American airwaves and newspaper headlines have burst into life over a document written by Pope Francis which states that unfettered capitalism is a new tyranny and exhorts world leaders to fight poverty and global inequality. Francis has been savaged by commentators from Rush Limbaugh to conservative priests and judges, who have loudly proclaimed themselves as more Catholic than the pope, and told him to stop interfering in economic matters. Talk show host Limbaugh denounced the pope’s economic views as “pure Marxism”…. Respected economists, including Joseph Stiglitz and Robert Reich, have said similar things. Good American capitalists, including carmaker Henry Ford, recognised that if workers earned a living wage they would be able to afford to boost economic growth all round. But the free, unfettered market holds sway in the US.
Those who know me and/or have hung ‘round my little corner of da Interwebs for any length of time know I’m no fan of the Catholic Church. This is neither the time nor place for me to explain why, but if my disdain for the Vatican takes you by surprise…well, just trust me on this one, ‘kay?
My feelings for the Church being what they are, I do feel it only fair to give credit where credit is due. For hundreds of year, Catholics have been held in thrall by a succession of intolerant, inflexible, and quite often corrupt celibate White men. They stood for the status quo- the absolute authority of Church doctrine, the subjugation of women, and an inflexible intolerance on social issues like abortion and homosexuality. Then came Pope Francis who, while no one will accuse of being socially libertine, has gone a long way towards changing the image and orientation of the Church.
How much things are changing can be gauged by the degree to which the American Taliban and their allies have turned on Francis. It might actually be exceedingly humorous if it wasn’t so thoroughly malevolent and hypocritical.
The pope gently rebuffed Limbaugh, telling the Italian La Stampa newspaper that, “the Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended.”
Professor Lant Pritchett, from the Kennedy School at Harvard University, asked in a Bloomberg View column: “Why is Pope Francis promoting sin?”
Pritchett claimed that, “By dwelling on inequality, the pope is promoting envy. The Catholic Church, I had always understood, disapproves of envy, deeming it one of the seven deadly sins.”
Former US vice-presidential candidate and tea party favourite Sarah Palin said that some of the pope’s statements sounded “kind of liberal” while former judge Andrew Napolitano damned the pope’s letter as “about economics, and it reveals a disturbing ignorance”.
Let’s just gloss over the “pot calling the kettle black” absurdity of Caribou Barbie accusing ANYONE of “disturbing ignorance,” shall we? Least of all because it would be just WAY too easy…and I couldn’t care less about anything that spews from the fevered brain of such a venal, two-faced grifter.
That the Rabid Right feels so threatened by the new Pope can fairly be taken as indication that he’s on the right path…or at least one far less corrupt than previous pontiffs. That a self-serving blowhard like Rush Limbaugh could seriously accuse Francis of being a Marxist is prima facie absurd. It speaks to the lengths those on the Far Right will go to in order to destroy those who don’t share their agenda. The idea that being a Marxist ipso facto makes one inherently evil is the premise from with the Far Right precedes only shows how little they truly understand Marxism. The idea that only unfettered capitalism with no limits or regulations is the only acceptably American economic system is a basic tenet of the “I got mine, you can damned well get your own” crowd. When anyone with any degree of moral authority threatens that orthodoxy, they can count on being verbally assailed from many directions…because among the things the Rabid Right owns in abundance is rage and self-righteousness.
For all this, Francis has tradition on his side, the tradition of the Catholic Church to speak out on moral and social issues.
What has happened in the US is that the super-rich have joined with the New Right and the Moral Majority and Christian evangelists with the claim that the invisible hand of the market is the hand of God. Adam Smith must be turning in his grave at such a claim.
Whether you call it Prosperity Theology, rampant self-interest, or just plain unvarnished hypocrisy, the Rabid Right views Pope Francis as a threat to their unquestioned economic hegemony. In one of my cynical moods- which is pretty much 24/7/365 these days- I’d say that the faux outrage should be taken as proof that the new pontiff is DOING HIS FREAKIN’ JOB. For too long, the Catholic Church has been primarily concerned with its economic and theological primacy. Now along comes Pope Francis, who’s made it clear that it’s not going to be business as usual, that he’s going to lead the Church as if Jesus’ teachings actually matter. That this is a new and surprising concept is sufficient indictment of the Catholic Church’s perfidy over the course of its long and not so storied history.
I hope that Francis will continue to piss off those for whom greed and venality are the prime directive. Perhaps he’ll be able to direct the Church back to where it should have been all along- caring for the least among us. That one man in a white frock can shake things up and cause so much consternation is enough to make him my Man of the Year.
The role of the Church- at least from my perspective- should be to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Turns out the comfortable aren’t nearly as excited about that idea…and it’s about time they had to deal with that.