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At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Pope Francis is once again insisting that he is not a communist, that his abiding concern for “the poor” is grounded in the Gospel of Christ, not the ideology of Marx, Engels, or any other communist.

Back in 2010, while still a Cardinal, he felt the need to do the same.

Why?

It may very well be inaccurate to describe the Pope as a communist.  But—and it pains this Catholic writer to admit this—one can be forgiven for suspecting that he is friendlier to this noxious ideology than many of us would care to think.

First, neither Francis’ recent remarks nor those from 2010 include an express repudiation of communism.  That his concern for the poor reflects Francis’ commitment to Christianity in no way speaks to his thoughts on communism. Logically, subscription to one theory is perfectly compatible with respect for and appreciation of any number of others—and it certainly doesn’t entail an unqualified rejection of all others.

That is, one can believe that Christianity contains “the fullness of truth” while simultaneously affirming what truth is found in other systems of thought.  St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas are two notable examples of Christian thinkers who did precisely this vis-à-vis the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, respectively.

Similarly, while Francis derives his motivation from Christianity, this doesn’t necessarily mean that he cannot and/or does not sympathize with communism.

Secondly, “communism” can mean different things to different people.  For instance, Martin Luther King, Jr. denied that he was a communist on the grounds that he rejected “materialism,” the philosophical doctrine that matter is all that there is, the doctrine underwriting Marxism.

However, to reject Marx’s theory of communism, much less his theory of materialism, does not translate into a rejection of communism as such.  To suggest otherwise is like saying that if I reject Calvin’s theology of Christianity, I must reject Christianity as such.

The closest Francis has come to criticizing communism is when he articulated a heavily qualified criticism of “liberation theology,” a hard leftist approach to Christianity.  And even then, the Pope simply noted that its “Marxist interpretation of reality”—again, whatever exactly this means—was a “limitation” while commending liberation theology for “its positive aspects.”

When communism is understood as most of us understand it, as an ideology demanding a radical redistribution of goods for the purposes of “Equality” or “Fairness” or whatever, then it should be obvious that it can afford to dispense with philosophical materialism and even its “Marxist interpretation of reality.”

In other words, “Christian communism” is not a meaninglessmoniker.

That the Pope has refused to unabashedly, unequivocally repudiate communism (and/or socialism) is doubtless one big reason that some have viewed him as a communist sympathizer.  Yet there is another: His Holiness has adamantly repudiated that system commonly called “capitalism.”

Now, Francis’ supporters have leapt to his defense on this score.  For example, the Catholic writer Selwyn Duke has observed that Francis has never critiqued “capitalism” by name, but instead has simply called for “a God-centered ethics.” Daniel Doherty writes that while the Pope is critical of “unfettered capitalism and capitalism generally,” his remarks on these matters “hardly” constitute “a clarion call for Marxist revolution [.]”

What Duke and Doherty say of the Pope can be said just as easily of any Democratic politician in the United States.  Democrats, especially among election time when they are busy courting the Christian vote, spare no occasion to put a Gospel dress on their socialism—all the while refraining from criticizing “capitalism” by name.  They are all in favor of “a God-centered ethic” then.

There is more.  This Pope has made comments regarding our economic system that can and have been made quite frequently by socialists of various stripes.

For one, he has blasted “trickle-down economics” for its “crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.” Of course, in the real world, “trickle-down economics” hasn’t a single defender. The only people who speak as if the term had a referent are the socialist-minded.

Francis has also referred to ours as “an economy of exclusion and inequality.”  “Today,” he explains, “everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless.  As a consequence,” Francis concludes, “masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.”

Where have we heard this lingo before?

In fact, Francis has spoken out more forcefully than Obama or any other Democrat against our economy when he charged it with violating the commandment againstkilling.  “Such an economy,” Francis insists, “kills” (emphasis added).

Though painful for people to admit it, the truth is that Pope Francis is no friend to the liberty that some of us Americans still treasure.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

So, the word is that the fat cat GOP donors are eyeing up Jeb Bush as a presidential candidate for 2016.

If there’s any truth to this—and, tragically, it appears that there most certainly is—then there is but one conclusion left for any remotely sober person to draw:

The Republican Party is politically suicidal.

It is nothing short of incredible that anyone who isn’t one of its arch foes should even consider, much less desire, a Bush, any Bush, to so much as be associated with the GOP, to say nothing of becoming its standard bearer.  If Republicans knew what was good for them, they would avoid like the plague anyone with a name that merely sounded like Bush.

To be certain, a wish for Jeb Bush to lead the GOP is a death wish.

First, the damage that George W. Bush inflicted upon the Republican brand can’t be overstated.  Barack Obama is terrible for this country, for sure.  As we enter into the sixth year of his seemingly endless tenure in office, it is as easy for Republicans to forget just how unpopular Bush II was when he left office as it is easy for them to ignore the fact that Americans still blame him for involving their country in two unnecessary, protracted wars while sliding it into a recession.

Granted, resentment toward the 43rd president is no longer as intense as it once was.  However, with another Bush looking to take the White House in 2016, it is nothing less than a foregone conclusion that old feelings will return with a vengeance the likes of which haven’t been seen since 2006 and 2008.

Secondly, as the political climate has changed over the last few years, so too has the temperament of the rank and file, the base, of the Republican Party.  To put it simply, for the impulse toward so-called “moderate” candidates for which the GOP has become known, legions of traditional Republican voters in this Age of Obama have unmitigated contempt.

And Jeb Bush typifies the Republican “moderate.”

In 2008, after years of being insulted by John McCain—a Republican, recall, whom the leftist media endlessly praised for being a “maverick” until he dared to run against Obama—some 3 million Republicans decided they simply could not in good conscience vote for him in that year’s presidential election.

Even more telling, four years later, after President Obama had an entire term to reveal his identity to the nation, one million more Republican voters than refrained from voting for McCain refrained from voting for “moderate” Mitt Romney.

If Jeb Bush is the party’s nominee, you can take it to the bank that the GOP will continue to hemorrhage voters in 2016.

In fact, we can go even further: It isn’t in the least implausible to suspect that if Jeb Bush is even in the presidential primaries it will come at a considerable, possibly prohibitive, cost to Republicans.

Not only will scores of GOP voters take this as proof that, for all of their party’s conservative talk at election time, it still, even now, after eight years of Obama, isn’t willing to walk the walk; they will take it as proof as well that they are being manipulated and taken for granted by their own party heads.

Moreover, the left-wing press will have a field day exploiting the news that Republicans want to let loose another Bush on the country.  There is (relatively) little mention of Bush II these days. All of this will change dramatically if Jeb Bush gets even close to securing his party’s nomination.  The media will labor tirelessly to resurrect in the popular imagination the state of the nation under Bush II and his Republican Party.

And if you thought that those in the media were hard on Bush II and the GOP during his tenure, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

 

Neoconservatives—meaning every self-avowed “conservative” who also supported the Iraq War—assured us some years ago that the war in Iraq had been won following “the surge.”

Of course, years prior to this they assured us that the war would be “a cakewalk.”  Eleven years later, however, these remarks can’t but strike even the most prejudiced of observers as patently, even astonishingly, absurd, the utterances of men and women who are either grossly incompetent or out and out liars.

Courtesy of America’s invasion of Iraq, the latter today is indeed a “democratic” state.  But it is also an Islamic one. And it is a place where blood continues to spill in the streets.

Ilana Mercer reminds readers of this when she alludes to the latest findings of the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI).   The organization found that last month alone “a total of 703 Iraqis were killed and another 1,381 were injured in acts of terrorism and violence [.]”

And these numbers do not include the casualties coming out of the province Anbar.

“According to information obtained by UNAMI from the Health Committee of the Provincial Council of Anbar, the total civilian causalities in Anbar in February was 298 killed and 1198 injured, with 189 killed and 550 injured in Ramadi and 109 killed 648 injured in Fallujah.”  But because “UNAMI” has not been “able to independently verify these figures nor account for the status of those killed and injured as civilians,” the casualties in Anbar province are “extracted separately [.]”

This is, or at least should be, a scandal of epic proportions for those who endorsed this war as part of a global “Freedom Agenda.”

Yet it is not, and the neoconservatives who enthusiastically promoted Big Government to support this disaster have simply availed themselves of the catch-all excuse upon which Big Government enthusiasts of various stripes have been relying to explain away all  government-induced disasters: It could’ve worked, but it wasn’t done correctly, we didn’t give it enough time, blah, blah, blah.

The thing of it is, neoconservative Republicans don’t seem to have learned a thing from this colossal mistake, a wildly foolish, reckless judgment that has left tens of thousands of human beings dead and even more maimed and displaced.  Even now, they seem eager to feed into a caricature of themselves as warmongers by continuing to mock “isolationists” while showcasing the John McCains and Lindsay Grahams of the GOP every time an international disturbance of one sort or other erupts.

If Democrats weren’t worse, the GOP would be retired come this November.