The not-so-enigmatic Pope Francis

From The Victory Girls:

Pope Francis: Is He Misunderstood By Progressives?

Pope Francis has become a hot topic as of late. One will see headlines such as “A Progressive Pope is Driving the Wingnuts Batty” or “Is Pope Francis Secretly Pro Gay Marriage” or one will see, if they are avid Facebook users, Leftist/Progressive pages posting images similar to the following:

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Is this Pope really a Progressive? Is he really better than his predecessors? Does Pope Francis care more for the general public and the overall immortality of the souls of those in this world than anyone else in the past?

More at the link.

Mrs Little cited several examples by which she concluded that no, His Holiness is not a “progressive.” Part of the problem, I would posit, is that American writers are looking at our new Pope through a decidedly ethnocentric — and egocentric — lens. Mrs Little cites an article in uCatholic, The Pope and Rush Limbaugh, which tries to nuance its way out of the very serious criticisms His Holiness had of capitalism, in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. In it, Fr. John Trugilio Jr.1 notes the difference between “unfettered capitalism,” which the progressives — and Mr Limbaugh — thought the Holy Father condemned, and “unfettered consumerism,” citing one sentence, “Welfare projects, which meet certain urgent needs, should be considered merely temporary responses,” from §202, while seeming to ignore that which followed immediately thereafter.

The economy and the distribution of income

202. The need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed, not only for the pragmatic reason of its urgency for the good order of society, but because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises. Welfare projects, which meet certain urgent needs, should be considered merely temporary responses. As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills.

203. The dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies. At times, however, they seem to be a mere addendum imported from without in order to fill out a political discourse lacking in perspectives or plans for true and integral development. How many words prove irksome to this system! It is irksome when the question of ethics is raised, when global solidarity is invoked, when the distribution of goods is mentioned, when reference in made to protecting labour and defending the dignity of the powerless, when allusion is made to a God who demands a commitment to justice. At other times these issues are exploited by a rhetoric which cheapens them. Casual indifference in the face of such questions empties our lives and our words of all meaning. Business is a vocation, and a noble vocation, provided that those engaged in it see themselves challenged by a greater meaning in life; this will enable them truly to serve the common good by striving to increase the goods of this world and to make them more accessible to all.

204. We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market. Growth in justice requires more than economic growth, while presupposing such growth: it requires decisions, programmes, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality. I am far from proposing an irresponsible populism, but the economy can no longer turn to remedies that are a new poison, such as attempting to increase profits by reducing the work force and thereby adding to the ranks of the excluded.

American conservatives should not deceive themselves: Pope Francis, very much like his two immediate predecessors, recognizes that a capitalistic system is necessary for economic progress,2 but none of the last three Popes has had anything kind to say about the harshness of the capitalist system.

But, if the American progressives saw some great ally in Pope Francis, they are deceiving themselves. While American progressivism is certainly in line with what His Holiness said about economics and “social justice,” they are inseparably wedded to feminism, to pushing artificial contraception, to abortion on demand, and to normalizing homosexuality in society. Mrs Little noted that, while the Holy Father made statements about it not being the business of mortals to condemn homosexuals,3 he also excommunicated Fr. Greg Reynolds of Melbourne, Australia, for his advocacy of the ordination of women and same-sex “marriage.” And the Pope has been quite clear that abortion cannot ever be accepted.

To try to somehow pigeonhole Pope Francis in terms of American political discourse is really an exercise in futility. On one hand, he looks very much like a friend of American liberals, but, on the other, he is their greatest enemy. For American conservatives, he seems to be a strong ally on the very important social issues of our day,4 but his views on the economy and social justice leave them scratching their heads.

Simply put, Pope Francis is not an American. He comes from an entirely different culture, and attempting to classify him as politically liberal or conservative, in American terms, is doomed to failure. And with the way liberals around the world have accepted and supported abortion and the normalization of homosexuality, it seems unlikely to me that he could be politically pigeonholed in any particular culture.

The answer to Mrs Little’s title question, is Pope Francis misunderstood by progressives, is yes. But the answer to the obvious next question, is Pope Francis misunderstood by conservatives, is also yes.

  1. Fr. John Trugilio Jr, PhD, ThD is a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg and President of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy. His blog can be viewed at
  2. I would note here that His Holiness Pope John Paul II grew up in Poland under the domination of the Soviet Union, and saw, first hand, the economic stagnation and ruin that Communism/Socialism wrought.
  3. This is not a new thing; the Catechism of the Catholic Church has long taught that homosexuals, as people, must be accepted and not discriminated against, but that homosexual activity is gravely sinful, and that homosexuals must remain celibate. §2357-2359.
  4. I’d point out here that the pope is very much pro-life, but by pro-life he means from conception to natural death; the Church is strongly opposed to capital punishment.

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