In Their Own Words: Pope Francis
Directed by Marianne Kushmaniuk
PBS, first broadcast July 20th, 2021, 53 minutes
I saw this documentary mentioned in an internet article and streamed it a couple of days after its broadcast premier.
This particular PBS “In Their Own Words” series installment follows the life of Jorge Bergoglio from his childhood in Argentina to his election and current tenure as pope Francis. Bergoglio is presented as a progressive reformer leading multiple crusades on behalf of the poor, refugees, homosexuals, women, and the environment. Those interviewed include Anne Thompson (NBC News correspondent), Austen Ivereigh (Bergoglio biographer), and Mario J. Paredes (Director, American Bible Society). It’s a bit strange that Francis himself isn’t interviewed in a series titled “In Their Own Words.” Instead, quotes from Bergoglio are frequently plastered on the screen as if scriptural.
This is more of a propaganda piece than a documentary. I could not imagine a biographical documentary being more flattering than “In Their Own Words: Pope Francis.” It defines the term, “puff piece.” In summing up Francis’ papacy, reporter Anne Thompson gushingly proclaims, “He has brought the Catholic church to the basic message of Jesus.” The only Francis misstep that’s mentioned is the pope’s clumsy 2018 mishandling of clerical sexual abuse cover-up by bishop Juan Barros Madrid of Colombia. There is hardly any acknowledgement of the significant opposition to Francis and his reforms by conservative and traditionalist Catholic clerics and laity. Neither Francis or his conservative Catholic foes teach the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.
Francis has strategically and pragmatically “elevated” the papacy from that of conservator of Roman Catholic doctrine and tradition to crusader for every politically-progressive cause imaginable. In response, the world loves Bergoglio. If a catastrophe were to overtake the planet, people would turn en masse to the pope for solace and guidance. That’s significant, folks, and it didn’t just happen by chance.
If you must, you can catch this puff piece at PBS’s website until August 17 (see here). I recommend you use those 53 minutes for something more productive.