I’ve got to tell you, I’m liking this pope more and more.
From the start, the former Jorge Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis I) let everyone know he wasn’t going to be the kind of pontiff to which we’ve become accustomed. He chose to live in simple quarters in the Vatican guest house rather than the sumptuous papal apartments. He drives around in an old Ford Focus.
He’s called for greater dialogue with Muslims and made statements like, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
Lately, it’s been rumored that Francis is continuing the practice he engaged in as Bishop of Buenos Aires by slipping out at night in regular priestly garb to minister to the homeless.
Then, on Nov. 24, Francis really dropped the bomb when he released the 50,000-word statement “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”). It covers a lot of ground on the church’s outlook and mission, but what’s causing the most controversy are statements on economic injustice and inequality.
Statements like this:
“Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape. …
“In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”
Wait a minute … am I reading something by the Vicar of Christ on Earth or some manifesto from Occupy Wall Street? I’m amazed the Tea Party hasn’t announced that it is going to try to mount a recall.
Wingnut pundits quickly leapt in to remind us that the only thing they truly worship is oligarchy and that their only doctrine is Amen natus sum, ut abstineas manum meam acervus. (“I’m all right, Jack, keep your hands offa my stack.”)
Rush Limbaugh titled a post on his website, “It’s Sad How Wrong Pope Francis Is,” and went on to say that “this pope makes it very clear he doesn’t know what he’s talking about … This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope.”
Tea party activist Jonathan Mosely, a board member of the Northern Virginia Teahadist cell, wrote on the conservative website World Net Daily that “Jesus Christ is weeping in heaven hearing Christians espouse a socialist philosophy.” Right-wing pinup Sarah Palin allowed as how she was “taken aback” by Pope Francis’ “liberal” statements.
Wow. I remember when I wrote what I thought was a gently humorous column about the aged and weary Pope Benedict looking forward to taking some time off to put his feet up and catch some TV on Christmas after stepping down. I took flak for that one for weeks. You’d have thought I’d hocked a loogie in the baptismal font. My reply column was even spiked by the paper because people were so "riled up."
One older lady rudely accosted me while I was at lunch with friends to upbraid me about my “disrespect” for the Holy Father. Not just one, but two local monsignors wrote letters to the paper to complain that even my mild joshing of the pope emeritus was causing “pain” to Catholics. Well, I can’t even begin to imagine the agony they must be in over the railings of conservatives against the current bishop of Rome.
I’m sure the lady who interrupted my lunch and the good monsignors will be taking to their keyboards letting Messrs. Limbaugh, Mosley, et al., as well as Half-Term Gov. Palin, know that they’re not going to stand for anyone dissing the pope. I’m sure they’re going to join the Holy Father in opposing inequality and speaking out against the “trickle-down” theories of folks just like our Republican overlords here in North Carolina. I believe all this because I am, after all, a person of faith.
There are some things that the Church and I may never agree on, at least in my lifetime. Marriage equality, for example, or reproductive freedom. But I’ll always give credit where credit is due. I don’t know about infallible, but this pope’s pretty awesome. Kinda reminds me of his boss. You know, the one whose birthday’s coming up.