Pope Francis’ trip to South America has ended. He has returned to Rome and will be less in the spotlight, thank goodness! The Holy Father is, of course, rock-solid in his beliefs and teaching. His homilies are very good. He has challenged us to look outward more than we have been and to focus on the person. Two years ago he urged us to “make a mess” — that is, to shake things up.
In practice, this has been both good and bad. Sadly, the bad has often been unnecessary. For example, the environment encyclical (Laudato Si) gave unnecessary scientific and economic conclusions. While comprising only a small part of the document, the legs are knocked-out from under its crucial teaching on faith and morals. Political liberals (including most of the mass media) have cherry-picked only the handful of sentences they like and ignore the rest. Political conservatives discount the entire document for exactly those same lines. Those statements were completely unnecessary to the main points.
On this recent trip, Pope Francis accepted a crucifix combined with a hammer and sickle (willingly, the earlier reports that he said “this is wrong” were not accurate). This may be reaching out to people where they are, but will almost universally be taken differently. Accepting this (sacrilege in my opinion) was unnecessary and will drown-out his other messages.
There are, of course, the constant stream of comments he makes which are taken out of context. Pope Francis’ actual points are typically good or even excellent, yet are unnecessarily lost because of the casual, off-the-cuff style. At some point, I would hope that he would grow more into the office and adjust to avoid this.
The last and perhaps most important area of troublesome prudential choices are his appointments. They are numerous, from pontifical councils to cardinals, many with non-Catholic ideological viewpoints, histories of suppressing traditional teaching and practice, decimation of seminaries, and yes – even sex abuse entanglements. These people can do great, long-lasting harm.
Finally, the biggest red-flag for all of us (especially for the Holy Father himself) is how much the “world” loves Pope Francis. Why is that? Is it because they have learned the truth of Christ and will amend their ways (even a teeny, tiny bit)? Or, is it because they believe (albeit incorrectly) that their views and ideology are affirmed?
Paul Kengor wrote an wonderful piece for the always excellent Crisis Magazine on this general topic. It was written before the pope’s recent trip and is more narrowly focused than my comments above, but is a bit more optimistic.
Many Catholics, especially conservative ones, obviously aren’t thrilled with the pope’s new encyclical. I find myself once again spending a lot of time explaining to non-Catholics why the current pope is either not a Marxist or is being yet again misunderstood for the 999th time. Frankly, I’ve lost most of my credibility with these folks, who surely see me as a hopelessly blind Catholic.
This constant defense-mode has been unique in the case of this particular pope. Sure, much of the fault is with those looking to remake this pope and this Church in their own image, and I’d even add (in Francis-like thinking) that the Devil himself has made a mess of things. Yet, much of it is absolutely the pope’s own doing, as Francis is the master of the imprecise word and off-the-cuff sloppy statement. He — and they — keep us faithful Catholics busy. All of which brings me to the new encyclical on “climate change.”
The secular left, of course, loves this encyclical. As I write, the farthest reaches of the left, People’s World, house organ of Communist Party USA, has two articles singing atheistic hosannas to the bishop of Rome. This has become common at People’s World. The successor to the Soviet-directed Daily Worker is a vigorous champion of this pope. There truly has never been a pope that communists have embraced like Pope Francis. Believe me, I research this, I know.
“The Roman Catholic Church and the U.S. labor movement are working more closely together than ever,” celebrates a feature article at the current People’s World.
“The Pope calls for serious and immediate action to address climate change and other environmental crises,” crows a second article. “The encyclical addresses issues of water stress, biodiversity, pollution, the declining quality of life, economic inequality, and more.”
Noticeably absent among the “more” were Pope Francis” eloquent statements about protecting other of God’s creation, such as unborn babies, the most innocent victims of secular progressivism’s “throwaway culture.” That’s one aspect of the encyclical that the left is avoiding like toxic waste. Indeed, the People’s World article closes: “while the Pope is progressive on many issues including climate, the Catholic Church continues to be backward on issues of reproductive health, women’s choice, same sex marriage, and other issues.”
The article goes on to offer hope, suggesting Pope Francis will bring his substantial reservoir of good will to bear on the family. Read the article Fear Not, Faithful Catholics for Kengor’s thesis.