It is also a call to universal conversion and a radical reorientation among both the faithful and the ordained ministers of the Gospel. The Holy Father want us to trim the sails of our spiritual life as individuals so that we can move forward in this mission which Jesus gave us 2,000 years ago.
The Church and previous popes have been routinely attacked by those on the left of the political spectrum for a failure to abide by left-wing social teachings concerning abortion, gay marriage, and lately, questions of individual conscience of religious freedom. Pope Benedict XVI was routinely pilloried for things he did under force while he was a teenager, while Pope John Paul II suffered an attempted — and nearly successful — assassination attempt.
As this was happening, those on the right side of the political spectrum attempted to co-opt the Catholic Church in the same way that they had managed to co-opt other denominations by convincing them to whittle the Gospels down to two thou shalt nots about abortion (as opposed to the whole spectrum of the sanctity of life) and later, gay marriage. The price for their support on abortion was to be given a free ride on everything else.
Most conservative Christian denominations fell into line, up to and including the point of cherry-picking Holy Scripture to find verses to support specific economic policies. A number of lower-level Catholic clergy did the same thing. This was, as I keep saying, heresy.
Just to be clear, the left-wing churches that interpreted thou shalt not kill and a man shall cleave to his wife and they twain shall be one flesh out of significance in order to please their political masters were also committing heresy.
A few lower level members of the Catholic Clergy, as well as a good number of well-intentioned Catholic laity, cut their faith to conform to their politics. But the great moral voice of the Church stayed solidly consistent with 2,000 years of Christian teaching in these matters.
Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict issued documents containing virtually the same admonitions concerning economics that Pope Francis has just issued. I know, from reading many papal encyclicals, that these admonitions go back in a consistent pattern at least to the 19th century and probably long before. I know because I have read the documents containing these statements.
What is new is not what the Holy Father has said, but the contentious and narcissistic character of the entitlement on the part of political groups as regards religious leaders. Right-wing politicians and their operatives in the media and the corporate world have come to believe they “own” these religious leaders. They expect religious leaders to interpret the Gospels of Jesus Christ as they dictate. In their view of things, Jesus Christ is a great vote-getter and power compiler for them, and His clergy are their moral apologists and errand boys.
I have written many times about the way that I have seen Republican political leaders bully, boss and order the heads of whole denominations to say what they are told and do what they are ordered. I have watched while these same religious leaders fell into line and did exactly that.
I want to emphasize that this is not conjecture. I have witnessed these things and argued in vain with some of the religious leaders, urging them to grow spines and stand for what they say they believe. I have heard their excuses. I have also seen how whipped and meek they were in their dealings with these politicians.
I’ve seen them back off and back down about the one issue they claimed was number one with them: The issue of abortion. I’ve even had pro-life leaders lie to me in a failed attempt to try to keep me from taking a stand against Republican legislative initiatives that were enabling abortion rather than shutting it down.
These political leaders are the religious leaders’ masters, and they are not at all shy about yanking back on the reins if the religious leaders forget this.
I believe that this prevailing relationship of religious corruption and political abuse has created an expectation on the part of right-wing leaders in all venues, including the media, that religious leaders are under their thumb. The Pope is the great exception in this. He is not owned or dictated to by either the minions of the right or minions of the left.
The Catholic Church does not trim its teachings to suit the fancy of American politicians. For all their arrogance and power, these political forces and their operatives cannot control or dictate to the Pope.
Evangelii Gaudium does not say anything new in terms of Catholic teaching and economics. But its total lack of obeisance to the political powers in one wing of American politics both affronts and angers them. The Pope is a problem.
The last thing they want is for religious leaders to start behaving as if Jesus Christ was actually the arbiter of their teachings. The scary thing about Pope Francis’ independence and total unconcern about them and their power is not only that tens of millions of American Catholics might follow him, but worse, that their toady religious leaders might consider preaching the Gospels of Christ instead of political expedience along with him.
Courage breeds courage. There is just the glimmer of a possibility that these had men of the fallen collar class might decide to become real men of God and start standing for Christ. What would happen if, instead of bending over and apologizing to their political masters for disagreeing with them, the religious leaders these political parties depend on for their moral cover actually stood for Christ?
This scenario of corruption and abuse is a house of cards built on government sinecure that depends entirely on the willingness of religious leaders to barter the Gospels in the political marketplace. The fact that they do it for significantly more than 30 pieces of silver does not alter the meaning of the exchange.
Evangelii Gaudium doesn’t mention any of this. But the clear moral teachings it contains are a direct challenge to it, anyway. The Pope, because he is independent and teaches and preaches Christ, is a threat.
These people have become so arrogant that they think they can talk to the Pope the way they talk to their toady political religious leaders that they’ve bought and own. Since they can’t even get an audience with the Pope, they are going directly to the Catholic faithful they have beguiled for so long and are doing their best to get them riled up into a froth of Pope-hating.
Not only does it feed them red Catholic blood to whet their anti-Catholicism, it demonstrates what can happen to those who don’t do what they are told. The Pope might be able to shrug off their insults, but lesser clergy would have their reputations and careers wrecked by an onslaught like this.
In short, since they can’t bully and coerce the Pope, they will try as much as possible to isolate him and render his moral teachings insignificant among those religious leaders they can bully and coerce.
The sheer amoral hubris of these people is mind-boggling. They are no more Christian in their way of looking at things than the people they have excoriated for not being Christian these past decades. They have exempted themselves from Gospel claims on their behavior, and they have bought up a clergy to support them in this and teach their followers that it is righteousness to do so.
I am not concerned with what the fallen clergy whose lord is political power do or don’t do. I am not even concerned at the moment by the latent anti-Catholicism in our society.
What concerns me is Catholics who chose to follow these pied pipers of right and left wing politicians in attacking the Pope. I washed my hands long ago of the left wing Catholics who excoriate the Pope and refuse to follow the Church’s teachings. I have given up trying to reason with them and confine myself to praying for them, instead.
But I still have some hope for the right wing Catholics. I know that many of them have been deceived by the political hoy-paloy and that they are earnest in their desire to follow Christ and live their lives as faithful Catholics.
I also know that facing the fact that you’ve been successfully lied to and shifting out of a well-worn path in your thinking is painful. I know this because I’ve had to do it.
It is not easy or popular for an elected official to make a public 180 degree hard about on these fire-brand issues. The price is high. But that is what I did.
I understand how hard it is to do and I sympathize with those who try to avoid it. I tried to avoid it myself.
But you can’t be a half-way Christian. As Jesus said, you can’t serve two masters.
Most conservative Catholics are appalled by left-wing politicians such as Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi who talk about their Catholic faith and then defy the Pope in matters such as abortion and gay marriage. What they don’t see is that they are doing exactly the same thing by joining in with those who excoriate the Pope over right-wing economic positions.
A Pelosi of the right who only follows the teachings of the Church when those teachings are the same as their politics is not different in substance or fidelity from a Pelosi of the left who refuses to follow Church teachings when they conflict with their politics.
I didn’t plan or want to write about this. But the slime about Pope Francis just keeps rolling in. I reached a personal tipping point over an article that was published by Fox News attacking the Holy Father. It made me so angry that I had to stop and pray and then pray some more before I could even begin to write.
If I had hit the keyboard in that first flare of anger, I would have ended up like St Peter, cutting off someone’s ear and not doing any good at all.
The right-wing blogosphere has been littered the past few days with attacks from Breitbart, Limbaugh, Fox News, some guy named Mike Norman and another called “the agonist,” all claiming that Pope Francis is a Marxist, or something worse, an Obamaist. They used ridiculous headlines such as Pope Francis Attacks Capitalism, Calls for State Control, (Breitbart) Pope Francis’ Latest Document is Pure Marxism (Limbaugh) Pope Francis is Giving Obama an Orgasm (Limbaugh again), Pope Francis is the Catholic Church’s Obama. God Help Us (Fox News) and CNN’s entry from the left, The Pope as Marxist: Is Limbaugh Right?
Just in case I haven’t made myself clear, let me explain something to you about all this caterwauling and attacking of the Holy Father:
It’s about money.
It’s about power.
It’s about politics.
It has nothing to do with morality, truth, the facts, Marxism or even Obama.
It is about these punsters using your fidelity to them to destroy your fidelity to your Church so that when the Pope disagrees with them, it won’t matter.
These things they’re saying about Pope Francis are not true. They either did not read Evangelii Gaudium, or they are deliberately distorting what it says. When they say that the Holy Father “attacked capitalism, called for government control and is a Marxist,” I am hard-pressed to call it anything other than a slanderous lie.
I’m going to go over what the Pope actually said in a series of Cliff Notes posts. I’ve done one already. But I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this economic issue for the simple reason that it’s not that important to the overall message of Evangelii Gaudium. You can either take it from me, or read the document for yourself. These claims are absolute garbage.
From some of the comments I’ve seen, I would guess that a number of Public Catholic readers are drinking this Pope-hating Kool Aid. That is your choice.
But I am a Catholic woman. This is a Catholic blog. And I am going to stand with the Pope.