Francis the Wonderful

December 30, 2013 | 26 comments

2013 was quite a year for Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Elected in March after the surprise resignation of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Pope Francis has taken the world by storm. It started as soon he stepped out onto the balcony to be introduced to the world as Pope Francis, when he eschewed the papal mozzetta and put on the traditional papal stole only when he was ready to bless the crowds. Even his choice of papal name was a jaw-dropper, being the first time a pope had chosen the name of the Poor Man of Assisi.

As the year progressed, Pope Francis continued to show the world that he is at heart a consecrated religious; he is the first consecrated religious to be elected pope since Gregory XVI (1831–1846) and the first Jesuit pope ever. He paid his own pre-conclave hotel bill (notable because consecrated religious must not have personal debt); he chose simpler vestments and papal clothing than predecessors; he chose to live in the Domus Sanctae Marthae rather than the papal apartments so that he could maintain a communal life. He rode a bus with the cardinals after the election, and chose an old car over the papal Mercedes.

Then there were some bigger surprises. Pope Francis sat down for an interview with his brother Jesuits and stunned the world when he called upon Catholics to move beyond devotion to "small-minded rules." When asked about homosexuals during an interview on the papal plane, he asked a flabbergasted press corps, "Who am I to judge?" During another interview, a crusty atheist journalist neglected to use the tools of his trade—namely a recorder and notepad—and ended up reporting the interview from memory. Of course, the published interview ended up being entirely unreliable, but not once during the brouhaha that followed did Pope Francis humiliate the journalist by personally disputing words attributed to him.

Pope Francis also found ways to maintain contact with ordinary people. He personally called his newspaper deliveryman in Argentina to cancel delivery. Then he cold-called all sorts of people who wrote to him with their concerns: the family of a murder victim, a young woman being pressured to abort her child, a rape victim, a Traditionalist writer who had criticized Francis. He posed for a "selfie" with young people, put on a red nose for a newly married couple who had met while working in clown therapy, allowed a little boy to sit on the papal throne during a talk, and placed souvenirs from World Youth Day on an altar as a thanksgiving.

The world fell in love. And now, at the end of the year, we are seeing the accolades roll in. TIME named Pope Francis its Person of the Year. So also did The Advocate, a homosexual advocacy periodical, which gave its nod to Pope Francis over and above Edie Windsor, whose case against the United States was responsible for dismantling the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Even the men's magazine Esquire got in on the action, naming Pope Francis its Best Dressed Man of 2013.

Not only did media outlets take notice, so have lapsed Catholics and non-Catholics. I can't tell you how many lapsed Catholics, alienated Catholics, and non-Catholics I have seen on Facebook praising Pope Francis and expressing interest in the Church. Priests and bishops have reported that people from all walks of life approach them specifically so as to express their love for the Pope. There have been reports of a Francis Effect that is causing a rise in Mass attendance around the world. Groups like the Pew Research Center have claimed that this isn't the case, but a religious brother explained to me that it is possible that the study is based on faulty premises. In the U.S., Mass attendance is tabulated by envelopes in the collection basket; in other parts of the world, they count noses in the pews at Sunday Mass.

All in all, it is good news that the world loves the Pope, you might think. And so welcome after more than a decade of the world spitting on popes and the Catholic Church.

If you think so, then God bless you, and stay away from Catholic cyberspace—sometimes known, both affectionately and pejoratively, as St. Blog's Parish. There, the Francis Effect has been looked upon with agitation, alarm, and even revulsion. There are plenty of devout Catholics who are angered that the world loves Pope Francis and have seen it as cause for concern about Francis's orthodoxy.

Denouncing this "cult of Francis" has become a popular sport among Catholic bloggers and commentators. A Traditionalist writer recently wrote:

Rave reviews in The New York Times ("Francis Sets Down Goals for an inclusive Church"), USA Today ("Francis Calls for Big Changes in the Roman Catholic Church"), The Los Angeles Times ("Pope Francis Calls for Decentralized Church in Manifesto") and Fox News ("How Pope Francis is reenergizing the Catholic Church: New pontiff celebrated by liberal Catholics") are typical of the latest eruption of liberal rapture over Francis the Wonderful. The liberal media love [Evangelii Gaudium] even more than Francis's scattered utterances in other forums, including the infamous [Eugenio] Scalfari interview, finally removed from the Vatican website after it became too hot to handle, but without the Pope retracting a single word of it. Small wonder: EG develops the same themes Francis related to Scalfari.

Notice that the writer is not only upset by the world's admiration for Pope Francis but strings in some barbs against the Pope himself, calling the Pope "Francis the Wonderful" in an obviously pejorative tone and implying that silence over the interview with Eugenio Scalfari indicates papal approval of all that Scalfari wrote. (A more charitable assumption might have been, as mentioned earlier, that the Pope did not want to directly humiliate an elderly man—he's nearly 90 years old—who already has significant disagreements with the Church.)

Unfortunately, it is not just lay Catholics who are speaking of the Francis Effect in problematic terms. A popular priest blogger recently created a line of merchandise to sell to Catholics who want to identify themselves as the "self-absorbed promethean neopelagians" Pope Francis expressed concern over in his recent apostolic exhortation (EG 94). Whenever Pope Francis does or says something that causes alarm for this priest or his readers, he has taken to repeating over and over—almost in mantra-like terms—that "former-Father Greg Reynolds is still excommunicated [at the direction of Francis]."

One would think, reading these commentators, that a pope had never before been beloved by the unwashed masses. But in an article on the phenomenon of the papal cult of personality, Scott Richert observed that this phenomenon did not begin with Francis:

I happen to think that the modern papacy has indeed been characterized by a cult of personality, but the "modern papacy" is not confined to the popes from Francis back to John Paul II, or even John XXIII. The cult of personality surrounding the popes extends back at least to the early 20th century, and arguably to Pope Pius IX, the longest-reigning (1846–78) pope and the father of the First Vatican Council. Elected at a time not too dissimilar to ours, when many thought that the Catholic Church was on her way to the dustbin of history, Pius confounded the expectations of those who thought he would be the last pope, and he did so largely through the force of his personality.

Even more disturbing in my opinion is that many of these same commentators are eager for the day when the world "turns" on Francis. Evidently they want the world to hate the Pope. That Catholics could desire such a thing is, in my opinion, a far more frightening possibility than that the world loves the Pope. As Fr. Paul Scalia noted about the "Church Belligerent":

These habits of the Church Belligerent have a deadly effect on the soul of the soldier himself. He becomes the casualty of his own battles. The constant war footing makes him resemble poor Ishmael: "a wild ass of a man, his hand against every man and every man's hand against him" (Gen. 16:12). From this comes a certain hardening of the heart. The ceaseless complaining and griping is the spiritual equivalent of cholesterol. And the refusal to extend charity to others results in an inability to receive love from God.

In my opinion, Catholics should find joy in how the world has embraced Pope Francis. Like seed scattered over all types of soil, some seed will take root and bring souls to Christ and his Church, while other seed will fall on shallow ground to wither and die (cf. Matt. 13:1–9). But it is not for us to determine where the seed is scattered, or whether or not it will take root. That's God's business, not ours (cf. 1 Cor. 3:6–7).

If you are feeling nervous about the current fascination the world has for Pope Francis, perhaps you might want to reflect on what happened when Christ's disciples sought to shoo away those who found Christ attractive:

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people; but Jesus said, "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 19:13–14).


Michelle Arnold is a staff apologist at Catholic Answers. You can visit her personal blog or contact her online through Facebook.
Inside The Mind Of Pope Francis
Catholic Answers’ senior apologist Jimmy Akin has just produced a handy new booklet called Inside the Mind of Pope Francis which offers a unique look at our new pope.

Comments by Catholic.com Members

#1  kenneth winsmann - katy, Texas

Michelle,

I dont think its accurate to say that "traditional" (whatever that means) Catholics are upset that the world loves the Pope. We are upset because of WHY they love Pope Francis. The world hasn't fallen in love with Tradition or Sacred Scripture. They aren't fawning over the Kingship of Christ. They think Pope Francis is about break the back of an age old institution that desperately needs to "catch up with the times". Anyone who wants to know what "catch up with the times" means should apparently read Cardinal Martini whom Pope Francis just named a "father for the whole Church". Wonder why the folks at Catholic Answers aren't following Pope Francis lead and heaping praise on the "prophetic" figure so full of "discernment"?

The Church is in Crises. Dogma is being trampled over. The liturgy is a wreck. Just peruse any old reformed blog and its crystal clear that they can see it too. Just one such example from this very week

http://oldlife.org/2013/12/liberalism-rampant/

The folks at Catholic Answers want "business as usual". "Business as usual" doesn't cut it in times of crises. This apostolate is so influential. Imagine what kind of progress could be made if instead of constantly blogging against "rad-trads" you took a look around you and called out the rank modernism all around us. The East sees it. protestants see it. The media sees it and cheers. The world isnt praising the rise of Francis. They are cheering on the fall of the Church.

December 30, 2013 at 11:48 am PST
#2  Philipp Rogall - Frankfurt am Main, Hessen

To be quite honest, I find the jabs at Father Z ("former-Father Greg Reynolds is still excommunicated") to be based on misunderstanding. I do not think he's saying "Let's disobey the Pope by identifying as what he criticised". Really, in my opinion, he would be one of the last to say such a thing.

About the "former-Father Greg Reynolds" thingy: It's not really "whenever Pope Francis does or says something", but rather when people go misinterpreting what His Holiness is saying, on the "progressive" or "liberal" (I know we don't like labels) side, that is.

It is a fact that Pope Francis excommunicated (or at least enacted a previous decree) this particular Australian priest. All Father Z is trying to do here is place things in their proper context: Francis is not the liberal that many make him out to be, someone who is all cuddly and non-doctrinal.

My two cents.

December 30, 2013 at 12:30 pm PST
#3  Chris Patterson - Platte City, Missouri

I really like (and love) Pope Francis, but that's not the point.

Jesus gave us both the first pope and the papal office. He did so knowing full well that St. Peter was going to make mistakes, as would all future popes. Yet Jesus gave Peter, and the office, the Keys. Jesus apparently thought we, the Church, would need a Pope to lead us. And I think it is safe to assume that much, much good was to come from the godly, creative leadership that our popes have provided.

Our problem today is that we take advantage of the fact that we know our Popes are human. If he's not speaking ex cathedra on matters of faith and morals, we act as if it is our obligation to point out the the world how "wrong" he is, either in his message or his style. And, Michelle, I agree with you, the internet has given everyone a pulpit to complain and... be the "Church Belligerent." One would think by the blogosphere that we are ALL our own popes. It smacks of politics and individualism that perhaps value our own opinions more than we value individuals.

What we miss is the deep spiritual truth that submission to authority is necessary to effectively engage in spiritual warfare. Look throughout Scripture and you will see warfare verses preceded by submission verses.

So, our pope is encouraging us to take soul search and take a variety of steps. My soul welcomes some of those steps, and is challenged by others. I'm trying to take them, because he's my pope. (And, after being popeless for many years until I came into full communion with the Catholic Church, I will tell you that I love the leadership!) Even if I don't completely understand

I wonder if there are Protestants out there who are appreciating Pope Francis' leadership, too - to the point of following his lead!

December 30, 2013 at 1:30 pm PST
#4  Trixy Jones - Mainly, Nebraska

Totally agree with Kenneth here. The answer isn't to shut your eyes to the problems. This apostolate is falling down on the job. The Pope is not impeccable.

December 30, 2013 at 4:03 pm PST
#5  Matthew McTaggert - Burnaby, British Columbia

Nobody said the pope is impeccable. It is the teachings and the word of God he professes that are impeccable. Non-Catholics and fundamentalists perceive it otherwise because they keep protesting that Catholics declare the pope in that way which is totally false. For those who cheer the Catholic church will fall, best of luck. It will never happen. Only its followers fall. Every attempt to take it down always ended up in failure and will continue to fail.

December 30, 2013 at 6:50 pm PST
#6  Trixy Jones - Mainly, Nebraska

I think ultra montanist lite crowd think he is impeccable. You should try criticizing Pope Francis' words sometime and see the responses you get. It's either, the media twists it! (Even if you read the whole thing from the direct source yourself) or It's taken out of context! Again even if you read the whole thing. Then they act like you hate the Pope because you don't agree with some things he says. It is destructive to never criticize the Pope and it doesn't benefit anyone. Especially when we're talking about a so called apologetical organization.

December 30, 2013 at 8:11 pm PST
#7  Terrye Newkirk - Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

I confess I was a wee bit nervous about some of the things His Holiness has said and done. But Esquire has named him Best-Dressed Man of 2013. I feel much better now.

December 30, 2013 at 8:52 pm PST
#8  Sam Entile - Naperville, Illinois

There's also concern among Catholics that the media has attempted to create a Francis vs. Benedict sentiment. I also agree with the above comments that say many in the media who like Pope Francis are rooting for the unraveling of the Church. It is not uncommon to see articles praising Pope Francis' "tone" toward homosexuals or pro-choice beliefs and coupling that with something like "but the Church still has a long way to go." The goal of many in the media and many with them is to overturn certain Church doctrines. That's not the kind of "interest in the Church" that is needed.

If there are some attracted to the Pope's ministry toward the poor and personal phone calls, that may indeed be a seed that will germinate, and such people may come to the Church for its truth and take root. But commentators who say the Pope is making a "step in the right direction" but the Church still has "a long way to go" are plentiful in the media. I think it wise to remain alert to disruptive plots against the Church.

December 31, 2013 at 10:38 am PST
#9  Bonnie Custer - Portland, Oregon

I find the actions and words of Pope Francis both refreshing and challenging. I was sitting secure on my "Good Catholic" chair looking down on all those who were less enlightened than me. I like being right. I hate feeling uncomfortable in my rightness. The Holy Father has tipped me off my chair--a very good thing. I must ponder whether or not my actions match my strong beliefs in the Catholic Church. As for his words, I go to the source. I never take the secular press at its word. I also know which Catholic publications will give me the truth without the secular American editorializing. The last point I want to make is that "liking Pope Francis does not equal disliking past popes." It is not a competition. I love each Pope that the Lord has given us.

December 31, 2013 at 12:20 pm PST
#10  Peter Laffin - Boulder, Colorado

That was a fantastic post, Bonnie. Very impressed with the sophistication of your faith. I will strive to do the same.

December 31, 2013 at 1:28 pm PST
#11  stephen nagy - converse, Texas

Based on a paraphrase of a point made (I think correctly) in the article: That more so than any in living memory, the World loves this Pontiff and, [I emphasize:] what the World makes of his message,
a question: Doesn't Christ explicitly, repeatedly say that He inspires the World to precisely the opposite reaction?

January 3, 2014 at 1:26 am PST
#12  Steven Way - Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio

Michelle Arnold says in the article, "There are plenty of devout Catholics who are angered that the world loves Pope Francis and have seen it as cause for concern about Francis's orthodoxy."

How many is 'plenty'? What is meant by 'devout Catholics'? Does the whole world actually love Pope Francis? The article doesn't limit its scope to SSPX but seems to conflate the SSPX with all devout Catholics, making it seem as if all devout Catholics hate the Pope and as if being a devout Catholic is an evil thing.

Of course the SSPX don't agree with Pope Francis. They also thought that Benedict XVI was too liberal. So, there is nothing new here. But, please don't use the term 'devout' with them and conflate it with Catholic conservatives who are in full communion with the Pope and are loyal to him but who are legitimately suspicious of the motives of the secular media.

Personally, I haven't seen a single one of any of my non-Catholic friends on Facebook or anyplace else show any interest in Catholicism or in Pope Francis. The secular media is the only place I'm seeing Pope Francis get propped up.

Besides the obvious attempts by the secular media to selectively twist the Pope's words to use him to promote the abortion and same-sex 'marriage' agenda we should remember what it says about the world in the Holy Bible:

Jesus said, "If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." (Jn. 15:19)

With that in mind, this is what I think is going on today:

"Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to him, 'All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.' Then Jesus said to him, 'Begone, Satan! for it is written, `You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'" (Matt. 4:8-10)

January 3, 2014 at 11:35 am PST
#13  Peter Laffin - Boulder, Colorado

Are you calling Pope Francis Satan-like? Has the American right wing really gone that far off the deep end?

January 4, 2014 at 12:03 am PST
#14  kenneth winsmann - katy, Texas

Peter,

The duck dynasty patriarch sounds more Catholic than the pope but its the right wing that's gone off the deep end?

I think the reference to scripture was supposed to parallel the church desperately trying to be relevant and please the world with Satan tempting Christ to take all the kingdoms of the earth.... But I could be wrong there...

January 4, 2014 at 10:03 am PST
#15  Peter Laffin - Boulder, Colorado

Wow. I'm not really sure what to say. You'll be in my prayers. God bless.

January 4, 2014 at 11:22 am PST
#16  Steven Way - Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio

"Are you calling Pope Francis Satan-like? Has the American right wing really gone that far off the deep end?"

@ Peter Laffin,

No. I don't know how you got that from what I wrote. In the Holy Bible verse, I'm comparing Pope Francis to Jesus. I had assumed that anyone who is familiar with Catholic doctrine should automatically recognize the comparison between Jesus and our Pope since our Pope is the Vicar of Christ here on earth.

Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world but only if Jesus would bow down and worship him. The secular media is offering Pope Francis popularity if he will dump all the Church doctrines on morality.

Jesus rejected Satan's offer. And, despite the lies and half-truths of the leftist secular media about the Pope, he hasn't changed one iota of any Church doctrine. I am just as loyal to this Pope as I was to the ones before him. But, my loyalty to Pope Francis isn't just a passing fad. Does that make me a right-winger? If so, then I'm glad to be one.

January 4, 2014 at 12:18 pm PST
#17  Tracy Patrick - Edinburg, Texas

As a person living with and seeing the Pope Francis effect, as it has been called; I couldn't be more thrilled. My anti-Catholic husband attends Mass every Sunday and is not only allowing but encouraging our daughter's (13) attending CCD and becoming Catholic. After 17 years of praying for this it has occurred. My husband, may one day become Catholic..he may not, but he began to listen to the teachings of the Church, and not just anti-Catholic propaganda because of Pope Francis. My agnostic Father, is taking steps toward faith because of the words of the Pope, words of inclusion and healing, of love for each other and of Christ. Neither my husband or father believes the Church is teaching anything new, they don't expect to see gay marriage, or women as priest, but they have heard the call of Christ through this Pope and that is a wonderful thing indeed. I also remember how popular Blessed John Paul the Great was in his time and see how beloved he still is, both men reached out to others as Pope, to offer the love of Christ through his Church and both have been successful.

January 6, 2014 at 10:31 am PST
#18  Steven Way - Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio

@ Tracy Patrick,

That's great to hear that you have personally witnessed something positive come from this. Thank you for sharing that. The media coverage of Pope Francis is a double-edged sword. Those who hear about him while seeking the truth will be able to look past the sensationalized media distortions.

January 6, 2014 at 12:57 pm PST
#19  Matthew McTaggert - Burnaby, British Columbia

@ Tracy Patrick,

That is encouraging to hear that your family is somewhat being united by the word of Christ. My family is currently going through the same division. My mother and I always attend church every Sunday. My father and brother used to attend but have fallen under the mass propaganda against the church. But I will take this as hope that they will return and listen to the truth instead of gossip.

January 6, 2014 at 10:05 pm PST
#20  Beth Justiss - Dexter, Michigan

Kenneth, you are right about this whole media love feast for Pope Francis. Michelle is conflating the papal primacy and infallibility with impeccability. I don't understand Pope Francis's homilies or statements and I am a convert from protestantism and I talk to people on the street about our Lord and His Church. Jimmy Akin and Michelle try to twist them around so that they are in tune with Chruch teaching. These nebulous groups of people who the Pope likes to criticize in his speeches and homilies, 'pelagianist' tendencies and those who present the gospel with a bludgeon, etc. don't exist around here or at Catholic Answers for sure, and have the effect of distracting from the fact that the Pope is saying very little of import. He also says it so disjointedly, but he is so humble and does not care that ordinary people don't understand it. He certainly can't get any help from anyone. He knows best how to say it. Also Cardinal Burke said that the apostolic exhortation, the Gospel of Joy is not magisterial teaching. Let's just stick with the catechism, the Holy Scriptures and read papal magisterial statements of previous popes, Catholic Answers. I am sick of hearing about these incomprehensible and puzzling statements that Pope Francis makes so often. I do not find Pope Francis's words helpful or encouraging. At best,they are poor restatements of the scripture or catechism and thus not very useful in my apsotolate.

I have also had the Pope's words, "who am I to judge" thrown at me at the local abortion mill. Thanks Holy Father, for confusing everyone, even Catholic Answers. Confusion is not of God. I hope and pray that the Holy Father will wake up and smell the coffee.

January 10, 2014 at 6:09 pm PST
#21  Beth Justiss - Dexter, Michigan

This is an example oh how some Catholic high schools are being effected by Pope Francis:

The day after Zmuda (an openly homosexual teacher) submitted his resignation (at a Catholic high school in Washington), drama coach Stephanie Merrow publicly announced she was lesbian and engaged to “marry” her partner. Merrow said she made her lesbian engagement public to support the student protests.

“It was the kids. I was extremely proud of and supportive of the kids and the way they handled this,” she told King5 news.

“I’m doing this to support the kids, and what the kids are trying to do is get to the Pope and change the church,” she said."

January 10, 2014 at 6:13 pm PST
#22  Steven Way - Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio

@ Beth,

It's not because of Pope Francis. These kids are being manipulated by mainstream media propaganda which is giving the public a false representation of our Pope. Many times, they cherry pick one short sentence out of a long interview and exaggerate and twist it.

By the way, even if a Pope were to ever say something heretical in an interview it wouldn't change anything in Church doctrine since an interview is not binding. It's about as far away from an infallible statement as it gets.

But, the Vatican has come out with corrections every time the media has reported falsely about Pope Francis. But, unfortunately, the media keeps on doing what they do which is to aggressively push their Pro-Abortion and so-called same-sex "marriage" social engineering agenda. The problem is most people aren't going to read past the sensationalistic headlines.

"A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on." - Winston Churchill

The mainstream media didn't tell anyone, but in his first encyclical, Pope Francis said this about marriage:

"The first setting in which faith enlightens the human city is the family. I think first and foremost of the stable union of man and woman in marriage. This union is born of their love, as a sign and presence of God’s own love, and of the acknowledgment and acceptance of the goodness of sexual differentiation, whereby spouses can become one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24) and are enabled to give birth to a new life, a manifestation of the Creator’s goodness, wisdom and loving plan."

January 11, 2014 at 5:16 pm PST
#23  stephen nagy - converse, Texas

Although I am in no way nor to any smallest degree an adherent to sedevacantism (tipping a hat to Mr. Akin's excellent elucidation as to its impossibility), yet as I learned of it I couldn't help hearing the words of the dialogue which is questionably attributed to having been overheard by Pope Leo XIII. For those unfamiliar with the narrative, a supposed vision begins with Satan challenging Christ: "I can overthrow Your Church." and ends with Christ's responding: "You have the time. You will have the power. Do with them what you will."

The "it" that I read about today -- and it could be wrong, but sadly I wouldn't really be all that surprised -- was a statement from the USCCB (http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/labor-employment/upload/joint-minimum-wage-letter-2014-01-08.pdf) That in their expansive sophistication and infinite nuance they would promote heresy (or a bit of evil now and again) is not uniquely shocking.

The little bit of agitprop in this case that "[I paraphrase] CCC teaches that current minimum wage is not just." In other words the VI Commandment (property rights) and free will and association need to be tweeked a little to meet their standards.

BUT HERE is the thing: They draw on this:
http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/speeches/2013/september/documents/papa-francesco_20130922_lavoratori-cagliari_en.html Find the paragraph that begins "The first:".

Here we find a sentence that even if we take it out of context, (unless the context is "The following statement is at the core of the heresy of communism ....") is a big problem. "One very important factor for the dignity of the person is, precisely, work; work must be guaranteed if there is to be an authentic promotion of the person. "

Although hinted elsewhere, that's the 8th plank of Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto. Alternately, it appears in the Supreme Soviet's 1977 adaptation of the Constitution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, chapter 7, article 40. It appears in older versions of the document too.

Our Pope's statement may not be Ex Cathedra or even infallible. But by definition as the "right to employment" is straight from the Lenin/Marx core of communism. You won't find it anywhere else from Aristotle to the Founding Fathers to the Magna Carta. The statement flies in the face of dozens (?) of Papal bulls and exhortations, replete with excommunications of communists and condemnations of communism per se -- repeatedly, emphatically, over more than a hundred years.

One might argue, but that's only socialism, not communism. No. Communism assumes socialism as a phase on the path to itself.

Would anybody be troubled to hear the Bishop of Rome say something like "Freemasonry is a bulwark of the human soul in Christ."? To me, that would be really disturbing given the number of times it's been emphatically declared as something more akin to the opposite.

I understand that because I'm academically trained in it, I may well be assuming too much knowledge of economics in too many people. I'll try to encapsulate:

How is it ever licit to (advise that a government) take
freedom from those who have yet to do any wrong?

I see the USCCB exploiting its ability to quote the Holy Father, with both saying, pretty much:

"In Our role of saving souls We tell you, government: Force
this rich man to employ and/or pay this poor man."

How would Christ connect this to respect for human dignity? Is this some new translation of "feed my sheep"? This isn't hearsay or lousy translation: This is the Vatican website and the USCCB website.

To underscore: This kind of stuff won't make me leave the Church -- it's an opportunity for Faith. I respect the Pope and pray for our Bishops. This certainly isn't even close to a historic low for the USCCB, certainly, by a long shot. Augustine's thoughts on the probability of bishops' salvation come to mind, and also how he quipped that it wasn't because of them that he stayed true to Christ's Church. Still this seems novel: our bishops saying and doing very sophisticated and eminently nuanced US-Catholic things where they immediately pointed to the Pope as justification.

January 12, 2014 at 3:27 am PST
#24  Steven Way - Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio

@ stephen nagy,

Communism/socialism is some truth mixed with a lot of error. If Karl Marx said that it's good for people to be employed then that's one point I would agree with him on even while I reject probably everything else he said. Pope Francis saying, "Where there is no work there is no dignity!" is not any different than what was taught by the Church before him.

For example, Pope John Paul II's Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church says the following about work:

"Work is essential insofar as it represents the condition that makes it possible to establish a family, for the means by which the family is maintained are obtained through work. Work also conditions the process of personal development, since a family afflicted by unemployment runs the risk of not fully achieving its end."

January 12, 2014 at 1:41 pm PST
#25  stephen nagy - converse, Texas

Whatever any good or evil that of us may observe in Marx, it is not the Gospel. It is the Truth and His Gospel that we are charged to proclaim, not our "version" of the truth. Throughout scripture, we again and again find the question of purity vs dilution of message. For instance through Moses' unvarnished, uncensored transmission of God's message to Joshua we see Jericho's walls fall. On the other hand, selective transmittal (reception) leads to John 6: 50ish-67+/-. And thereafter words relevant to this subject (I quote from memory, but in essence:) "to whom else shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life."

We can't add, we can't subtract -- to say it's not our job to edit Christ is a gross understatement. There is utterly no way to justify delivery of the message of the Church in some admixture of our hearts' desire with (Marxism or) any of the World's philosophies.

I do not have the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, so I take it without context. However, interestingly, while there may be some parallel to Pope Francis' quote, the "Compendium" quote could easily comport to, say, Paul's exhortation to labor in 2 Thes 3. The USCCB's agenda validating exploitation of Pope Francis' address (cited in my above comment) is disingenuous at best but worse, points, I believe, to why so many of The Holy Father's statements are so warmly embraced by the "World".

His understanding of economic justice formed in a part of the world where what is understood to be "capitalism" is actually "crony-capitalism" -- in truth far more akin to feudalism than to free markets. It frankly hasn't been his job to understand free will vis-a-vis property rights (aka free markets or unfettered capitalism.) It's beyond the scope of a blog post to detail, but not only is free association, freely entered trade utterly consistent with the Decalogue, but demonstrably has lead to the conditions of work, food, health, dignity (etc.,) across that proportion of humanity that has access to that freedom. (The former is easily laid out with powerful scriptural underpinning and the latter is empirically demonstrable.) There are zero instances of Christ urging anyone to impinge on anyone's freedom or confiscate anyone's property for any purpose whatsoever -- in stark contrast to His exhorting individuals to give of their own accord.

This is my hope: That our Pontiff will somehow come to understand that additional clarity is needed when it is necessary to address matters of economy. He is apparently well aware of and in accord with the negative direction connected to the Church's 1984 "Instruction on certain aspects of the ‘Theology of Liberation’" and its condemnation of Marxism intermingled with social teaching. It is the flip side of this that appears to be a vulnerability: the knowledge of how freedom of transaction, rights of ownership, etc. enhance not merely dignity, but do so in a manner more entirely in accord with Scripture than any alternative. Without that knowledge, it may even be impossible to see how his words can be twisted.

Apologies for any lack of clarity or sloppiness. I had this brief opportunity to respond and with the expectation of not having another for at least another week, thought to write out thoughts before the thread was entirely forgotten.

January 25, 2014 at 2:44 am PST
#26  Debbie Douglas - Fraser, Michigan

Wow Steven Nagy....a most well stated and thoughtful post about a Pope we so richly deserve.

August 3, 2014 at 8:13 pm PST

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