Star Trek and the Church: Part 3

How is Pope Francis like Captain Picard? Read Part 2 for the answer!



Is Pope Francis a few pips short of Starfleet captaincy? Well, he is not the perfect personification of Star Trek, and arguably he should not be. The Church has different goals to those of the United Federation of Planets. While the pope’s approach to the world has been friendlier than that of some of his predecessors, his ship is the Barque of St. Peter, not the Starship Enterprise. One can understand his duty to preserve the Deposit of Faith just as he received it, even if its claims do not always prove to be true. (In similar fashion, Picard generally upheld the Prime Directive.) And in order to avoid the very real possibility of schism perhaps he feels he must do his best to please everyone, including the most tradition-bound elements in the Church.

So how exactly has Pope Francis not mirrored Star Trek? For starters, he has been inconsistent in his commitment to equality, especially as it pertains to LGBTQI+ people and women. He has also articulated a bizarre misunderstanding of gender identity, one that doesn’t match what science tells us about the actual complexity of gender. I cannot imagine Captain Picard giving the same didactic speech to members of a culture that exists outside the bounds of his personal norms, nor can I imagine him resisting the latest discoveries of science. To be fair the pope would be the first person to call himself flawed. Still, he’s closer to Picard than Gul Madred, if you know what I’m sayin’.

And there is at least one respect in which Pope Francis is better than Captain Picard — he is better at welcoming children to his side and praising their contributions than the good captain of the Enterprise!

The pope has, despite his personal limitations and those imposed on him by his office, been a catalyst for church-wide progress toward greater dialogue and encounter. These are Star Trek goals if ever there were any. If the institutional church continues to follow this line of progress there is no telling how much friendlier and inclusive — and more Star Trek-y — it will become.

Why blog about Star Trek? Check out Part 4 as I get to “the point”!