Everyone and his brother (not to mention sister, mother and distant cousin) has an opinion about the pope. These opinions are usually based in an inaccurate media image and fairly ignorant. So ...
Just Mind Your Own Business!
A point of constant annoyance to me has been that so many people who have a strong opinion of the pope are not Catholic, do not intend to become Catholic and really couldn't care less about what the Catholic Church teaches.
My first reaction was this; if you're not Catholic, not going to become Catholic, and not about to start following the teachings of the pope, what on earth makes you think you're entitled to an opinion? It's unlikely that I would hold any opinion one way or another of the priests, pastors, gurus, television personalities, shamans, guides or leaders of your religion.
Or, on the other hand, why waste your time? Why not spend your time reading up on someone who offers teachings you may choose to believe? There are, after all, so many religious leaders out there that you could probably find one you like and just leave us Catholics to opine about our pope; we have enough extremes within the Catholic Church, and we don't really need to add more to the mix.
But Wait, It Probably is Your Business!
Then I thought about my reaction a little more. Is it only really Catholics who have a right to an opinion about the pope? Or do we even have special right that our opinion somehow counts for more?
Let's think about what Catholics claim about his position:
He is Christ's vicar on earth. A vicar is a representative or deputy, someone who has been left in charge with due authority.
This means not only that as "supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful," he "has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church," but also that he has "supreme, full, immediate, and universal power in the care of souls."
If you are a Christian - you are a follower of Christ - we believe that the pope has "full, supreme and universal power over" you as a part of the Church and is your supreme teacher.
Whether you are a follower of Christ or not, we believe that the pope has
"supreme, full, immediate, and universal power in the care of" your soul.
These are pretty bold statements; we don't put any condition on them such as "if you call yourself Catholic," etc. or even soften them with words like "we consider." We aren't really offering an option.
So, if I am correct about this, it seems that whether I like it or not, you are probably entitled to an opinion about the man that holds such a position.
(Now, I hope that if you hold an opinion about Pope Francis, whether you are Catholic or not, whether you would ever join the Catholic Church or not, that you would take the time to read what he says and writes more in depth and more carefully than the sloppy media representations. They are worthwhile teachings that I believe could help anyone.)
(By the way, Happy Feast of Saint Stephen, the first martyr.)