- The American Conservative - https://www.theamericanconservative.com -

Revolution In The Vatican

The veteran Vatican correspondent John Allen has a terrific analysis of Pope Francis, who he calls a revolutionary [1], and explains why. The whole thing is fascinating, especially the details of how Francis is acting firmly to break up the cozy, featherbedding world of the Curia — something that many reformers, on the Catholic left and the Catholic right, were hoping he would do. But he’s doing more than administrative reform. Here’s Allen:

Fourth, whether it’s a matter of instinct or conscious strategy, Francis seems to be repositioning the church in the political center, after a fairly lengthy period in which many observers perceived it to be drifting to the right.

Veteran Italian journalist Sandro Magister recently observed, “It cannot be an accident that after 120 days of his pontificate, Pope Francis has not yet spoken the words abortion, euthanasia, homosexual marriage,” adding that “this silence of his is another of the factors that explain the benevolence of secular public opinion.”

Yet Francis has imposed no such gag order on himself when it comes to other political topics, such as poverty, the environment and immigration. It’s telling that for this first trip outside Rome, Francis chose the southern Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, a major point of arrival for impoverished African and Middle Eastern immigrants seeking to reach Europe. The pope called for greater compassion for these migrants, chiding the world for a “globalization of indifference.”

While the trip played to generally rapturous reviews, the anti-immigration right in Europe was outraged. Erminio Boso, a spokesman for Italy’s far-right Northern League, said: “I don’t care about the pope. … What I’d ask is that he provide money and land for these extra-communitarians,” referring to undocumented immigrants.

The shift to the center also seems clear in ecclesiastical terms. In Rome, the perception is that power brokers associated with moderate positions, such as Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras, coordinator of the commission of cardinals, are on the ascendant, while those linked to neoconservative or traditionalist stances, such as Cardinal Raymond Burke of the United States, head of the Vatican’s supreme court, are in decline.

The church may not veer sharply in its political allegiances, but there seems a clear preference for the social Gospel over the culture wars.

Mind you, John Allen writes for the National Catholic Reporter, which is a left-liberal publication. Conservatives would look at this and say Francis is not moving the Church to the center, but to the left. Still, he’s moving the Church, and that is big news.

That said, this graf made me snort:

In just four months, Francis has revived the international prestige of the papacy and its moral capital. The Italian edition of Vanity Fair recently declared him its “Man of the Year,” including snippets of praise from unlikely quarters such as Elton John, who termed the pontiff “a miracle of humility in the era of vanity.”

Elton John? The guy is a gazillionaire rock star once known for his elaborate costumes, and still known for being a royal prima donna. What does he know about humility? That’s like Hugh Hefner praising the pope for being a miracle of chastity.

Advertisement
46 Comments (Open | Close)

46 Comments To "Revolution In The Vatican"

#1 Comment By Christian Schmemann On August 6, 2013 @ 10:30 am

One thing that the Right does not recognize, I think because of ideological myopia more than anything else, is that by emphasizing the Social Gospel and its connection to personal Salvation, that it will be much easier for the Church to explain why abortion and assisted suicide ultimately undermine human dignity for everybody. Ultimately it makes no sense to support unfettered capitalism who views the vast majority of the world’s population as slaves to rich elites- stripping them of their dignity, and at the same time oppose abortion and assisted suicide- in the name of human dignity. Human dignity is fundamentally an absolutist all-or-nothing proposition; one either embraces human dignity or one does not embrace human dignity.

#2 Comment By Aaron Paolozzi On August 6, 2013 @ 11:04 am

I must admit that I follow the Pope much more than I have in the past, Pope Francis is a very interesting character and seems to walk the walk as well as talking the talk. I’m not Catholic and I’ve never really paid attention to the Vatican as any source of legitimate leadership in my spiritual life, but I will say that I am glad for the positive press towards them, one gets really tired of hearing about scandals, and though I do not look to the Pope for leadership I respect the man and his position within the Catholic church very much.

#3 Comment By icarusr On August 6, 2013 @ 11:06 am

“That’s like Hugh Hefner praising the pope for being a miracle of chastity.”

Fair enough – but what would be wrong with that? One can say, with considerable authority, that Hefner, at any rate, would be an authority on what it takes to remain chaste … The question is whether Francis has got rid of Benedict’s red Prada shoes. Now, that would be revolutionary. (And you can see Elton John truly digging that sacrifice.)

#4 Comment By contrarian On August 6, 2013 @ 11:10 am

The notion that this pope has moved the Church to the ‘center’ implies that under B-XVI (and JPII?? noo….) the church was leaning to the ‘right’. This is a curious vantage point, but perhaps not the most important one, vis a vis the ‘mission’ of the Catholic Church–viz, the saving of souls. Perhaps B-XVI and JPII talked more about pelvic stuff (but did they really?), and perhaps Francis talks more about stuff dear to left-leaning folks (the environment, etc.–but again, does he really?), but in relation to Catholic dogma and the role of the church for one’s salvation, our current pope is in total continuity with his previous two predecessors. Which is to say, they are all decidedly ‘liberal’–from the perspective of what came before VII. Even Ratzinger, who is the poster boy for liturgical traditionalism, is a thinker very much on the far side of VII. Appearances, though, carry weight, no doubt. Certainly, B-XVI wouldn’t have got a shout-out from Elton John! And that’s something, I guess.

#5 Comment By jamie On August 6, 2013 @ 11:13 am

Elton John? The guy is a gazillionaire rock star once known for his elaborate costumes, and still known for being a royal prima donna. What does he know about humility?

On one thing John and the Church agree: Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word.

#6 Comment By JP On August 6, 2013 @ 11:23 am

In many ways I understand what the Holy Father is trying to attempt. But, from my perspective he seems to be on a long term strawman tour. When one realizes that Europe as well as most of North America spent hundreds of billions (if not trillions) of dollars redistributing wealth via the tax code, a bit of confusion arises. Is the Pope’s problem income inequality or poverty? Most of Central and South American societies are run by socialist regimes. The poor in those nations have no alternative in most cases. Socialism is already the reality there. In that case, is his beef with Socialism? In North Africa, where most of the European migrants originate from, Islam reigns supreme. Is the Pope criticizing Islam for creating such poverty, or is his beef with European nations who no longer have the demographics, let alone the money to absorb more Muslims who refuse to assimilate?

None of these question pertain to theology. Most are either political or economic questions. Catholic theology is both intensely personal and intensely civic. Most people have a difficult enough time just getting through the day without trying to decipher papal pronouncements. Most Catholics will just ignore the old 1960s-70s style stridency. One Catholic commentator warned that the Holy Father runs the risk of turning poverty into a fetish. If the “poor” are the only people the Pope wishes to show solidarity with, are all of the other people doing something wrong? Should societies work to increase poverty in order to realize the Kingdom of God? Is it a sin for parents to improve theirs and their children’s lot in life? Pope Francis’s public comments are certainly confusing.

#7 Comment By janke elliott On August 6, 2013 @ 11:42 am

Very well articulated JP.
Cannot wait to hear Rod’s answer.
another little question I would like to ask Rod is:
How would you feel if 200 immigrants from NorthernAfrica settled in the little town you and your family chose to move back to because of its tradional way of living?

[NFR: I wouldn’t like it at all. What makes you think that I agree with the Pope here? — RD]

#8 Comment By EngineerScotty On August 6, 2013 @ 11:52 am

One Catholic commentator warned that the Holy Father runs the risk of turning poverty into a fetish.

I seem to remember a dead Jewish carpenter with the same problem…

#9 Comment By Charles Cosimano On August 6, 2013 @ 12:04 pm

And for the bulk of those of us not Catholic it is still, “Pope? What Pope? Oh, they still have one?”

I’m afraid this one is just getting really boring. There is nothing there that is good joke fodder, no attempting to ski down the dome of St. Peters while holding a screaming choirboy, no riding around in an old tank, nothing but publicity stunts and preaching about things no one really cares about.

He may reform the Curia by making it die of boredom.

#10 Comment By Liam On August 6, 2013 @ 12:08 pm

The tax code is not the only way wealth is redistributed. There are lots of other policy choices (by act or omission) involved, and it’s far from one-way from “entrepreneur” to “parasite”.

#11 Comment By Matt On August 6, 2013 @ 12:29 pm

I do wish that everyone would relax and stop taking every single thing the Pope does as ammo in the neverending culture war. If he wants to go to Lampedusa and minister to the immigrants, then great. Why does everything have to have some tribalistic meaning?

I will say that ministering to North African Muslims makes more sense than European Christians, or maybe even post-Christians. Of course, that assumes that there was ministering taking place rather than just Social Gospel type ruminating. But there I go looking for the subtext just like everyone else.

#12 Comment By James C. On August 6, 2013 @ 12:30 pm

Those red shoes of Benedict’s were NOT from Prada. And now the cobbler who made them is out of a job. How is that more “humble” at all?

#13 Comment By Bernie On August 6, 2013 @ 12:31 pm

If the Pope lives in simpler quarters at the Vatican and some Vatican officials have stopped using medieval titles, I say that’s great. If the Pope is not talking about abortion, euthanasia, and same sex marriage, it’s because Church doctrine is well established on these issues and will not change. If he speaks more on helping the poor, the environment, and immigration, it may be because he feels these issues deserve a heightened consciousness in the hearts and minds of everyone.

The proof of how Pope Francis will lead the Church (and I haven’t figured it out yet) is how he will assign personnel in the Vatican to address corruption, how he will lead in the sex abuse scandal, the liturgical options he will prefer for the Mass, and many other things. We have yet to see, in a serious way, how he will govern/lead in these areas.

However, based on the evidence I see, I think there are two groups of losers under Francis. One group is the liberals who hope that teaching on ordaining women, accepting gay sex, etc., will change. The other group is on the extreme right – the “trads” (traditionalists) who basically want the Church to return to how it was before Vatican Council II, focusing especially on the return to the Latin Mass.

The essence of how Pope Francis will govern and lead the Church has still to be revealed. Let’s pray for him.

#14 Comment By James C. On August 6, 2013 @ 12:33 pm

I’d be less troubled about the modern hierarchy’s desire to encourage a tidal wave of Muslim immigration if they showed any sign of also desiring to convert them to Christianity. Perhaps if Francis did more of what his namesake did, more people would listen to his exhortations to Islamicize Italy.

#15 Comment By loudonisafool On August 6, 2013 @ 12:48 pm

One thing that the Right does not recognize, I think because of ideological myopia more than anything else, is that by emphasizing the Social Gospel and its connection to personal Salvation, that it will be much easier for the Church to explain why abortion and assisted suicide ultimately undermine human dignity for everybody.

Isn’t that what we had in the US up to roughly the 90s when a decade plus of JPII really started to bear fruit? Was the result an increase in charity plus a move towards sexual morality? Not at all. The fruits of that era were bizarre liturgical innovations and the ascendancy of the pedo-homosexual priest.

Criticisms of capitalism were much more effective coming from JPII and Benedict then I suspect they will be from Francis. That’s what I don’t get about a lot of this reporting. Benedict, in particular, was pretty critical of the non-Socialist West on issues of economics, but because he likes babies and chastity he must be a right winger. The lesson, of course, is that it really doesn’t matter what you believe on any issue. If you’re ever critical of the sexual revolution you’re a right winger. Period. The media doesn’t love the poor, they love sex.

#16 Comment By EngineerScotty On August 6, 2013 @ 12:58 pm

FWIW, where I live (Beaverton, OR) is home to many hundreds (if not exceeding a thousand) of immigrants from North Africa (particularly Somalia), including several of our neighbors, and I mind it not one whit.

Of course, the city has a population of well north of 90k, so this is another ingredient in the local melting pot, not one that dominates the dish…

#17 Comment By Patrick On August 6, 2013 @ 1:34 pm

For most of the world, poverty is a great deal bigger of an issue than gay marriage. That makes gay marriage the “fetish” of American conservative Catholics. I support traditional marriage, mind you, it’s just that the issue is big in America and not so much in Latin America/Africa/Asia – where most of the Catholic world is today.

That Mr. Cosimano and his ilk are reduced to complaining of “boredom” shows how utterly powerless and defanged the Church’s enemies are thus far with Pope Francis holding the keys. “Boredom”? That all you got? The Pope isn’t an entertainer.

#18 Comment By Turmarion On August 6, 2013 @ 1:44 pm

JP: If the “poor” are the only people the Pope wishes to show solidarity with, are all of the other people doing something wrong?

Yes–see Matthew 19:16-30.

I’d have to see the Pope’s statements in exact context, but I don’t think calling for greater compassion for immigrants or those who are considering immigration because of poverty is tantamount to saying “Open wide the floodgates of immigration!” Heck, if the poor were treated better in their homelands, maybe there’d be less motivation for them to immigrate begin with.

loudonisafool: Benedict, in particular, was pretty critical of the non-Socialist West on issues of economics, but because he likes babies and chastity he must be a right winger.

It’s true that many (though not all) on the left were unfair to Benedict in this regard. However, conservative Catholics pretty much either ignored him on this topic, or did like George Weigel and wrote long diatribes explaining why the Pope didn’t even write those eeeevul librul economic things, and if he did why he was wrong there, while being great everywhere else. That wing doesn’t want to hear about economic reform, period, no matter who preaches it.

Aside from that, I tend to agree with Matt and Bernie.

#19 Comment By Anderson On August 6, 2013 @ 2:01 pm

Christian Schmemann is correct, I think. One of the taunts from the Left is that babies are sacred to conservatives, right up until the moment of birth.

#20 Comment By EliteCommInc. On August 6, 2013 @ 2:11 pm

“I seem to remember a dead Jewish carpenter with the same problem…”

No on ever confused jesus with moving faith left. He accused the hiearchy of hypocrisy that is quite another matter.

Jesus did not dissect his ministry into the social and the spiritual — they were as he taught a reflection of one to the other. Nor did Jesus launch a political crusades. Nor has the Catholic Church — abortion and battles about homosexuality were the Catholic members responding in the same manner the Church has responded to poverty — in accord but no official politicing, in my view.

This current Pontiff in my view leans left and not just a little left. It is the classic left of Latin America with its blend of Cristian faith and practice incorporating native spiritualism, and asian Buuhdist and Hindi beliefs.

I think this turn is rather tragic. It seems minor, but in the end — there can only be one result. A fuzzier Church who appeals to humanitarian beneficents not out Christ, but as part of a movement toward an agenda — cloacked ion beatitudinal vestments.

#21 Comment By EliteCommInc. On August 6, 2013 @ 2:14 pm

One cannot be silent about the poor anymore than one can be silent about sexual promiscuity. It is sad to see that from which I derived a great deal of my moral bearings leaving port with a new compass of humanists —

Soon they will be chastising my celibacy as a hinderance to understanding my fellow man.

It is very painful —-

#22 Comment By simon94022 On August 6, 2013 @ 2:54 pm

Rather than placing Francis’ respositioning of the Church on a political Left-Center-Right scale, it’s better understood in terms of his well known devotion to Our Lady the “Untier of Knots.”

The culture war approach is a dead end. Previous Popes have had a wide-ranging message about the Gospel and the human person — but the media filter only lets through the parts about sexuality, and even those parts are grossly distorted.

The Church needs a new way to introduce people to Jesus Christ and call them to conversion. Pope Francis may have found it.

#23 Comment By Christian Schmemann On August 6, 2013 @ 3:07 pm

@loudonisafool

I agree with you about Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI- that they are no friends of unfettered capitalism, as they made this abundantly clear in their own writings. It’s a shame that America has George Weigel and Michael Novak that do such an effective job of obfuscating this.

Pope John Paul II was one person who did as much as anybody to inspire to take a look at Catholicism when I realized that could no longer remain a Lutheran or be an Episcopalian. Reading his critiques of unfettered capitalism made me realize that Catholicism was where I should be, and also helped me realize that I don’t have a problem with capitalism itself, rather with unfettered capitalism.

Pope Benedict is a harsher critic of unfettered capitalism than was John Paul and did a considerable amount of work to lay out the sketch of a middle course between unfettered capitalism and communism in Caritas in Veritate.

But, to show some sympathy to the Left, it is no easy endeavor to read Ratzinger. As far as German intellectuals go, only Kant, Hegel and Heidegger are more difficult to read than Ratzinger. The Left (and most the world generally) simply misunderstands Pope Benedict.

Both Popes John Paul and Benedict were professors, and the write and speak (spoke) as such. Pope Francis is not a professor, rather a Pastor. Pope Francis has a much more approachable and easier to understand style than John Paul or Benedict.

#24 Comment By J On August 6, 2013 @ 3:22 pm

Actually, Elton John would know very well. Precisely because he’s cultivated the (highly ironic) onstage persona he has.

One of my dad’s friends is public prosecutor in a port city with a large red light district. You want to know who he tacitly considers the best jurors- the ones that understand the defendants best, draw the proper and superior moral distinctions in and about the milieu and alleged criminal acts and actors, and practically always come up with the right verdicts in retrospect? Yes, middle aged prostitutes and former prostitutes.

My impression is that Pope Francis is deliberately de-ideologizing the public face of the Vatican and reducing the level of confrontation. Religion is supposed to be larger than ideology. But the RCC was forced into too ideological a mode and selfdefinition during the papacy of JP2 and his confrontation primarily with Communism. Benedict was brought in as an extension, as a continuation of confrontation mode but with Western Modernity. (Aka Culture War.) That resulted in new or renewed alliances and a plan for a sort of Second Counterreformation, but little opportunity to execute that to much effect against the run of events (e.g. pedophile scandals) and trends in the First World.

The First World remains too difficult to attack and recover for The Faith. And the RCC is pretty worn down from what is arguably overcommitment to this part of the world.

The papacy of Francis is clever but so far not evidently as cunning in its machinations as that of Benedict. I think it reflects some reconsideration within the RCC of how to wage its great campaign. The serious internal thinking is of course that are that there are two possibilities. One is that the dispute with Modernity is operationally unwinnable within the foreseeable future and the best thing available is to resort to a level of grace to the opponents and service to the adherent- rather than go down in embittered egocentric defeat and having discarded de facto all of Christian teaching, as politically defeated parties do. (This is what the American Religious Right looks like in in defeat.) The other possibility is that Modernity is in fact insustainable and fails, and then the Church has to have the resources and credibility to step in.

In both cases the Church has step back from the attrition that political trench warfare has subjected it to. The situation in recent years is such that a kind of lull of battle is needed- the RCC has to return to affirmation of its core teachings and focus on the problems from neglect on the home front and mobilizing what resources it finds easily available. Therefore Francis does these simple but highly necessary internal things like rally demoralized and marginal Catholics in Brazil. And show up on Lampedusa, a message to Islam’s missionaries in Africa that he’ll compete strongly but peacefully with them.

I think the ‘ideology’ to ascribe to Francis is a cheerful and optimistic fatalism. He’s right in the sense that all the Culture Warrior vices- agonizing, bitterness, retribution, absolutism, desperatism, and indulging fears- have been overdone and will do no good to the outcome.

#25 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On August 6, 2013 @ 3:25 pm

Turmarion mentioned Matthew 19:24

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.

All you need is either a small camel and a very large needle, or a powerful blender, a funnel, and a normal needle.

#26 Comment By loudonisafool On August 6, 2013 @ 3:40 pm

@Tumarion

However, conservative Catholics pretty much either ignored him on this topic, or did like George Weigel and wrote long diatribes explaining why the Pope didn’t even write those eeeevul librul economic things, and if he did why he was wrong there, while being great everywhere else.

Weigel unfortunately sucked up a lot of air on that issue, but I can tell you among orthodox Catholics Benedict’s words resulted in a lot of prayerful consideration and honest deliberation. Which can be contrasted with the reaction of many in the same group to decades of commentary from the US bishops regarding nukes, AIDs, the poor and immigration (which could be summarized “Yeah, yeah, Bernardin, etc.”). That’s not at all to say Pope Francis is viewed with the same disregard by the orthodox (other than maybe a few vocal trads with a web presence). It’s only to say that I don’t think that, strategically, it’s more effective to address economic injustice by remaining silent on issues of chastity (and that comment is in reference to Mr. Schmemann’s above, not the Pope; I think it’s way too early to suggest that the Pope is somehow remaining silent on issues of sexual ethics).

#27 Comment By Anderson On August 6, 2013 @ 4:05 pm

“and practice incorporating native spiritualism, and asian Buuhdist and Hindi beliefs”

Where on EARTH are you getting off imputing any of that to the Pope? Cite, please.

#28 Comment By K. W. Jeter On August 6, 2013 @ 4:11 pm

Per James C.: Those red shoes of Benedict’s were NOT from Prada. And now the cobbler who made them is out of a job.

Adriano Stefanelli might not be making shoes for Francis, as he did for Benedict, but he’s hardly “out of a job”; still making shoes for Ferrari et al:

[2]

Wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out that Elton John owns a pair.

#29 Comment By Charles Cosimano On August 6, 2013 @ 4:13 pm

Defanged against Francis? What the hell do we even need fangs for. He’s not going to change anything that matters.

The Pope is an entertainer. This one is certainly trying to be because lord knows he has nothing else going for him.

#30 Comment By Christian Schmemann On August 6, 2013 @ 4:15 pm

@loudonisafool

I didn’t say one way or another that the Church should refrain from talking about chastity. To clarify, I emphatically say that the Church indeed should teach chastity.

Ultimately, the opposite of chastity is sexual exploitation. Sexual exploitation and economic exploitation are exploitation just the same and are both sinful and immoral in equal portions.

My point is that talk of chastity is ultimately meaningless if it does not come with economic justice (in equal portions). Basically, I see Pope Francis as rebalancing the Church’s position on these issues in the mass Media.

#31 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On August 6, 2013 @ 4:43 pm

Re: I support traditional marriage, mind you, it’s just that the issue is big in America and not so much in Latin America/Africa/Asia – where most of the Catholic world is today.

Homosexuality is actually a *big* issue in Africa (with most of the issue coming from the folks who would like to punish same-sex activity, or the enabling of such, with long prison sentences or death). Cultural traditionalists in Africa are as single-mindedly focused on the issue as the cultural liberals in America.

In Latin America it’s a different story- attitudes about homosexuality there aren’t much different than in North America.

Re: Most of Central and South American societies are run by socialist regimes. The poor in those nations have no alternative in most cases. Socialism is already the reality there.

Either you’re very ignorant of Latin America, or you have an exceedingly odd definition of socialism. Out of all the countries in the region, I’d say Cuba and Venezuela are socialist, possibly Bolivia. A few others like Ecuador and Peru might like to get there eventually, but they’re not there yet.

Re: It is the classic left of Latin America with its blend of Cristian faith and practice incorporating native spiritualism, and asian Buuhdist and Hindi beliefs.

It’s “Hindu”, not “Hindi” (and, “Buddhist”). Do you have any evidence that any significant number of Latin Americans are interested in either Buddhism or Hinduism? And while there is certainly a Christian Left in Latin America, last I checked they weren’t particularly into native spiritualism (they tend to be more interested in synthesizing Christian spirituality with left-wing economic and politicial ideals).

I don’t mean to be dismissive, but you don’t seem to be very well acquainted with Latin America.

#32 Comment By EngineerScotty On August 6, 2013 @ 5:20 pm

Jesus did not dissect his ministry into the social and the spiritual — they were as he taught a reflection of one to the other. Nor did Jesus launch a political crusades. Nor has the Catholic Church — abortion and battles about homosexuality were the Catholic members responding in the same manner the Church has responded to poverty — in accord but no official politicing, in my view.

Jesus generally didn’t give a whit about politics–render unto Caesar, etc. Of course, few avenues of political participation were open to him.

This current Pontiff in my view leans left and not just a little left. It is the classic left of Latin America with its blend of Cristian faith and practice incorporating native spiritualism, and asian Buuhdist and Hindi beliefs.

Ignoring the nonsense about Asian religious practice–this sounds like a longstanding slur against Obama–Francis is a “KenyanArgentine anti-colonial Marxist”. Interesting…

#33 Comment By Polichinello On August 6, 2013 @ 6:13 pm

I’m starting to see some merit in the Jacobin’s actions.

#34 Comment By Pinkjohn On August 6, 2013 @ 6:17 pm

I love reading John Allen, even though is sometimes reads too much into minutiae looking for a trend. But what’s happened so far is not a revolution. It may be laying the groundwork for one but this “repositioning” isn’t itself revolutionary. It does seem that Francis is much better at playing the press than either of his too predecessors.

I’ll believe it’s a revolution when the oligarchy in the Vatican is broken up and real mechanisms for lay input are developed. One of the most disturbing passages in the book by David France, “Our Fathers” is when a victims group tries to deliver a petition to the Pope about the sex abuse crisis and they can’t even find a door to knock on. When they finally do, a janitor answers and they have to give the petition with thousands of names to him. It disappeared into the system never to be heard of again. For a system so powerful to remain so closed for so long is a recipe for catastrophe (as proven by the sex and financial scandals and utter collapse of the Vatican’s moral authority).

Left, center, right, whatever. If this Pope can open some of those windows and let fresh air in, there might be some hope of removing all that black mold.

#35 Comment By Patrick On August 6, 2013 @ 6:26 pm

“Defanged” in their arguments against the Catholic Church. It’s very difficult for the opponents of the Catholic Church to declare anything but “boredom” now: they can’t say we’re reactionaries, they can’t say we hate modernity, they can’t say we’re obsessed with other peoples’ sex lives, they can’t we hate gay people, etc. Pope Francis really takes those arguments away, whether or not they were made in good faith to begin with. All they can do now is impotently claim to be “bored” by the Pope or claim, dubiously, to have forgotten the Church has a papacy (bet they’ll remember if the Pope starts talking about gay marriage again!)

#36 Comment By loudonisafool On August 6, 2013 @ 6:37 pm

@Schmemann
I didn’t say one way or another that the Church should refrain from talking about chastity. To clarify, I emphatically say that the Church indeed should teach chastity.

Sorry. I was reading too much into your comments and attributing to you things you didn’t say. Allen in his article (quoting an observation from Sandro Magister) opines that the Pope has self-imposed a gag order on issues of sexuality.

#37 Comment By William Dalton On August 6, 2013 @ 9:19 pm

Erminio Boso has a point that the world’s “liberals”, particularly in America, have failed to grasp. Yes, Christ called for His Church to minister to the poor, the sick, the oppressed. Christ did not exhort or excuse His Church to try to unload this responsibility onto the State. For a Church with the land and resources held by the Church of Rome, it is not unreasonable to expect it to place and employ the refugees in Lampadusa on its own territories before asking others to do the same. In like manner, Christians in America are showing poor form chiding the state for cutting back on welfare benefits which, by Christ’s terms, is part of the calling of the Church. Don’t these people believe in the separation of Church and State?

#38 Comment By Annek On August 6, 2013 @ 11:25 pm

Christian Schmemann:

“Ultimately it makes no sense to support unfettered capitalism who views the vast majority of the world’s population as slaves to rich elites- stripping them of their dignity, and at the same time oppose abortion and assisted suicide- in the name of human dignity.”

Perhaps I’m wrong, but I think you (and many others here at TAC) have an inaccurate view of social conservatives. My impression is that most social conservatives do not support unfettered capitalism. I think it’s the Republican business conservatives (and business Democrats???) who support it. Personally, I think that capitalism without a strong moral foundation is deeply problematic.

#39 Comment By EngineerScotty On August 7, 2013 @ 2:27 am

Perhaps I’m wrong, but I think you (and many others here at TAC) have an inaccurate view of social conservatives. My impression is that most social conservatives do not support unfettered capitalism. I think it’s the Republican business conservatives (and business Democrats???) who support it. Personally, I think that capitalism without a strong moral foundation is deeply problematic.

What you say may be true of much of the TAC readership, but the Republican Party, for all intents and purposes, remains solidly between the two poles of Ayn Rand-style libertarianism and in-your-face corporatism. One pole encourages the pillage of the working class by capital; the other actively sits on its hands while the pillaging occurs, while protesting that it absolutely cannot even THINK about lifting a finger to help the downtrodden.

(The Democrats have their share of neo-liberals and special interests as well; but populist economics has a bigger mindshare in the Democratic party).

Populist economics at TAC is all well and good, and something this liberal encourages; but until Republican candidates can propose policies supporting the working class at national primary debates, without being shouted down by catcalls of “let ’em die!”, I’ll be forced to continue with my analysis that the GOP is, for all intents and purposes, the party of the plutocracy.

Now–as for Francis. He hasn’t, to my knowledge, called for expansion of the welfare state; his exhortations on behalf of the poor have been mainly directed at clergy and lay Catholics, not at politicians. He seems to be encouraging less state entanglement on social issues. It may well be that he considers direct involvement in politics outside the realm of the church. We’ll see, I guess.

#40 Comment By JonF On August 7, 2013 @ 7:00 am

Re: Christ did not exhort or excuse His Church to try to unload this responsibility onto the State.

The State is just We The People. If we are not to do such works through the State, then how? The days when the Church had the resources to become the Department of Welfare are long gone– and those days depended on the Church having vast wealth and power (or sharing in the power of the State), which are corrupting (see: Renaissance Papacy, etc. etc).

#41 Comment By Annek On August 7, 2013 @ 12:25 pm

EngineerScotty:

“What you say may be true of much of the TAC readership, but the Republican Party, for all intents and purposes, remains solidly between the two poles of Ayn Rand-style libertarianism and in-your-face corporatism.”

I don’t entirely disagree, but the term “conservative” gets sullied and distorted when it is equated with Republican corporatists, therefore tarnishing pretty much all who vote Republican.

#42 Comment By EngineerScotty On August 7, 2013 @ 2:46 pm

I don’t entirely disagree, but the term “conservative” gets sullied and distorted when it is equated with Republican corporatists…

Absolutely true so far.

… therefore tarnishing pretty much all who vote Republican.

And therein lies your problem: despite the gulf between conservative values (as you see them) and Republican policies, the GOP is deemed the only worthy recipient of conservative votes. Perhaps that’s the best you can do, if the Democrats are worse and third parties are worthless, but if the plutocrat party is allowed to win your vote while pissing on your interests–well, you see the problem here.

If you want the GOP to be taken seriously as something other than a party of plutocrats, then non-plutocrats need to start winning primaries and caucuses, and drive the neocons out. In a few cases that has occurred, the most prominent current example being Senator Paul, but the vast majority of the “Tea Party” insurgents seem to be folks that double-down on the bellicose religious and social rhetoric, but take equal (if not more) delight on putting the screws to the working class. Buchanan has pretty much left electoral politics (at 74 years of age, he’s a bit old for the rough and tumble of politicking), Mike Huckabee used to talk a good populist game but now no longer does, and pretty much the rest of the GOP makes it clear that they agree with Mitt Romney’s “47%” nonsense, even if they won’t say so explicitly.

#43 Comment By Annek On August 7, 2013 @ 11:21 pm

Engineer Scotty,

I don’t agree with all of your points, but you make many good ones. It would be nice to find a way to align the values of conservative voters with actual politicians. I don’t think the Democratic party is the answer, but the Republican party has proven to be problematic. Many conservatives are very disenchanted with the GOP establishment for this very reason. I’m not against policies that are generally favorable to business enterprises, but I have big problems with policies that favor crony capitalism or business practices that show little or no regard for anyone except those at the top of the food chain.

#44 Comment By Annek On August 7, 2013 @ 11:33 pm

E. Scotty,

I’m not sure Tea Party people have any problems with the working class. In terms of bellicose religious and social talk, I suppose they could tone it down, but liberals are pretty bellicose about things, as well.

My main point, though, was not that social conservatives are perfect, but that they are not in favor of unfettered capitalism and are not hypocrites for being against abortion.

#45 Comment By EngineerScotty On August 8, 2013 @ 9:02 pm

I’m not sure Tea Party people have any problems with the working class.

One fundamental problem is how “working class” is defined, and who its interests are more closely aligned with.

Much GOP propaganda suggests that the working class is distinct from the poor; and that the working class and the poor have adverse interests, but the working class and the rich do not. In this telling, the rich provide the money and the working class provides the labor, both produce stuff and get rewarded–except that their effort is siphoned off by various parasites: the poor, who collect public assistance; and certain unionized workforces (particularly public employees) who extract above-market wages via collective bargaining and capture of government agencies.

That story made far more sense thirty-plus years ago than it does today.

In the 1970s, offshoring was simply not a possibility for most useful production. Countries outside of North America were generally either backwards, communist (and hostile) or European (and expensive); containerization was still in its infancy, and global communications was expensive. Capital basically had to deal with the domestic workforce, and labor was in a position to demand a good share of the surplus. The tax system was highly progressive. Anyone halfway competent (anyone white, at any rate–structural racism cannot be ignored as part of the story) could have a decent-paying job on which one could support a family and enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, including some leisure.

Today? Communism is, for the most part, dead. Much of the developing world is now developed; and China is the dragon in the room. One can talk to someone around the world, in real time, essentially for free. It costs pennies to load things onto a ship and ship them across the ocean. Automation has made many jobs completely obsolete–when was the last time you heard about a “steno pool”? And outside of certain specialized industries and the government, organized labor’s back has been broken. Taxes have been slashed, with the bulk of the windfall going to the top, and this is paid for by cuts to services benefitting the bottom. Capital now gets pretty much ALL of the surplus, and continues to increase its share by shrinking that that goes to labor. Many people cannot get “living wage” jobs, despite sound educations and good character, and cannot afford basic necessities such as health insurance. Oh, and healthcare costs can easily bankrupt anyone who doesn’t have it.

In such an environment–is capital still the ally of the working class? Is the rising tide lifting all boats? Or are the working class now in the same leaky boat as the poor, just one bad day away from being laid as low as the hustler in the ghetto, the junkie in the trailer, or the bum in the gutter?

Abortion has little to do with this–other than as a social issue which divides the working class against itself. Race has nothing to do with this–other than as a social issue which divides the working class against itself. Homosexuality. Birth control. Soda bans. Low-flush toilets and compact fluorescent light bulbs. Etc. Ad naseum.

Need I go on?

#46 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On August 8, 2013 @ 11:31 pm

Pollsters define “working class” as ‘anyone with no more than a high school education.’ That’s problematic shorthand in so many ways. Until a few decades ago, most Wall Street corporation founders, owners, managers and CEO’s lacked a college degree, sometimes even a high school diploma. Today, many blue collar jobs require a couple of years of technical college training, although a good apprenticeship program can provide the same skills. The minimum to define who is working class would include:

1) Do you own your own business?
2) Do you work for wages from an employer?
3) What kind of work do you do?
4) Do you supervise the work of others?
5) Are you paid by the hour, salaried, or what?
6) What percent of your annual income is from stock dividends, interest on bonds, or buying and selling of securities and real estate (your own, not as an agent for others)?
7) Are you a union member, or eligible for union representation under the National Labor Relations Act?

None of these are dispositive in and of themselves. I’m sure several more could be suggested. But its all too much work for the pollsters and press, who as an anti-populist elite prefer to think of the working class as uneducated bigots anyway.