Papal Edict

I’m going to stay with the topical for this week’s Friday blog selection. Given that the big news this week is centered on the pope’s visit to the U.S., I’m throwing-in with that one for today.

There is the adage that religion and politics are deal-breakers for winning friends and influencing people, or something similar. Yet, both find their way into conversations, and they sure have hijacked our current news cycle. I think there’s a reason behind that, and I’ll spend some space delving into that aspect of “Pope Francis Goes to Washington.”

The president and the pope; on the same ideological page.

The president and the pope; on the same ideological page.

Did you know that Francis is only the fourth pope ever to visit our country? In fact, we were 189-years-old as a nation before Pope Paul VI dropped by in 1965. Since then, it was John Paul II in 1979, Pope Benedict XVI in 2008, and now, Francis. Actually, Pope John Paul II was a regular visitor, coming back for visits in 1984, 1987, 1993, 1995, and 1999. He always scheduled an audience with the sitting president  when he came calling, too. The presidents visited were Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan (twice), and Bill Clinton (three times). Francis is the only pope to ever address the U.S. Congress, however.

In a bit of Patriots’ trivia, Tom Brady met Pope John Paul II briefly, on his visit to Rome in 2003, after winning his second Super Bowl ring. No word on whether the pontiff asked to kiss Brady’s championship hardware, or not.

The quarterback was asked the other day about that meeting and how Pope John Paul II ranked compared to his coach, Bill Belichick.

No dummy that Brady. He replied, “In Bill we trust. Are you kidding me?” Brady said while laughing.

The mainstream media (aka, “the driveby”) tends to care little about religion, save to bash religious types, especially those with conservative beliefs. I get it—we’re a post-Xian nation—or so we’ve been told, and there’s evidence to support that view, especially among millennials. So it would make sense that most journalists know little to nothing about religion and how to contextualize it, except in the usual binary fashion. They didn’t disappoint, at least from anything I read coming from the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, and a host of other mainstream sources.

The narrative offered by Pope Francis was strangely aligned with Democrats and President Obama, especially on economics and capitalism, tolerance/diversity, and climate change. In fact, atheist Bernie Sanders couldn’t say enough nice things about the leader of the world’s Catholics on Twitter. Ole’ Bernie seems to have an opinion on God and a take on the Bible these days, almost as often as he rails against the evils of capitalism.

Bernie and Francis—brothers from another mother.

Bernie and Francis—brothers from another mother.

There were a host of things the pope could have talked about, but chose not to. I guess he only had time enough to promote Marxist economics and lecture the U.S. on our treatment of immigrants, rather than address the Catholic molestation scandal, gay marriage, or religious edicts that the Church used to be quite clear about.

Does Pope Francis know that according to estimates from the 2013 ACS, the U.S. immigrant population stood at more than 41.3 million, or 13 percent, of the total U.S. population of 316.1 million? Legal immigrants and their U.S.-born children now number approximately 80 million persons, or one-quarter of the overall U.S. population. These numbers don’t include those here illegally.

It sure didn’t sound that way when he was speaking to Congress. In stressing “leniency,” the pope appealed to Americans to be welcoming to immigrants. It seems like the U.S. has been more than lenient. In fact his admonition was “rich” coming from the head of state of the Vatican—a government that has possibly the most restrictive immigration and citizenship policies of any nation in the world. If I wanted to be less charitable, I could say this smacked of hypocrisy on the pontiff’s part.

I might be premature in criticizing the pope. I mean, he is the Vicar of Christ, and all. Perhaps the Vatican is planning on accepting their fair share of Syrian refugees.

Not all American Catholics line up doctrinally with Francis and his Marxism adorned in papal garb. There is a small band of believers like Ann Barnhardt, who see the U.S. version of Catholicism and calls for “coerced charity” as nothing but a “front for the Marxist regime in Washington, D.C.,” as she wrote in this post on her website, from 2012.

Here’s what I know about most people. They hear what they want to hear. Devoted Catholics don’t care what I think about their pope, their church, or their faith. Liberals don’t care if their worship of outdated and failed economic policies like Marxism won’t affect any positive results in alleviating poverty. And the continued adulation by the media heaped upon Pope Francis for serving up a narrative similar to President Obama’s clearly shows where their hearts and ideology rest.

Long ago, I walked away from the Catholic worldview. I was fed up with a church that preached one thing while doing another. While I ended up embracing another failed theological model for a time, I’ve continued working at “perfecting my opinions.” What I know today is that I’d never be at home in Catholicism, especially given the politicization of the message coming from the Vatican and the current pope.

6 thoughts on “Papal Edict

  1. Jim I am a devoted Catholic and I care very much what you have to say. I love the Pope. Perhaps that is a narrow world view, political view etc. I wish I had more time to put more study into all that you say….maybe in a few years that will come. I believe being brought up in the church has shaped some good things that I hope I bring to the world…I always enjoy your perspective and appreciate what a kind and wonderful person you are. Keep on writing. I always enjoy your blog posts.

  2. Don’t toss out the socialist “baby” with the Marxist “bathwater”. OK, probably not the best use of the cliche or the analogy, but what I’m trying to say is that Pope Francis and Bernie Sanders are on the right track when it comes to valuing workers and getting the distribution of wealth in line with something humane. I love this quote from Pope Bernie, uh, I mean Francis:

    “It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable. “Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good”.

    Rarely do we hear business and political leaders seriously talk about distribution of wealth, the right use of natural resources, inclusive and sustainable economies, and job creation as the essential good of business.

    Would you rather have the Pope show up and give a speech about building a wall on our southern border, worshipping CEO’s, shaming and demonizing the poor? Would it be better if the Pope served up a narrative that sounded like Ted Cruz — garnering him all sort of right-wing media adulation?

    Certainly there are problems with the polarization of our politics and binary thinking, but that doesn’t mean some ideas or political ideologies can’t be correct. When all is said and done, we the people have to live with SOME set of policies, laws, and economic system. I choose to follow those who advocate for the middle/working class, the working poor, and the destitute.

  3. @David What I’d prefer is for the pope to stick to matters of faith, especially those specific to his own church. With fewer Americans attending Mass—partly due to demographics and partly due to disinterest—the pope has bigger fish to fry, in my opinion, than coming here and lecturing us on how to govern.

    Summers are a time when I rethink and reconsider what I hold to be true and whether my own values are consistent. I probably began that process a bit earlier this year, when back in April and May, I was sitting at home, waiting for the phone to ring, and trying to make sense of the past 10 years of my life—even wondering if writing was a worthwhile way to pursue making a living.

    Out of that time of reflection, I’ve come to recognize a few things—one of them is that I am a writer—and I might as well use writing to make a few points. Once I settled that issue, I think it resulted in my blogging over the past couple of months being some of my best and most consistent work I’ve done here at the JBE.

    One thing I’ve come to recognize is that progressivism is essentially a religious faith. After a period when progressive politics waned, during the Reagan Revolution, and even afterwards, it has undergone a revival, mainly due to the election and re-election of Barack Obama. This faith seeks to fundamentally transform the United States. Sadly, many of the prescriptions—whether we’re talking about how it affects the “middle/working class, the working poor, and the destitute”—are failed ones.

    What Bernie Sanders is offering is nothing new.

    Actually, if a pope arrived with a narrative that tilted towards conservative values, rather than leftist rhetoric, he’d have been greeted with derision by the media, or possibly, he’d be ignored entirely. The mainstream media’s frame of reference is a pretty narrow one at the moment. What? No American bishops offering a critique of Francis? And then, so-called journalists whether on Fox, or MSNBC, and the three major networks—they couldn’t say enough great things about the pope and his message of “inclusion.”

    All of this sycophantic pandering reminds me of how Mr. Obama was treated during the Hope/Change days of 2007-2008, before he was elected the first time.

    @Sally This isn’t about being devoted, or not. It’s an issue about the church and politics. The pope has no business in the political affairs of the U.S. Of course, the Catholic Church has been happy taking billions from our government. The last figure I saw, Catholic Charities received in excess of $1 billion annually to fund social programs. Like other similar religious groups like the Association of Jewish Family and Children’s Agencies and Lutheran Services in America, they’ve become part of the social services labyrinth.

    I respect that you hold a different perspective on Catholicism than I do. Thanks for weighing-in.

    @JAB I see Jesus as a historical figure. Anything beyond that requires a leap of faith that I can’t make. However, the Constitution ensures freedom of religion, at least that’s how it’s been interpreted up to the present, so have at it.

  4. I always appreciate hearing other people’s thoughts and perspectives…communication is how we understand one another or hopeful try to. My relationship with the Catholic Church is a personal one particular to me and my experience. It is all good! I’m with you always,my friend….

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