Those who thought Pope Francis was going to be a “a jolly, badly-dressed, Gaia-worshipping baby-boomer from 1972 received a severe jolt of reality today”, says Sam Gregg, Acton’s Director of Research. In today’s National Review Online, Gregg is quick to clear up any thoughts of the new pope being a relativist or pop culture phenom. While Pope Francis has made it clear from the very beginning of his pontificate that he wishes to draw attention to the poor, he’s not simply concerned with money matters:

Pope Francis underscored the point when he revealed that one of the reasons he chose his name was to draw attention to the deep spiritual poverty that he sees as characterizing the West. Poverty, Pope Francis reminded the assembled diplomats, goes beyond the material dimension. That of course is a classic Christian insight. In the sight of God, everyone — whatever their economic class, sex, or skin color — is inadequate and needy. And the spiritual poverty which Francis especially has in mind has a name: It’s called moral relativism and skepticism.

Gregg points out that the pope’s words draw on natural law, “the truth to which he refers is written into the very nature of all human beings.” On this basis, Francis calls out for renewal of dialogue between Christians, non-Christians and non-believers.

Francis’s point is that establishing better relations can’t be just about short-term accommodations that try to paper over deep differences of view with lots of diversity talk. Nor can we be content with establishing skepticism about truth claims as the only acceptable context for discussion. We need to be willing to argue about our differences, and to do so on grounds acceptable to all. And that means we must engage in the even more difficult preliminary work of establishing just what those grounds are.

Read “Pope Francis and the Return of Natural Law” at National Review Online.