Pope Francis wrote a most remarkable Op Ed for the New York Times this week.
It is the voice of a loving shepherd, speaking to his sin-sick, spiritually ravaged American flock. I hope that every person, of every belief and ideology, will read it. I know that reading it was balm for my heart.
Americans are suffering from the damage done to our souls by the leadership of a psychopath in the White House and the abject failure of so many of our religious leaders in the face of his evil. Instead of confronting and fighting against the evils of our times, many of our most prominent “star” religious leaders have promoted and encouraged the misogyny, racism, lying, corruption, and abuses of power.
They have called good evil and evil good. They have practiced vicious spiritual abuse and bullying against God’s people in order to coerce them to accede to and empower the fascism, racism, misogyny, sexual degeneracy and corruption of a bad man and his equally bad political cohorts. Our failed religious leaders have supported lies and liars and attacked those who tell the truth, and they have committed the ultimate lie by saying that they were doing it in the name of Christ.
That abject, deliberate, calculated failure on the part of America’s most prominent religious leaders is why so many Americans have become enthralled with crazy. It is why they have gone chasing after false gods and swallowed down the poison of bizarre conspiracies. Literally millions of people have become so morally and mentally confused that they engage in behaviors that are simultaneously suicidal and homicidal in the face of a pandemic.
We are in the grip of a huge surge in a deadly worldwide pandemic. Yet religious leaders are telling their flocks to ignore and do the opposite of the advice coming from medical and public health officials who are simply trying to keep people alive. We have a Catholic bishop who has actually gone to the Supreme Court to overturn public health restrictions designed to curb the spread of this deadly pandemic in order for him to put more Catholics in his churches during mass.
How are more sane Catholics supposed to interpret that behavior except by coming to the conclusion that the lives of the people entrusted to him mean nothing to this bishop? How are we supposed to look at his behavior as anything other than a direct attack on the common good? Is there some other way to see this action than the act of a man who is cored out with hubris so powerful that he will defy public health advice in a worldwide pandemic?
There’s no good explanation for this bishop’s action. There’s no loving, caring and Christian way to explain away a bishop who uses the power of his office to break down public support for desperate public health and safety measures that are trying to slow the spread of a deadly virus in a pandemic in order to save the lives of many thousands of people.
All I can say this morning as I type this is Thank, thank God for Pope Francis and his letter to the editor of the New York Times. He’s evidently been watching America from across the Atlantic, and has managed to get a surprisingly accurate read on our spiritual suffering.
In several instances around the country, our shepherds have actually turned against us, leading the charge against life-saving measures in this pandemic and roiling the waters of public discontent. They have done this in a time when militia plot to kidnap and murder sitting governors and crazy presidents refuse to admit they’ve lost elections and racism, misogyny and the angers they cause are running so hot that we are unable to sit down and talk to our own family members and friends without the discussion going to relationship-destroying accusations and rage.
America is sick at heart and soul, as well as ravaged and dying in huge numbers from a pandemic. Our religious leaders have fueled the twisted rage that has set us against one another, and they have done it for partisan political gain. When religious denominations siphon off billions of dollars of federal aid money that was intended for suffering Americans, that action does more than raise a question about the true motivations for their worship of the politicians who wrote the checks. It puts a period at the end of the sentence.
I don’t think that religious leaders — including several of our Catholic bishops— who have defied public health and safety rules during this pandemic care if the people they shepherd live or die. I don’t think they care if the people in the larger community live or die. I don’t believe for one minute that they are following God.
I think they are following their false political idol and their own overweening selves. I think they groove on the rush they get when they yell and stomp and lead people to do self-destructive things. All across this country, Americans are in the clutches of religious leaders who are predators rather than shepherds.
That’s why Pope Francis’ Op Ed is so important. He speaks with the voice of a shepherd who is able to see the suffering that this failure of leadership on so many levels has inflicted on the American people. We are hurting here in America, and the reason we are hurting is that we are coming off four years of tragic and amoral destruction from a psychopath in the Oval Office and the mass obeisance to him by the failed religious leaders who have led us into the maws of the political heresy rather than teaching us to follow Christ.
Americans are dying of a deadly pandemic. We have been flogged to the point that we never stop bleeding by the unending crazy of an evil leader. Worse, we have been betrayed by religious leaders who have used every bit of trust we had in them to coerce us on pain of sin into bowing down before this psychopathic, hate-filled man.
Even those Americans who saw through the psychopath from the first day and never bent their knee to the false gods of the political heresy are sin sick and sore from four years of battling this evil without religious leadership to strengthen us. We need a shepherd. And it appears that we have one.
I am so grateful to Pope Francis for writing this Op Ed. I didn’t need him to tell me these things he writes. I needed to know that somewhere in this great Church of ours there was a leader who actually cared for the people of America as human beings, rather than cattle they can herd to vote certain ways in order to gain power and influence for religious leaders at the political trough.
I’m going to write in more depth about the things Pope Francis said in this letter. It is a beautiful, deeply personal revelation of his own journey through illness and dying, as well as a simple letter of hope for suffering Americans.
But all I really want to do in this post is say Thank you Papa, for talking to Americans as if we are people and not things for you to use to gain political power. Thank you for caring if we live or die.
Here is a small sample of what Pope Francis wrote. From the New York Times:
With some exceptions, governments have made great efforts to put the well-being of their people first, acting decisively to protect health and to save lives. The exceptions have been some governments that shrugged off the painful evidence of mounting deaths, with inevitable, grievous consequences. But most governments acted responsibly, imposing strict measures to contain the outbreak.
Yet some groups protested, refusing to keep their distance, marching against travel restrictions — as if measures that governments must impose for the good of their people constitute some kind of political assault on autonomy or personal freedom! Looking to the common good is much more than the sum of what is good for individuals. It means having a regard for all citizens and seeking to respond effectively to the needs of the least fortunate.
It is all too easy for some to take an idea — in this case, for example, personal freedom — and turn it into an ideology, creating a prism through which they judge everything.