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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

WASHINGTON — Christianity has often been used over the centuries to prop up the powerful. But from the beginning, the Christian message has been subversive of political systems, judgmental toward those at the top, and demanding of all who take it seriously.

Pope Francis has surprised the world because he embraces the Christian calling to destabilize and to challenge. As the first leader of the Catholic Church from the Southern Hemisphere, he is especially mindful of the ways in which unregulated capitalism has failed the poor and left them “waiting.”

His apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,” is drawing wide and deserved attention for its denunciation of “trickle-down” economics as a system that “expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.” It’s a view that “has never been confirmed by the facts” and has created “a globalization of indifference.” Will conservatives among American Catholics who have long championed tax cutting for the wealthy acknowledge the moral conundrum that Francis has put before them?

But American liberals and conservatives alike might be discomfited by the pope’s criticism of “the individualism of our postmodern and globalized era,” since each side defends its own favorite forms of individualism. Francis mourns “a vacuum left by secularist rationalism,” not a phrase that will sit well with all on the left.

And in light of the obsessive shopping on Cyber Monday and Black Friday, here is a pope who paints consumerism in the darkest of hues. “We are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase,” he writes. “In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.”

Yet this critic of our age refuses to be gloomy, scolding “querulous and disillusioned pessimists” whom he labels “sourpusses.” I like a pope who takes a stand against sourpusses.

Francis makes many liberals swoon without, in a conventional sense, being a liberal. He has also split American conservatives between those trying to hold fast to him and those who know that he is, from their perspective, up to something dangerous.

All sides realize where the energy of Francis’ pontificate lies. He’s not the first pope to denounce our unjust economic system. Pope John Paul II regularly decried “imperialistic monopoly” and “luxurious egoism.” Pope Benedict XVI condemned “corruption and illegality” in “the conduct of the economic and political class in rich countries” while speaking approvingly of “the redistribution of wealth.”

The difference is that a concern for the poor and a condemnation of economic injustice are at the very heart of Francis’ mission. “In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits,” he writes, “whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.” Can you imagine an American liberal who would dare say such things?

  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    It does seem that Wojtyla and Ratzinger spent more time talking the talk than walking the walk. Borgoglio walks the walk as he has done for almost 40 years.

  • 788eddie

    I’m greatly anticipating reading about just how the Republican Spin-meisters will handle this one.

  • Bill Thompson

    Where do I start as a person that is repulsed by organize religion because of its hypocrisy, pope Francis is a breath of fresh air. But in reality all he is done is put in words what is obvious to anybody that sees things with a clear mind. The staunch conservative Catholics that I know have steam pouring out their ears at this very moment.( My wife is one of 15). The infallible one has said things that goes against everything that they have been taught their whole life but dare not say he is wrong. These are the same people that flock to the churches on Sunday and go to work and screw their neighbor on Monday. As for abortion, gays, traditional marriage goes they’ve been told to back off on their rhetoric, how can they? They are told to love the poor lazy slob that don’t work as hard as they do, that’s not right. Share my money, that’s robbery, how could anyone ask me to do that? In reality Pope Francis has only asked people to be a little less judgmental. The doctrine remains the same. In the end religion is religion money is money and people have been crucified for trying to Point out that they be used for the good of all. Pope Francis also realizes the church is at a crossroads there is a younger generation coming up that will not be as tolerant of hateful rhetoric. He sees the decline of the parishioners and the people that want to become priests and nuns and realizes it is time for some sort of change. Next week the people will flock to church and thank God for the big bank accounts. In the end I don’t think much will change.


    • highpckts

      Amen! After all the Pope is in Italy and we are here! I can hear them now! It’s different here! We always take care of our own! Nothing will change!

    • rustacus21

      … which was/IS the reason for the ‘invention’ of ‘secular’, Liberal/Progressive civil society. This is truly the purpose of our Constitution & the Bill of Rights (as articulated in the VERY Liberal/Progressive ‘Declaration of Independence & ‘Federalist Papers’, respectively), mandating NO institutionalization of religion. We’ve gotten everything so twisted, we don’t know how to separate ‘religious’ from ‘secular’, ‘Democracy’ from ‘capitalism’ nor ‘liberties’ from ‘tyranny’ anymore. But the fault, my dear fellow American, lies w/in each of us lacking the fortitude & intelligence to justly, rationally distinguish between them all…

  • howa4x

    We need to see how far his message trickles down into the American bishops before making a judgment

  • Buford2k11

    Pope Frank will be hard pressed to change anything…It’s kinda like trying to push an elephant up a steep hill, it takes time and patience, and every once in a while the elephant shits on your head…

  • Allan Richardson

    If women were not told by religious leaders (Catholic AND others) that sex before or outside of marriage is a sin FOR THEM but not for the men; that ALL attempts, even by happily married couples, to limit family size (except “Vatican roulette” AKA “rhythm”) while enjoying sex together, are sinful, that a woman who makes a mistake trusting a man who ought not to be trusted, MUST raise that baby herself, BUT cannot expect any help from the community, while she is condemned for the rest of her life, that rape by a stranger OR an acquaintance, even committed while the victim is violently threatened, unconscious due to drugs, or too young to give legal consent, puts the moral shame AND the consequences on the VICTIM while the perpetrator is not even arrested:

    they would not push so hard to remove LEGAL restrictions against an early abortion (before there is even a human brain with feelings) as they do. Abortion should not be SOUGHT except for extreme hardship, and in most cases it is not sought for trivial reasons, but the DECISION as to what is extreme should be in the hands of the woman who suffers the results of that decision, not in the hands of politicians and the uncaring text of a law, EXECPT when the fetus is farther along on the path to humanity.

    My problem is not with Catholics believing Catholic teaching; it is with Catholics and others making Catholic teaching binding, by force of law, on non-Catholics. The principle is the same as in opposition to Sharia: modeling civil law on the religious views of a segment of the population, even a large majority, is inconsistent with the founding of the US as a “secular” government, emphasized by the First Amendment.

    Therefore, I have no problem with this Pope, who at least wants to give some power to women who are victims of the capitalist system (and their children) to get help in facing the results of their choices. And he also points out that capitalism, while not wholly evil as Marxists claim, is not totally benign, UNLESS combined with reasonable restrictions enacted by a democratic government, to provide relief for its unintended collateral victims.

    • highpckts

      Right on!!

  • Defend Liberty

    After confusing liberty with power, collectivists can appeal to “liberty” to plunder in the name of vague illusions such as “fair share”.

  • Liberalism is Nonsense

    Marxism failed, in part, because it deprived natural human aggression of an outlet toward the internal channel of private property.

    • rustacus21

      … making conservatism… what?! In fact, what were the accomplishments of conservative ‘theology’ of the Nixon era? Reagan? Bush & bush? What benefits have the WHOLE of our nation (similar to that realized & ACHIEVED as during the 1993-2000 time frame) garnered in fact, in just the latest conservative capitalistic ‘stunts’ (of 2001 to current), where deregulation replaced law & order, unleashing savagely aggressive & protectionist-style ‘competition’, where only the rich & connected had/have access? Speak up loudly enough so we can understand exactly what U mean, in advancing the virtues of ‘aggression’ & unleashing ‘deprived’ & ‘natural’ ambitions of garnering ‘private’ (cash, commodities, land, ‘stuff’, etc.) property(s)…

      • Liberalism is Nonsense

        Well, if Floyd Corkins, Chris Dorner, Ed Schultz, Troy Gilmore Jr., Alan Grayson, John Muhammed, Hussein Obama, Lee Boyd Malvo, Demetrius Glenn, Lakim Faust, Allan Brauer, John Van Allen, Michael Davis, and Aaron Alexis are any indication, today’s liberals are becoming increasingly unhinged, violent, and aggressive.

  • Elliot J. Stamler

    Can you imagine how the ultra-reactionary Catholic super-conservatives are biting their forked tongues to hold back their fury at the pope? I imagine Pat Buchanan is beside himself in bitterness and loathing. Protestant right-wing nuts like Limbaugh and Palin have already fired mild broadsides but they’re unwilling to go all the way and really lambaste the pope. Limbaugh the obese thrice-divorced, drug-addicted dope addict says that the poor dumb pope is mouthing Marxism written for him by unidentified Marxists in the Vatican curia. Yeah, the secret communist cardinals—and who knew????

  • Thomas Aquinas

    With moral legal principles as the basis for general rules of law that minimize coercion, government actions become more predictable.

  • Igor Shafarevich

    If those who worship at collectivism’s altar were not selfish, they would not defend the superstitions, illusions, and utopian fantasies conjured up to justify collectivism and the plunder upon which it depends.

  • Liberalism is Nonsense

    Since our minds cannot anticipate their own advance, we must maintain leeway for learning the unforeseeable lessons of future experiences.