Much to the disappointment of this Catholic, Pope Francis balked on a golden opportunity to convey to the world just how fundamentally, how vehemently, the vision of the Church differs from that of President Obama when the two met a couple of weeks back.
Why? Can it be that Francis is the fellow traveler that the left-wing press has been making him out to be?
Resoundingly, Roman Catholic writer Selwyn Duke answers this question in the negative.
Pope Francis, he writes, has been “victimized” as much as anyone by the “common media tactic” of “cut-and-paste propaganda [.]” Though he’s been depicted as castigating Catholics for obsessing over abortion and other issues of sexual morality, what the Pope has actually said is that “‘it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time’” because “’the teaching of the church…is clear and I am a son of the church (emphasis original) [.]”
For certain, Duke is correct that the left has been determined to make Francis appear as one of their own from the outset. But the forgoing quotation from the Pope, far from undermining this appearance, strengthens it.
Francis’ remarks could have just easily flowed from the mouths of any Catholic Democratic politician. In not so many words, they have. Pavlovian-like, Catholic Democrat politicians, particularly at election time, reflexively assure voters that while they personally oppose (say) abortion, they refuse to impose their “religious beliefs” upon others. That “the teaching of the Church is clear” is a proposition that they readily concede.
In short, the Pope sounds evasive.
In Francesca Ambrogetti’s and Sergio Rubin’s, Pope Francis: His Life in His Own Words, Francis is questioned whether the Church’s “reprimands” “scare” people off. He replies: “Of course.” Francis immediately adds that it is not “a good Catholic attitude to go looking solely for the negative,” for this not “only makes our message distorted and frightening,” “it also implies a lack of acceptance [.]”
And “Christ accepted everything.”
There are a few rather disturbing things of which to take note here.
First, like any skilled politician, Francis answers this question without actually answering it. It is obvious that a preoccupation with “the negative” is never a good thing. Yet it is also irrelevant to the question.
Second, only a Biblical illiterate, a New Ageist, or a PC politician could believe that “Christ accepted everything.” Jesus accepted anyone who believed in Him, it is true. But even this was conditional upon the sinner’s admitting their sinfulness and resolving to “go and sin no more.”
When it came to criticizing His opponents, and even His disciples, Jesus was often relentless, and He would not hesitate to assure them of the eternal fate awaiting them lest they repent and “sin no more.”
Third, that the Pope accepts the premise of the question, the idea that Catholics’ obligations are reprimands handed down on high from “the Church,”reflects either a fundamental ignorance on his part or a sincere, yet covert, belief that they really are burdensome restrictions.
The Catholic, like every other believer in God, sees his duties as a source of liberation, not oppression. To paraphrase the Church’s “angelic doctor,” Thomas Aquinas, we have the duties we do because of the nature we have. Since God is our Creator, He knows that it is by way of fulfilling our duties that we perfect our nature. In fulfilling our duties we promise to flourish as human beings made in His image.
Finally, it is telling that Francis regards focus on abortion, divorce, sexual morality, and the like as a focus on “the negative,” but does not regard a focus on issues of “social justice” as such.
Selwyn Duke observes that while the leftist press portrays the Pope as an enemy of “capitalism,” Francis has only ever urged the cultivation of “a God-centered ethics [.]” Again, though Catholics like Duke, Francis, and I think it is axiomatic that we should all “cultivate a God-centered ethic,” what’s axiomatically true is also trivially true: it is true but insufficiently enlightening. Is capitalism a God-centered ethic? What about socialism?
In point of fact, just 42 pages after he warns against obsessing over “the negative,” Francis unequivocally declares that lest we “share our food, clothing, health, and education with our brothers,” Christ will “condemn us [.]” Now, it is true enough that charity is the greatest of all Christian virtues, but this doesn’t appear to be all that Francis is talking about, for, curiously, within this same paragraph he insists that he is not a communist. “Some may say, ‘This priest is a communist!’ That’s not it.”
Francis may not be “communist” (again, whatever exactly this means), but he is sympathetic to so-called liberation theology. The latter, he says, “has its good points and its bad, its restraints and its excesses.” The Pope remarks that some liberation theologians are guilty of “missteps,” but “thousands” of clerics and laypersons under the influence of liberation theology have been “the honor of our work, the source of our joy.”
Maybe Obama was right and he and Francis really do agree on more than some of us would care to think.