By Irene F. Starkehaus -
I am an unrepentant apologist. On that trying and often tedious journey, I advocate for two seemingly incongruent philosophies: Americanism and Catholicism...it's no small feat these days on either front. Let me tell you. Forget the tailspin that both social orders are currently experiencing for a minute. Let's just focus on the fundamentals as a way of illustrating the madness of adherence to both contexts for regulation of human behavior.
On the face of it, Americanism and Catholicism are absolutely incompatible because Catholicism is a benevolent dictatorship that requires obedience to the Word of God as translated by papal authority, and Americanism requires a fierce independence and rugged individualism that would no more accept the dictates of one mere mortal as evidence of God's will than it would allow for taxation without representation. Dutiful adherence to both philosophies perhaps may seem borderline schizophrenic to the casual observer, but what can I say? It works for me.
And it works because I long ago decided not to be passive in my understanding of Catholicism and/or Americanism. The truth is – and this is actually not merely because I live in the United States – just because I was born a Catholic doesn't mean I have to die a Catholic. The same is true with my national identity. Just because I was born an American doesn't mean I have to die an American. I, as well as most human beings on the planet, can be an active participant in my own destiny. The fatalism of "I have no other choice" is best left to the "72 virgins" crowd and Obamaphone recipients.
The only thing I have to do in this world is die…oh, and buy abortifacients that I don't want. Everything else is an option. I decided that if I'm going to be an American individualist and a Catholic faithful, I'd better understand why instead of regurgitating the "God is Love" pabulum that American Catholics have been force fed since Vatican II.
So I read. I read primary sources – the Bible, the Constitution, etc. I read secondary sources – St. Augustine, St. Thomas, St. Francis DeSalles, etc. Letters from John Adams, writings of Thomas Jefferson, the Federalist Papers (which are by far the dullest writings in the history of mankind…save the collective works of Alfred Ploetz and anything by Kathleen Sebelius…which are, ironically, pretty much a reiteration of the collective works of Alfred Ploetz. Go figure.)
The point is that in spite of the mutual wariness that Catholic Doctors and American Enlightenment traditionalists have exhibited throughout the ages, they are remarkably in sync with one another. Natural Law, free will, the traditions of voluntary faith, hope and charity – these are a few of my favorite things.
The reason I am qualifying my partiality for both Catholicism and Americanism is because Pope Francis – current leader of the Catholic faith – is in the process of fundamentally changing our understanding of what it means to be a Catholic in a way that is not dissimilar to the way Barack Obama is fundamentally changing the definition of what it means to be an American. This is kicking my apologist tendencies into overdrive.
"In this preaching, which is always respectful and gentle, the first step is personal dialogue, when the other person speaks and shares his or her joys, hopes and concerns for loved ones, or so many other heartfelt needs."
That is what Pope Francis said to his Catholic audience just paragraphs after he finished developing the focus of his Evangelii Gaudium…which I think must be Latin for Why the United States Sucks – although it ought to be Latin for "My Willful Misconstruction of Why the United States Sucks."
I will have to be honest with you. I was in the process of passively observing the media's interpretation of Pope Francis's Proclamation of the Gospel and the Catholic reinterpretation of the same…both in order to bend the words of His Holiness to meet respective preconceived notions of what it means to be leader of the Church that Peter built…frankly, I was in no way interested in reading 224 pages of disjointed biblical quotes and theological yadda-yadda-yadda.
It wasn't so much the media's reflexive tenacity in pro-homosexual, pro-abortion, pro-social justice spin that piqued my curiosity. That much can be expected in our hyper-secularized society. It's kind of a chronological diversion to mess with Church principles and history and – as a Catholic – you get used to papal blood sport. Seriously. Ask how many popes the Catholic Church has sustained and you won't get a definitive answer. Church officials will either tell you that there have been 266 or 267 depending on whether they include Pope Stephen II who died before he had been consecrated. There are actually more like 352 including 25 "anti-popes" who served illegitimately and a smattering of popes who served concurrently in Rome and Avignon during the Great Schism.
No, it was the emphatic insistence from faithful American Catholics that the poor papal victim was once again being misconstrued that got my attention. Here's the quote:
"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 economic justice and inclusiveness in the world."
Per the American social justice apologists? "Nothing to see here. Move along, kid. Ya bother me."
Try as I might, I couldn't understand how such a smack down on American free markets could get past the papal proofreaders unless the phrase was intentional, but I decided to keep an open mind and read the 224 pages of disjointed biblical quotes and theological yadda-yadda-yadda for myself just to be sure.
It's interesting. Pope Francis actually sets himself up in the first paragraphs of Evangelii Gaudium to have his cake and eat it too…that's no small feat considering the Church's and French aristocracy's catastrophic abuse at the hands of Jacobean radicals which is where French Revolutionaries played wet nurse to Karl Marx and other moral relativists…important since this is how the social justice movement was born, by the way – but I digress.
"In today's world of instant communication and occasionally biased media coverage, the message we preach runs a greater risk of being distorted or reduced to some of its secondary aspects. In this way, certain issues which are part of the Church's moral teaching are taken out of the context which gives them their meaning."
Well played, Your Eminence. So we go from:
Christian morality is not a form of stoicism or self-denial or merely practical philosophy or a catalog of sins and faults…
That would be for the pro-aborts and homosexuals in our societies that want reassurance that they can still go to Heaven in spite of Marriage Reformation and America's force fed HHS mandates, by the way. Trust me; Pope Francis has a much bigger ax to grind.
At the same time we have to remember that the majority of our contemporaries are barely living from day to day with dire consequences. Diseases spreading, people gripped in fear and desperation – even in the so called rich countries.
Are you feeling the "always respectful and gentle preaching" yet? Because the benevolent Pope Francis literally suggests adding a "Thou shalt not" to an economy of exclusion and inequality" as if a part of God's Commandments handed down by Moses. The Commandments granted by God…are too what? Inadequate to meet the demands of our modern world? We need to improve upon them? The only individual to ever tack on a Commandment rider was God's own Son, so I'm gonna say that this pope is showing some chutzpa.
Does this sound familiar to anyone or is it just me who sees a parallel to the Left's desire to improve upon the Bill of Rights?
"How can it be that it is not a news when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it's news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest where the powerful feed upon the powerless?"
Are you kidding me? Who is this guy? Abby Hoffman? You know, the problem with making a man from a Third World dictatorship the pope of the whole Catholic world is that the isolation of his closed society has precluded him from updating his 70s radicalism into modern day Occupy Wall Street diatribes. Perhaps he should consider donning a Guy Fawkes mask en lieu of his mitre and crosier.
But wait. There's more.
"We have created a throw away culture that is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. 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 naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting."
Look. I've got pages upon pages of quotes from the Evangelii Gaudium that would singe your eyebrows from the pope's blistering condemnation of independence and free markets. I appreciate the attempt to back pedal on the papal message here, but I know what I've read. This is a chapter straight out of the progressive Katholic's handbook on Social Justice. What I'm struggling to understand is how any Catholic in his right mind can spread the mythos with a clear conscience that some twenty pages from the Evangelii Gaudium got lost in translation.
In spite of Pope Francis's dismay over Big Business's rejection of the "right of States, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form or control [so that] a new tyranny is thus born," I would trust McDonald's morally neutral pursuit of profits as a way of improving economic opportunity for all mankind over "devout Catholics" Nancy Pelosi and Dick Durbin in their attempts to legislate equity of outcome for Americans any day of the week.
Throughout the history of the Catholic Church, voluntary charity has been encouraged as a way of minimizing the suffering of the poor but corporal acts of mercy come secondary to spreading the truth of the Resurrection and the truth about the Laws of God.
The point is that God bestowed upon man the gift of free will for a reason. God wants us to come to Him of our own volition. We are not slaves. We are individuals with the inalienable right to accept or reject God through our words, thoughts and deeds. Just as Pope Francis offers improvements to the Commandments of God, he shows no lack of ego in improving upon God's gift of free will by endorsing State mandated charity. Let us be clear. If every man were to receive equal portions of food, clothing, housing and creature comforts through a charity brought about by the mighty force of the American Government, it would not be anything like Heaven. It would be Hell.
Moreover, the ingenuity and success of the American people does not cause the suffering of people in Third World nations. The supreme authority of tinhorn dictators to override Natural Law by commanding equal portions of food, clothing housing and creature comforts causes the suffering of people in Third World nations. So it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be for as long as the human elitism and social justice enslaves the ingenuity of men and women everywhere. It should send a chill up the spine of every Roam Catholic that the Holy See doesn't seem to know that.
<Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon, a man who had suffered from a virulent skin-disease, when a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive ointment, and poured it on his head as he was at table. When they saw this, the disciples said indignantly, 'Why this waste? This could have been sold for a high price and the money given the poor.' But Jesus noticed this and said, 'Why are you upsetting the woman? What she has done for me is indeed a good work! You have the poor with you always, but you will not always have me.
See that? I can offer disjointed quotes from the Bible too.