"Is the pope Catholic?" is a popular rhetorical question since the pope is the head of the (Roman) Catholic Church. But Pope Francis has sparked such a firestorm of controversy with some recent comments that popular media looking for a "story" as well as some conservative Christian commentators, especially in the United States, have begun to ask, "Is the pope Catholic?"

Even some of the new pope's supporters have dared to say that "Francis should shut up" — not the kind of comment popes are used to hearing. Such critics are profoundly wrong. Indeed, the hope and the joy and the love of Francis is that he is both Catholic and catholic, using the lower-case word in its definition meaning "universal," not in the narrow sense of the Catholic Church and adherence to its doctrines.

Asked to define himself, the pope immediately responded: "I am a sinner. This is the most accurate description. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner. ... I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon."