I usually only have enough ecumenical indignation (how's that for an oxymoron?) to berate one religious leader per quarter. I'm clearly over my quota now because here I am writing about Barack Obama and Pope Francis again, and that's two religious leaders for the second time this week. What is the world coming to?
The repetition is unavoidable because Pope Francis has accomplished exactly what I knew he would. Through his 200 plus pages of EVANGELII GAUDIUM, Pope Francis has provided a papal beard for totalitarians to push their Leftist agendas to the demise of individual liberty as if it was God's plan for all mankind to live under the boot heel of authoritarianism…well, all mankind except for Harry Reid's staffers who clearly require an exemption from the whole sordid mess.
Here's my take on Pope Francis's EVANGELII GAUDIUM if you missed it. I'm linking to it because it lays the foundation for my argument that this Proclamation of the Gospel poses a grave danger not only to liberty, rugged individualism and free will, but to the United States as it was founded and the Catholic Church as it was founded.
Now, I'm going to speak plainly here and we can expect this will offend those who are prone to feeling offended, but the Vatican has been at odds with America and vice versa for so long that it's almost embarrassing. I, however, recognize the feud between the Catholic Church and the United States as the necessary history that got us where we are today. It is what it is.
Vatican Catholics…yes, this is how far back it goes…resent the fact that the Catholic colonies, which predated all other settlements (they will be quick to remind you of that fact) fell into the hands of the Protestants and they are not likely to forget it anytime soon. Never mind that all you have to do is look at the sad state of the Vatican Bank to understand how such a thing might have happened. Perhaps the Pope would consider detouring from his "Shame on America" trickle-down diatribes long enough to balance the checkbook unless he considers accurate bookkeeping to be as evil as the free markets.
Frankly, Vatican Catholics are maybe wonderful humanitarians, but they are not known for their business acumen. The Pope just recently told the Swiss Guard to abandon their posts and go out to perform acts of charity. I don't know if this demonstrates a complete lack of self-preservation on the part of the Holy See or the colossal waste of money that the Swiss Guard represents. Either way. This is a sweet overture, but there are clearly reasons that England got its firm hold on the colonies. Holding a grudge won't change that fact. The Church leaders might consider taking their own "turn the other cheek" advice and just get over it.
And then there's the institutional disdain for Catholicism that has promulgated centuries of distrust here in America. It is idiocy pure and simple. Pope's Day…also known as Guy Fawkes Day for those of you who enjoy quirky serendipity… was a prime example of specifically anti-Catholic merriment. This from the Massachusetts Gazette of 1765:
"It has long been the custom in this town on the Fifth of November for numbers of persons to exhibit on stages some pageantry, denoting their abhorrence of POPERY and the horrid plot which was to have been executed on that Day in the Year 1605."
That this pageantry often degenerated into violence beginning with the burning of papal effigies and ending with the burning of homes owned by blameless Catholic scapegoats is quite beside the point. Such were the roots of the nation's anti-Catholic traditions that nevertheless managed to secure religious liberty for all Americans including those abhorrent papists.
But the disturbing Guy Fawkes, anti-Catholic coincidence aside for a moment, politics makes strange bed fellows. It shouldn't surprise anyone that Pope Francis and Barack Obama are talking the same talk if not exactly walking the same walk…and you know what I mean. The Pope at least rejected traditional papal living quarters in favor of something a little more subdued and I very much doubt he's played even one round of golf since taking office. I suspect that there isn't a hint of irony in his progressive tendencies.
"Birds of a feather…" as the old saying goes. Like-minded world leaders traditionally flock to one another as a means of moral support in the face of hash opposition. Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II come to mind as the moral triumvirate of the 1980s. Very different leaderships, very different backgrounds, yet they all moved in the same direction – either consciously or subconsciously, toward a common goal. That goal was nothing less than the collapse of communism, because they all recognized that communism is a force for evil in the world. Yet here we are:
"Not to share one's wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs."
This is a direct quote from the pope's EVANGELII GAUDIUM. And holy guacamole, Batman! Saul Alinsky could not have said it better himself.
"It was Adam Smith, the father of free market economics, who once said, "They who feed, clothe, and lodge the whole body of the people should have such a share of the produce of their own labor as to be themselves tolerably well fed, clothed, and lodged." And for those of you who don't speak old English (laughter) let me translate. It means if you work hard, you should make a decent living. If you work hard, you should be able to support a family."
That's a quote from Barack Obama as he sidled up to the Evangelii Gaudium in order to underscore international commitment to wage increases for fast food workers.
To be clear, it should not be particularly troubling that a pope walks in philosophical lockstep with an American president because the nation and the religion have shared similar values dating from way-way back. I made the point in my last article that regardless of the mutual distrust that is experienced between the US and the Catholic Church, the American Constitution and Church traditions have always valued Natural Law and the necessity to protect each human's right to his exercise of free will with remarkable fidelity.
What should be troubling is that Pope Francis expresses particularly acerbic ridicule of America's historic protection of liberty, individualism and property and then rails against the abundance that these traditions produce as if our success precludes the success of any other nation willing to duplicate the example. It's unconscionable that such a distortion has taken hold in official papal proclamation. This fuels the progressive rhetoric of not only the American Catholic Church which is elbow deep in the willful perversion of social justice teachings, but also non-Catholic progressives who will look to Pope Francis's profound distortion of charity – not as a justification for their advancement of Marxism, for they no more seek the Pope's approval for their actions than they seek mine – as a propaganda windfall.
"The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. When a society – whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programs or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility. This is not the case simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root."
This politically charged rhetoric cannot be varnished as a message against "spiritual worldliness" as Cindy Wooden of the Catholic News Service reports. I cannot tell you how much I dislike having the American Catholic media downplaying significant changes in attitude toward free market capitalists. It is beyond an outrage. It's a lie of omission. Per Cindy Wooden:
"He warns of spiritual worldliness which leads apparently good Catholics to be concerned almost exclusively with power or appearances or judging others rather than recognizing their own sin and reaching out to others with the same mercy God offers them."
She writes nothing more about capitalism's supposed corrupting influence and it's nothing like what Pope Francis actually said:
"This imbalance is a 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…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.
Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God."
If the Catholic Church – American or otherwise – thought that Pope Francis was speaking anything like a "Joy of the Gospel" which is what Evangelii Gaudium actually means, it wouldn't have to be sanitized to mollify an American audience.
Why has the Catholic News Service chosen to sidestep the Pope's call to action against free will in his promotion of forced redistribution of wealth?
There's not as much joy to be found in the first apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis as is being falsely advertised, and the Pope can blame it on a world that wants to take him out of context if he so chooses. That is between him and his own conscience. As for me, I will take my papal inspiration in this barren wasteland of covetousness where I can get it. When in doubt?
Where self-interest is suppressed, it is replaced by a burdensome system of bureaucratic control that dries up the wellspring of initiative and creativity.
Pope John Paul II