When you elect a Pope from the Global South

which is, by the way, where the Church is experiencing explosive growth, the North has to get used to the reality that the Holy Spirit is extremely busy there and may not be fascinated with our trivial obsessions with wealth, sex, and power. One searches in vain in the ante-Nicene Fathers for gossip about the Roman court and the palace intrigues of the Barracks emperors. Caesar shows up in the gospel as a minor supporting character. The main characters are the dregs of society. It is no accident that when God chooses his Chosen People, they turn out to be underdogs and when God sends his Son, he winds up, not as a political winner, but as a crucified slave. The major players in this world are not who we think. It is the vanishingly insignificant (in the eye’s of the world) that Heaven has it’s eye on. We may well be the bit players and it may well be that our contribution to the play will rest on just a couple of crucial gesture or lines such as dropping a few coins in the Temple treasury or asking “Shall I crucify your king?”

  • http://hjg.com.ar/ Hernán J. González

    The linked article is surely relevant, but I’d object the bit about

    “…the Global South which is, by the way, where the Church is experiencing explosive growth…”

    That sounds too… global to me. Specifically, here in Argentina, in the last decades (or centuries) the Church has NOT been experiencing any explosive growth, rather on the contrary.

    • chezami

      I’m just going on what John Allen reports.

    • Paul Williams

      If the “Global South” is Africa, the growth can indeed be characterized as “explosive”. South America, not so much:
      http://ncronline.org/blogs/all-things-catholic/dramatic-growth-evangelicals-latin-america

      • http://hjg.com.ar/ Hernán J. González

        That’s why I object Mark’s implication (“The church in the South is growing explosively” , “The pope comes from the South” , ergo “The pope comes from a place where the Church is growing explosively”)

        • Iota

          It’s a feature (or a bug) of talking in two broad directions South/North. While being US American. :-)

          When the writer speaks of the Church of the North he does the same thing, I think: he’s thinking of the North as Western Europe + the US, Central or Eastern Europe, or some parts of Asia are very much North, not South, but the probably share more concerns with what he thinks is South.

          • Heather

            Likely the same kind of “metaphorical direction” thinking that had Spain included as part of “the Orient” when some of the people doing the including were geographically to the East of Spain.

            • Iota

              > Spain included as part of “the Orient”

              Well, Span did have Arabs at one point living on the peninsula and dominating the culture AFAIK, so that MIGHT make some sense. Kind of. A tiny bit. :-)

              Probably most of us do this from time to time – instead of paying attention to foreign cultures as individual entities, with millions (or billions) of members each, we make our home culture the metaphorical centre of the universe and we end up describing whole continents as if they were countries (US Americans often specify in which state they are, but might call Europeans a group as if Belgium and Estonia were the same thing, and the Europeans talk about “Asia” (yeah, Japan and India are totally similar) and “Africa” (Egypt and Nigeria…). And South America, we all know, is just jungles. :-)

    • Andy, Bad Person

      The Church has experienced some challenges in South America, primarily losing people to Evangelicalism. This seems to be a recent trend, where Evangelicals pick up where Catholicism has weakened.

  • orual’s kindred

    While certainly the problems facing The Church in the North affect people–especially poor people–in other areas of the world, they have to deal with other problems as well. The poor, for instance, have to deal with poverty, sometimes in ways that are very different from the issues that arise from poverty in the North. And such problems may need to be addressed in ways that many people are not familiar with.

  • Mike

    What an excellent and thoroughly enjoyable article. Thanks Mark for the post.

  • Paul Stilwell

    I wonder how much, if any, latent U.S. racism towards South Americans brews unconsciously beneath the impeccable triumphalist criticisms of Pope Francis.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean a blatant, explicit racism – more like a daily-imbibed prejudice: the kind that comes with knowing South Americans mainly as lowly migrant workers – ignorant peasant folk from across the border. And how dare that ignorant simpleton intellectual lightweight Pope Francis tell us not to be obsessed with a disjointed multitude of doctrines, right?

    I mean, we know how badly catechised those people are right? With their popular devotions-bordering-on-superstition and their garbled liturgical practices?

    How much of this prejudice unconsciously colours the criticisms made of Pope Francis?

    It’s a legitimate question to ask of oneself.

    Those Pharisees of the temple – how they must have looked with disdain upon seeing Jesus, a country peasant rabbi!

    Of course, the impeccable doctrinal triumphalist reaction to the above might perhaps be: oh, so if one criticizes the Pope then that means one is a racist?! Typical Liberal tactic! No, criticizing the Pope does not make one a racist at all. And unconscious prejudice – if it does exist in one – does not equal racism. But the ability to ask oneself how much certain prejudices might possibly be colouring and fueling one’s criticisms without bruising your kneecaps on the bottom of your desk top might prove to show that you are not prejudiced.

    I mean, when reading what Pope Francis has to say about the economy, for instance, is there not some twinge of feeling in certain people, a certain feeling like they were being lectured by a Mexican toilet scrubber about how wealth needs to be distributed? What could that ignoramous from a broken country – though I wish him well – possibly know about the economy of America (even though his predecessor said the same things)?

    If one prides oneself on being objective, then self-criticism should be no enemy. Indeed, one should take no prisoners in assessing the subjective underlings that may be colouring and/or fueling the conclusions that one is making. To learn that there may be some unidentified things lurking there should cause one to exclaim, “The horror!” and then rout them out.


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