the Family showed an extraordinary degree of openness compared to its predecessors; so, too, did Francis open the 2015 consistory of 150 Catholic cardinals to discuss reform of the Vatican bureaucracy by asking for “absolute transparency that builds authentic synodality and collegiality.”
Pope Francis' black eye provided a powerful metaphor for his ecclesial and personal style.
It’s safe to say that transparency has not always been a hallmark of Vatican operations, and no doubt reforms in this area are halting and slow. But they are happening, even at the cost of exposing the flaws of the institution to the world.
This seems to be the church Francis wants—a little bruised, a little bloodied, and the better for both.