LET’S START TALKING ABOUT THE POPE’S WORDS ON
THE GOSPEL, THE MARKET, AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE
If you’ve felt confused about our new Pope and his motivations, there’s at least one explanation circulating among the conspiracy-minded which might settle the question for you. According to the blog, Prophecy in the Making, Francis is merely a tool of the Illuminati, the worldwide cabal that secretly runs everything…
“So, have you started to wonder why Time Magazine, an Illuminati-backed, funded and controlled publication is so in love with Francis? [The reference is to Time’s naming Francis its Person of the Year.]
“It is clear that the Masonic/Illuminati have an agenda they wish to pursue with Francis as the head.”
Prophecy in the Making then dips into prophecy already made, quoting the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, who in his 1948 book, Communism and the Conscience of the West, described how the Antichrist would represent himself as a “Great Humanitarian”…
“In the midst of all his seeming love for humanity and his glib talk of freedom and equality, he will have one great secret which he will tell to no one: he will not believe in God.”
Well, you can never be sure about these metaphysical things, I’ll admit. But it certainly seems to me that Pope Francis believes in God. And I really don’t think he’s the Antichrist.
However, as I noted in my posts of October 1 and October 23, he is definitely a shoot-from-the-hip kinda guy whose candor prompts a wide range of assumptions. Indeed, observers on both the left and the right are struggling mightily to paint the Pope as being firmly in one camp or the other.
According to Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, International Business Editor of Britain’s Daily Telegraph…
“Liberation Theology is taking over the Vatican a quarter of a century after John Paul II systematically sought to stamp out the ‘singular heresy’ in the radical parishes and dioceses of Latin America, a task carried out with dutiful efficiency by Cardinal Ratzinger at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”
Catholic Online, will have none of that. Confronting Evans-Pritchard’s claim directly, the editors of this online Catholic information service ask…
“Why does Pope Francis seem so radical then? He seems radical for the same reason Jesus appeared so radical. Our age is so saturated with corruption, moral degradation, relativism, and other errors, we have lost the capacity to see clearly when a man of simple Gospel virtue speaks and acts in the manner of the Pope named Francis. In our compromised environment, it is the right, the good and the just that appears so radical.”
Francis persists in wiggling from everybody’s grasp, causing people to wonder if he might not be quite what they thought he was — or what they would prefer him to be. The one thing which can be said definitively about this Pope is that he’s presenting us with a challenge.
In his apostolic letter, Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Francis offered a bold critique of our market-based economic system, drawing attention to the inequalities that exist even in a world where distribution of wealth has never been broader. Clearly he has put the poor out front. And I have no doubt that his call to charity echoes Jesus’ command to help “the least of these.”
But what are the practical implications of this Pope’s demands on people who call themselves faithful (or even on those who just choose to give a damn)? How are we to translate good intentions into realistic, effective actions that — as I asked in my post of July 9 — will actually help the poor to be less poor?
And what is the best level at which particular goals can be accomplished?…
Individual and family action?
Churches and religiously affiliated organizations?
Voluntary membership groups?
Private charities and nonprofit foundations?
Corporations and other business firms?
Counties and states?
The federal government?
I have always recognized the imperative of charity, but I also know that government, at any level, shouldn’t necessarily be considered the actor of first resort. As I wrote in July…
“The issue is not really whether tax money will be spent on the poor. That question is long settled. Remember the Great Society and the War on Poverty [the 50th anniversary of which we’ve just passed]? Rather, the issue is whether the money is being used in ways that actually help the poor….
“We’ve created a vast multiplicity of programs that provide all kinds of services, requiring gigantic administrative agencies that generate huge costs, perpetuate and extend themselves, and spur the creation of related supporting bureaucracies.
“Yet large numbers of people — many of whom have received government services over the course of decades (and whole families over generations) — remain poor, with scant prospect of altering their economic condition.”
During 2014, I’ll be revisiting this issue regularly, examining the Pope’s critique of our market-based economy and how people are responding to his call — and exploring the real-world implications of economic principles, policies and programs.
I’d very much appreciate knowing how you feel about Francis’ words, what you think your personal obligations to the poor really are, and what approaches to curing poverty you believe can work.
This blog doesn’t receive very many comments (though I know people are reading it). I’d like to change that and get a vigorous conversation going.
Please don’t assume you have to be Catholic to unburden yourself about the Pope. His unique spiritual vocation aside, Francis is a world figure whose words resonate through all religious confessions and even among people who claim no particular faith. His influence is truly global.
A good starting point in our discussion would be to read — or at least to give a quick scan of — Evangelii Gaudium, the English text of which I’ve linked below. See what you think about the Pope’s observations.
Also, feel free to tag me on anything you object to about my thoughts. I can take criticism, and I appreciate being shown where I’ve gone wrong. After all, I’m just the guy in the next pew, struggling to make sense of life, and trying — at least occasionally — to do the right thing.