Would Someone Just Shut That Pope Up?
Some on the political right are going absolutely nuts over Catholicism’s new pope, Pope Francis.
Rush Limbaugh has labeled him a Marxist and numerous rightwing conservatives want the pope to stick to moral and spiritual issues rather than discuss economic challenges of the common man, which he supposedly knows nothing about — it seems that the pope has limited infallibility powers, although Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was heavy on economics: not an economic prescription but clear recognition that there are those that have and do not work to benefit those with little, and those that are without much more than their soul through the length of their lives.
Yet, not all American conservatives are going bonkers. The American Conservative just published a piece that takes a balanced look at what the pope has actually said and tried to consider his words in context, which is rare in almost any discussion of policy these days.
From the opening paragraphs of The American Conservative‘s story Would Someone Just Shut That Pope Up?
Since the release of Evangelii Gaudium there have been countless articles and commentary about the economic portions of Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation. Some of the commentary has been downright bizarre, such as Rush Limbaugh denouncing the Pope as a Marxist, or Stuart Varney accusing Francis of being a neo-socialist. American conservatives grumbled but dutifully denounced a distorting media when Pope Francis seemed to go wobbly on homosexuality, but his criticisms of capitalism have crossed the line, and we now see the Pope being criticized and even denounced from nearly every rightward-leaning media pulpit in the land.
Not far below the surface of many of these critiques one hears the following refrain: why can’t the Pope just go back to talking about abortion? Why can’t we return the good old days of Pope John Paul II or Benedict XVI and talk 24/7/365 about sex? Why doesn’t Francis have the decency to limit himself to talking about Jesus and gays, while avoiding the rudeness of discussing economics in mixed company, an issue about which he has no expertise or competence?
Pope Francis has done much more than just talk, the pope has made some early substantial changes both in how the church interacts with people (moving homeless centers to where the homeless are) and in how the pope personally presents himself to the public (less bling, more humility, less judgement and more embracing of people as having challenges).
Reality is that Pope Francis is not trying to prescribe economic policies. He is acknowedging that our economic lives have gone a bit of whack. Those that have seem to have much more than they did just a few years ago, and those without seem to have less. This varies based upon locale. In many areas of the world where 25-50% of work-age adults have no jobs then the pope’s message is bound to ring true. Within the USA, with its widespread affluent society, the message will seem quixotic to many as we live life in our zoned affluent neighborhoods and do not have to live with those that fall from economic grace — because when they do they move out and disappear.
Below are some ways that Pope Francis is working to portray himself as a pope of the people:
1. Uses a wooden chair instead of a golden throne.
2. Does not wear the gold-embroidered red stole.
3. Wears his old black shoes instead of the classic Prada red slippers.
4. Wears a metal cross instead of the one with rubies and diamonds.
5. His papal ring is silver, not gold — and he reused a prior design. Tradition is that each pope have a unique design created for their reign.
6. Wears black pants under the cassock, same as he wore when a common priest.
7. Had the red carpet removed.
Note: I am not a Roman Catholic. As a Unitarian we are taught to investigate and to honor the best of thought and philosophy offered by all of the world’s religious traditions and teaching. Pope Francis seems to be off to a good start on getting a conversation going about where our society is and where it is going. In my personal belief, all actions undertaken in our lives are economic actions no matter how trivial or whether an exchange of money is involved. Economics involves the making of moral decisions, whether that is our intent or not. I look forward to hearing more from Pope Francis. Actions are more important than words.