Pope and President

This week the politics and power people continued to read the Catholic Church in terms of their own agenda. Rush (Windbag) Limbaugh huffed and puffed about the Pope being a Marxist while this journalist at Fox echoed him in saying that Pope Francis was the Catholic Church’s Obama. Meanwhile El Presidente mouthed a pull quote from Pope Francis about income equality. It was the one about headlines being made when the stock market drops two points but not when a homeless woman freezes to death.

All of this is rather rich coming from a President who costs us more to maintain than the entire English Royal family put together. I’ll believe El Presidente when I see him move out of the Presidential Palace to live in the local homeless hostel. Income equality indeed. Let him be the first to set the example along with his cronies, fat cat ex President Clinton and his Lady in Waiting–heiress apparent Hilary. Lest anyone mistake my rant for political posturing, I’m no lover of the Bush dynasty, but at least the Bush billionaires don’t spout self righteous sermons about income equality and wealth distribution. What the Republicans actually accomplished to help the poor I leave for more politically minded people to analyze.

So El Presidente grabs the Pope and hauls him onto his own bandwagon while Rush Limbaugh is only too happy to play the conservative talk radio game of cranking up any kind of jingoistic, non thinking attitudes–promoting the kind of propaganda that can only build itself up tearing someone else down–by finding a clear enemy and grinding one’s teeth and shaking fists and trembling with phony indignation. I suspect he’s also only too happy to feed the flames of the incipient anti-Catholicism that lurks within his mostly Protestant right wing audience in order to boost his own ratings.

What I’m really digging at is the secular world’s insistence that Pope Francis, and the whole Catholic faith be squeezed into a left-right political paradigm. In this view Benedict was the conservative evil Republican and Francis is the “feed the poor” saintly liberal Democrat. Or vice versa if you happen to be Republican, Benedict was the solid, reliable force of morality and goodness and Francis is the wicked, socialist crypto communist.

The Pope and the Catholic faith is simply bigger than all that. People think of Catholicism as narrow and confined into little legalistic boxes. True Catholicism is broader and deeper than any political ideology and is expansive and inclusive–breaking all the little categories from the inside out.

The problem is, we Catholics do the same thing. We narrow things down and try to contain the pope and the faith within our own small minded categories. We judge Benedict and Francis according to our own likes and dislikes–political proclivities or liturgical tastes.

What we all need to do is leave our preconceptions at the door. The Pope is the Pope. He is the voice of authority in the Catholic Church. His own personality, style and emphasis is his God-given gift to the church. Look at it this way. We all have a Dad. Some dads take their kids camping, hunting and fishing and coach little league. Some take their kids to the library, discuss philosophy and plan adventures to Europe. There are different ways to be a dad, and there are different ways to be the Pope.

Viva la difference. Pope Francis is a wonderful papa. Pope Benedict was a wonderful papa. What we need to do, and what the worldlings need to do is to pay attention to the heart of his message. All this fuss about his economics? It’s not really that important. What’s important is that he insists that we have made money an idol and that economic systems both on the macro and micro scale need to be rooted in service to the human person. The heart of his message is that we must get out and be with the poor–and I’d add that everybody is poor–just that some are more obviously needy than others.

That’s the heart of the message and the heart of the gospel.


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