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The Pope and Politics

The Pope and Politics

Is he or isn’t he being political?

I’ve noticed that we seem to get the popes that match our times—a harmonic resonance between popes and other public leaders of the day.

That doesn’t mean that popes are overtly political, although there’s really no way for a pope to retreat completely from politics, unless he speaks on ritual matters only and never ventures into more general statements. To paraphrase Madonna (not the Madonna, but Madonna Ciccone), we are living in a political world.

No matter how hard a Pope tries to speak non-politically, politics enters the equation nearly every time he opens his mouth, unless he’s talking Church business. Even then, what he says can have political repercussions.

That said, I think that Pope Francis got somewhat political on his recent visit to the US. As the first pope ever to address an American Congress, what he’s said about politics in the past seems relevant:

“I always was interested in politics,” Pope Francis told a journalist from his native Argentina last year. That interest was developed in childhood…

As a teenager, Jorge Mario Bergoglio would drift between local political party offices as he listened to discussions. He was drawn to being a priest, but felt the tug of a political calling, too.

…In Argentina, they speak of him as the most talented politician since General Juan Perón.

The author of that article, Austen Ivereigh, is a British writer who specializes in the subject of the Catholic Church. He has written a biography of Pope Francis called The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope.

More from Ivereigh:

The idea of organizing society around the autonomy of the sovereign individual repels [Pope Francis]…

…he describes sink-or-swim capitalism — in which the elderly and the unemployed are condemned to poverty — as “an economy that kills.”

…In his address in Bolivia to workers in the informal sector in July, he warned that “once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions…it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another…”

Very few people would recommend elevating capitalism to the status of “an idol.” But isn’t it apparent by now that the greatest amount of “enslaving” that’s been done in the last century in connection with “capital” has been at the hands of governments that want to abolish it, and that have insisted upon “social justice”—of which Francis also sometimes speaks?

It sounds as though Francis is positing some semi-Rousseauvian state of nature in which humans would be exhibiting fraternity, would have an unruined society, and would not be “set against one another,” were it not for the existence of unchecked capitalism. A large part of this vision probably isn’t political but comes from the faith-based idea that “unchecked capitalism” (where does the Pope think that’s operating, anyway?) when curbed should be replaced by religion and the charity that Christianity preaches.

Ivereigh writes about something that may shed some light on why the Pope visited Cuba during his trip:

Francis does have a distinctive political outlook, one that is shaped by his experience as a Latin American Catholic nationalist whose thinking matured in the 1960s…

“Cuba vs. US” was the Manichean choice of the time and has poisoned Latin American politics since, but the Jesuit Jorge Mario Bergoglio rejected this polarity. He was a Peronist: anti-colonial, pro-worker, offering a “third way” between capitalism and communism that was true to Latin America’s Christian-humanist traditions…

While in Cuba, Pope Francis has been helping to build a pluralistic Cuba resting on nationalist-Christian foundations. In a 1998 book reflecting on Pope John Paul II’s visit to the island, [Francis] wrote that neither “neoliberalism” nor “communism” reflected what he called “the soul of the Cuban people,” a phrase he used in his speech arriving at Havana airport on Saturday. A new politics has to be forged in Cuba, one that takes the original national-popular ambitions of the Revolution and combines them with a social democracy that cares for the vulnerable.

In other words, it appears as though he wants a kinder, gentler Cuban revolution. Good luck with that; the history of socialism is very poor on that score, to say the least. It’s been pretty lousy in the economic sense, too.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]


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“You are priests, not social or political leaders. Let us not be under the illusion that we are serving the Gospel through an exaggerated interest in the wide field of temporal problems.” — Pope John Paul II

Well of course he is being political. Lets not forget that the Vatican is its own sovereign nation, the smallest in the world if memory serves, and the Pope is roughly equivalent to its President. So why would anyone ever expect him to not be a politician.

Also, remember that this Pope chose to live and work in a socialist country and loved it there. If you don’t think he was involved in the politics of Argentina well then I have a nice bridge I’d like the see you.

He seems to be trying to take the stance of pleasing everyone and not really taking a stand, which would be fine for the average politician, however, since people expect the Popes politics to be informed by strict church doctrine the please everyone approach is not really in line with that.

    cantor4massat4 in reply to Gremlin1974. | September 30, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    He’s taken a “stand” on global warming and redistributing wealth for starters. I’m Catholic but I just haven’t warmed up to yet. I don’t like to see his coziness with Castro and Raul either.

    NC Mountain Girl in reply to Gremlin1974. | September 30, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    Pope Francis didn’t chose to live in Argentina. He as born there. Just as he predecessors experienced Nazism and, in PK II case, Commumism, in Argentina Francis experienced that nations de facto system of a corporatist oligarchy intermixed with Peron’s corrupt version of populism.

    Note too that priests take vows of obedience. Frances served where he was sent to serve, first by the Jesuit order, which at one point exiled him to a backwater. He was given a reprieve from that exile when Pope JPII made him Bishop, After that he went where the Vatican sent him. Priest go where the are told to go.

      cantor4massat4 in reply to NC Mountain Girl. | September 30, 2015 at 3:12 pm

      So why is Francis into redistribution of wealth? John Paul was against communism.

      Gremlin1974 in reply to NC Mountain Girl. | September 30, 2015 at 8:02 pm

      I made those statements not because he lived in Argentina, but because of things I have read that he wrote during his career.

      Also, while yes Priests do go where they are sent, at a certain level as with any hierarchical system he would have gained the ability to have major sway in where he was sent.

“In other words, it appears as though he wants a kinder, gentler Cuban revolution.”

Yeh. The myth of a “third way”. See Party, Coffee.

There’s no gradient for any change in Cuber. The Castros and their myrmidons have been given the Obamic Good Housekeeping Seal of approval. They will get many millions of dollars out of the lifting of sanctions, and the Cuban people will get crap.

There are two ways; liberty and tyranny. Cuba will follow tyranny for the foreseeable future, and Obama and Francis have set that in stone.

Pope John Paul II had firsthand experience with Communism and rejected it.

Pope Francis would see everyone experience Communism firsthand.

NC Mountain Girl | September 30, 2015 at 2:52 pm

Popes are not politicians, though they have to have political skills in order to do the job. They practice a value system that predates all modern theories of governance by centuries and which transcends politics.

They don’t speak in soundbites, either. Nor are they obsessed with keeping score in the current election cycle and they certainly are not relativists. For that reason most of the time the media coverage of any pope gets most things wrong.

The closest secular analogy I can thinks of on how Popes are misrepresented is how in the later days of the Soviet Union the media proclaimed each succeeding octogenarian leader a westernized reformer. Thus despite their decades as apparatchiks.

For that reason, I advise people to read every public statement any Pope makes in full before they rush to judgment. They may be surprised when they do so. Francis’s views on the environment are not about saving snail darters or spotted owls. He wants to save us from the perils of rampant consumerism and its corollary, transient celebrity culture.

    American Human in reply to NC Mountain Girl. | September 30, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    Mountain Girl, please I mean no disrespect, but as the leader and spiritual guide and head of the largest Christian Church, shouldn’t he be preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world?
    He cannot save us, or any Catholic regardless of how faithful they are. Preaching to the world that rampant consumerism will be our downfall is false. Our downfall is if we utterly reject the teachings of Christ, not the Pope.

    When he condemns “capitalism,” he isn’t suggesting that people be kinder and more generous to each other. He’s saying that governments out to be controlling economies more heavily than ours already does.

    That is a political position. And it’s a position that’s taken in disregard of facts about the circumstances in which people are more likely to prosper and have human dignity.

    Lecturing us on our immigration policy is also a political position. (Why doesn’t he lecture politicians in non-Western countries that they should be creating societies that millions of people aren’t trying to get out of?)

    He also seems much more concerned about redistributing wealth (by government force) and about his skewed notions of “climate change” than he is about saving the lives of Christians and others who are being slaughtered by the Islamic jihad, or about saving the civilized West from relentless Islamization.

    His silences say as much as his words: He is more political than religious.

I am catholic but I don’t take kindly to a socialist pontiff from Argentina coming to USA and lecturing on matters of politics, national sovereignty, and faux science frauds like global warming. These are all issues upon which the Pope is not qualified to speak, whether by education or experience. He is a hypocrite that lives in a city state that is completely surrounded on all sides with high fortress walls and that city state has the toughest immigration laws in the world. Global warming is not science but a giant financial fraud to many and a pseudo religion to others. The Pope needs to decide which religion he will serve. As a socialist from Argentina the Pope has no understanding of how USA capitalism has been the biggest force for good and charity the world has ever known. He comes to Cuba and meets no prisoners or dissidents and comes to USA and says nothing directly about the sin of abortion and then meets with USA prisoners. He fails to address gay marriage in any meaningful way. Finally he pronounces Islam a beautiful religion of peace. He is by far the worst Pope in my lifetime and when it comes to non religious matters like science and politics and the USA he is an inept fool. I’ll pray that he turns back to religion and leaves science and politics to those who actually know something about it.

I know that millions hold “The Pope” in great esteem and not being a Catholic at all or ever I don’t like to criticize the Pope because I don’t want to disrespect what millions of Christians believe.
However, I have yet to hear this or any Pope declare solemnly to the world that Jesus is the Christ and that through his atoning sacrifice, all mankind can be saved. This includes the very poorest to the very richest.
Does he not say this type of thing anymore?
Wouldn’t his job description tend to include the Savior’s final words to his Apostles to go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every man woman and child. The Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is mighty to save, whose perfect and infinite Atonement allows all men, women, and children everywhere to gain access to the Celestial Kingdom.
Preaching global warming won’t save one single soul.

Meanwhile, Il Papa demands that the most capitalistic countries let in everyone who’s breaking down the doors to get in. Why doesn’t he tell those people that they’ll only find an inhumane system that’s going to enslave them, and they should choose a more collectivist country instead?

“Is he or isn’t he being political?”

LOL, are you serious? He is a Marxist, pure and simple. And he would have you all be his slaves.

Here’s a few paragraphs from the Catechism of the Catholic Church

“There are particular mortal sins that are so evil that they are said to be sins that cry to heaven for vengeance: murder (Gn 4:10), sodomy (Gn 17:20-21), oppression of the poor (Ex 2:23), and defrauding workers of their just wages (Jas 5:4).”

Wage inequality isn’t on the list.

Socialism is renounced and denounced. But then, so is a soulless capitalism.

The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modern times with “communism” or “socialism.” She has likewise refused to accept, in the practice of “capitalism,” individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor. Regulating the economy solely by centralized planning perverts the basis of social bonds; regulating it solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for “there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market.” Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic initiatives, in keeping with a just hierarchy of values and a view to the common good, is to be commended.

Human work proceeds directly from persons created in the image of God and called to prolong the work of creation by subduing the earth, both with and for one another. Hence work is a duty: “If any one will not work, let him not eat.” Work honors the Creator’s gifts and the talents received from him. It can also be redemptive. By enduring the hardship of work in union with Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth and the one crucified on Calvary, man collaborates in a certain fashion with the Son of God in his redemptive work. He shows himself to be a disciple of Christ by carrying the cross, daily, in the work he is called to accomplish. Work can be a means of sanctification and a way of animating earthly realities with the Spirit of Christ.

Those responsible for business enterprises are responsible to society for the economic and ecological effects of their operations. They have an obligation to consider the good of persons and not only the increase of profits. Profits are necessary, however. They make possible the investments that ensure the future of a business and they guarantee employment.