Church and State

The Pope You Will Always Have With You

December 10, 2013

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The Pope You Will Always Have With You

“Income inequality” has become the global warming of economics, so it’s sad but hardly surprising to see Pope Francis getting in on the act.

I’m a cradle Catholic. I’ve worked for two Catholic newspapers and a major Catholic publishing house. My first blog, launched back in 2000, was called

The point is: I was a professional Catholic for many years, if not a particularly saintly one. I’ve spent too many hours, in public and private, wearily explaining that this or that pope was misquoted (again) by religiously illiterate (sometimes downright hostile) reporters and pointing out that the number of child-molesting-priests was, in fact, pretty small.

No, the “Immaculate Conception” does NOT mean that “Mary had a kid without a guy.” No, “papal infallibility” does NOT mean that if the pope looks out the window and says, “It’s-a gonna rain,” then it has to. No, the pope CAN’T “just sell off all those paintings and give the money to the poor” any more than the president can do the same with the contents of the Smithsonian.

“Pope Francis displays a naive faith in the wisdom and benevolence of the state, especially for someone who survived the Dirty War.”

So the pope just issued an “apostolic exhortation” called Evangelii Gaudium, and this is where I’d normally jump in and, after sighing loudly, try to justify his ideas about capitalism. Except I can’t—not entirely.

Unlike 99% of the world’s do-gooders, Pope Francis seems like a decent, compassionate man, not some twisted freak working out their personal guilt complex in public at others’ (forced) expense. That’s why it’s doubly distressing to see him embracing liberation theology.

Again, it’s no surprise that he would: Francis is a Jesuit from Latin America, which you could call “the birthplace of liberation theology” except that that designation rightly belongs to the Kremlin.

Jesuits can be insufferable wherever they happen to be. A Catholic newspaper I worked for ran vocational ads for the Society of Jesus, featuring one particular priest who was also a poet, chemist, and champion hockey goalie or some similarly devastating trifecta of talents.

That said, Latin American Jesuits are particularly troublesome. Back in my day, we were all supposed to revere the six priests who were slaughtered in El Salvador in 1989. I was the uppity broad at every editorial meeting who’d mutter, “…and two women,” pointing out that housekeeper Elba Ramos and her sixteen-year-old daughter would be alive today if only Catholic priests would deign to do their own damn laundry.

So naturally Pope Francis views the world through red-colored glasses. Furthermore, he hails from Argentina, a crony capitalism capital of the world. No wonder he seems to see monocle’d Monopoly men around every Baltic Avenue corner.

I say “seems” because the pope’s exhortation isn’t the blanket condemnation of capitalism many critics—most vociferously Rush Limbaugh—have made it out to be.

Yes, he condemns the “new idolatry of money” (which is actually the opposite of novel, considering 1 Timothy 6:10). True, he singles out “trickle down” economics as particularly sinister and wrongheaded, and, as pointed out earlier, he’s granted his imprimatur to the toxic “income inequality” fad.