Should We Fear or Embrace the Ideology of Pope Francis?

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Is the new Catholic pope anti-Capitalism? There are concerns by some that he is a a proponent of Liberation Theology* which has Marxist roots.

“The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus”; thus begins the Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium”. The theme of the document is to exhort the faithful to begin on a new era of evangelization marked by the joy of Jesus Christ.

Communists have found previous comments by the Pope and now this document to be a declaration of support for much of their ideology. They don’t share his interest in Christ but they like his other world views.

In the past, the Catholic Church has been vehemently opposed to Communism. Is that changing under Pope Francis?

POPE FRANCIS

Photo of Pope Francis waving, smiling, via Pat Dollard

Pope Francis is a spiritual leader, not a political leader, but people are concerned about his political leanings and how they will influence his leadership of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

Communists have been viciously opposed to the Roman Catholic popes, especially since World War II. They have slandered the popes and even tried to kill them. That has changed and they are now embracing this new pope. People’s World, the Communist Party USA publication, posted two laudatory stories about the Pope. Why?

The Catholic Church has never supported unbridled Capitalism but are they now becoming anti-Capitalism?

On Tuesday, Pope Francis issued his first “apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium” declaring modern capitalism as an enemy of the Church, according to the Atlantic, a far-left publication. The title of their article is “The Vatican’s Journey From Anti-Communism to Anti-Captialism.”

They quote a pope who appears to want more State action:

“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,” he wrote. “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.”

What the Atlantic took away from that is this:

He couldn’t be much clearer. The pope has taken a firm political stance against right-leaning, pro-free market economic policies, and his condemnation appears to be largely pointed at Europe and the United States. His explicit reference to “trickle-down” economic policies—the hallmark of Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and their political successors—is just the beginning: Throughout 224 pages on the future of the Church, he condemns income inequality, “the culture of prosperity,” and “a financial system which rules rather than serves.”

The Pope also wrote in furtherance of this idea:

“The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase,” Francis writes. “In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.”

The Atlantic believes this is more than just a ‘moral lecture,’ it’s a statement in support of global and government economic control.

The Pope who grew up around dictators and communists does not seem to see them as the threat. He does see unjust ideologies – not theirs it seems – causing income inequality and appears to be calling for strong State regulation of the free market for the ‘common good’. Indeed, he sounds a bit like an occupier here and will certainly give ammunition to them and groups that align with them.

Read the following and determine for yourself if he is rejecting Libertarian and Conservative views as the left believes:

“While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.”[bold is mine]

He sees the US and Europe as a threat – the ‘new tyranny’, he calls it.

It is important to note that he also said he believes the unequal distribution of wealth causes violence but action must go “beyond a simple welfare mentality.”

It is possible that the pope merely has a very poor understanding of what is actually happening now under tight government control and what freedom and prosperity we had under the ‘trickle down’ he demeans so much.

The pope believes peace must include justice and redistribution of wealth, but to what degree? Read this quote from the document:

“Peace in society cannot be understood as pacification or the mere absence of violence resulting from the domination of one part of society over others. Nor does true peace act as a pretext for justifying a social structure which silences or appeases the poor, so that the more affluent can placidly support their lifestyle while others have to make do as they can. Demands involving the distribution of wealth, concern for the poor and human rights cannot be suppressed under the guise of creating a consensus on paper or a transient peace for a contented minority. The dignity of the human person and the common good rank higher than the comfort of those who refuse to renounce their privileges. When these values are threatened, a prophetic voice must be raised. Nor is peace “simply the absence of warfare, based on a precarious balance of power; it is fashioned by efforts directed day after day towards the establishment of the ordered universe willed by God, with a more perfect justice among men”. In the end, a peace which is not the result of integral development will be doomed; it will always spawn new conflicts and various forms of violence.”

Pope Francis strongly supports comprehensive immigration reform in the United States and has been very outspoken about it. He would see that as a proper redistribution and social justice.

The Pope urges care for the weakest members of society: “the homeless, the addicted, refugees, indigenous peoples, the elderly who are increasingly isolated and abandoned” and migrants, for whom the Pope exhorts “a generous openness”. He speaks about the victims of trafficking and new forms of slavery: “This infamous network of crime is now well established in our cities, and many people have blood on their hands as a result of their comfortable and silent complicity”. “Doubly poor are those women who endure situations of exclusion, mistreatment and violence”.

He sees the problems in his own Vatican as stemming from too much centralization, however, and I don’t believe he is calling for communist style control but I don’t know.

Pope Francis does believe in social justice which is viewed by some as the neo-communism:

“No one must say that they cannot be close to the poor because their own lifestyle demands more attention to other areas. This is an excuse commonly heard in academic, business or professional, and even ecclesial circles. While it is quite true that the essential vocation and mission of the lay faithful is to strive that earthly realities and all human activity may be transformed by the Gospel, none of us can think we are exempt from concern for the poor and for social justice…”

Communists see Pope Frances as pro-worker and pro-union. They see him as a comrade. Communists are watching the pope show more openness and welcoming gestures towards gays, a calmer take on other social issues, all while he is taking a hatchet to conservative economic principles.

Communists feel that he has cut the legs out from under the support of Conservatives who use those social issues to garner Republican votes. They see that changing and they envision Catholics breaking left on the political spectrum in upcoming elections.

The Pope is not changing Church doctrine on social issues, however. He is pro-life and has excommunicated a dissident liberal priest who supported gay marriage and female ordination. His statements on abortion, contraception, and gay marriage were completely misrepresented by the NY Times and other publications. Openness and forgiveness doesn’t mean he agrees.

His statements on the issues added to the views that communists have, i.e., that he agrees with them.

Proponents of Pope Francis say he is reaching out to and impacting secularists, agnostics, atheists, progressives, liberals, and even communists and that is a good thing. It is a good thing.

He hopes to have a closer and more respectful relationship with people of other faiths and he wants to see the church leave its comfort zone and do more evangelizing. He wrote, “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting, and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”

Also from the Encyclical:

“I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”. The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus: “Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace”.”

American Spectator points out this statement, not from the document, but from an interview, which is not misrepresented:

A recent one, highlighted at The American Spectator by George Neumayr, was this remark, made to a prominent Italian atheist interviewer: “Each of us has a vision of good and of evil. We have to encourage people to move towards what they think is Good.” Interrupted by the amazed interviewer, Francis doubled down: “And I repeat it here. Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.”

That statement was very alarming to the writer and to us at the Sentinel. However Pope Francis also said this:

“…In many places the problem is more that of widespread indifference and relativism”. The family, the Pope continues, “is experiencing a profound cultural crisis”. Reiterating the indispensable contribution of marriage to society”, he underlines that “the individualism of our postmodern and globalized era favours a lifestyle which … distorts family bonds”.

Catholic Online addresses the question, Is Pope Francis a Communist?  They say he is a man of humility who cares about the poor. They cite the following: According to Mark Koba, writing for CNBC, Pope Francis has repeatedly cited “the pitfalls of capitalism, decrying global income inequality and equating low-wage labor to a form of slavery.”

Is he a Communist, Socialist, Ant-Capitalist? Catholic online says none of the above.

He is reaffirming Catholic teaching and role modeling it, they say.

The pope is concerned by this:

“Analysts say Pope Francis-leader of some 1.2 billion Catholics-is not necessarily calling for the demise of free market theory. Rather, he’s issuing a strong warning to economic leaders,” Koba explained.

“Like many people, he thinks capitalism won’t survive unless it decreases income disparity,” Koba quoted George Haley, professor of marketing and international business at the University of New Haven, as saying.

In the United States, rampant capitalism has enriched the wealthy as the nation pulls out of the Great Recession. However, while Wall Street prospers, Main Street continues to struggle.

We could find common ground with the pope if it weren’t for the fact that government control is causing this, not Ronald Reagan’s conservative economic principles. Mr. Obama is feeding Wall Street at the expense of the middle class and the US dollar with printed and borrowed money. It’s not due to the free market, it’s the lack of one.

Catholic online added this:

Pope Francis isn’t decrying the ownership of private property, but rather the hoarding of it. Hoarding wealth can be harmful to the soul. Very few people in positions of wealth and power have the ability to live poorly, as the Holy Father does, avoiding the temptations of power.

We can find agreement in this message from the publication:

This is the constant message of Pope Francis. There is nothing communist or socialist about asking for people to make responsible, sometimes selfless decisions with their wealth and power. Instead, it is very Christian to concern oneself with the plight of those less fortunate. This is Pope Francis’ call, and it is the message of Christ Himself.

Being wealthy, conservative, and successful does not itself equate to being right, states Catholic Online.

Pope Francis saved his harshest words for the Western style of living because he believes in redistribution beyond a simple welfare mentality and because he sees peace in our world resting in economic equality. He is exhorting us to do so voluntarily.

Asking people to sacrifice for others is one thing, forcing them to do it is another. Pope Francis did condemn tax evasion and it leaves a lot of possibilities out there as to how far this needs to be forced by the State in his mind.

Giving all we have to the poor as the pope suggests is a problem for me. I have met some poor people who are not very nice and some rich people who are. Should we only give ourselves over to the poor whether they deserve it or not?

Pope Francis wants the conversation to be about more than social issues. He is focused on the economic systems of the US and Europe. That is the New Tyranny.  This comes at a time when half of America fears the destruction of our way of life because of the forces of a dictatorial State. His comments are inopportune for many.

We will have to see where Pope Francis takes his 1.2 billion Catholics. It’s too soon to know, but people must keep in mind that he is a spiritual leader and he is not running for President. He does have an important spiritual message but we might not want to buy into his ideas on how to get to that higher plane.

 

*Liberation theology is a radical political movement in Christian theology, developed mainly by Latin American Roman Catholics, that emphasizes liberation from social, political, and economic oppression in anticipation of ultimate salvation. It asserts that the bible must be interpreted from the perspective of the poor. Gustavo Gutiérrez gave the movement its name with his book A Theology of Liberation (1971).

Opponents believe it is rooted in Marxist-Leninist doctrine. Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, condemned the transformation of the poor as the  ‘people of God’ and the ‘Marxist Myth’ in liberation theology because it made those who were not poor into opponents. He forbad priests from teaching the Marxist elements of liberation theology. He has since become only the second pope to have retired. Pope John Paul II was strongly opposed to liberation theology which he saw as a melding of Christianity and Marxism. He took a heavy hand to proponents of liberation theology and chose to lead the church away from the political aspects.

It is believed by many that Pope Francis is sympathetic to liberation theology in a ‘non-ideological’ fashion. Others say he is uneasy with it.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION, “EVANGELII GAUDIUM”

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