I never thought I’d see me quoting a sitting pope (me and francis, part 1)

NOTE: Due to a glitch in the software, WordPress did not assign this post (“me and Francis, part 1,” originally published on November 28, 2013) an individual URL number, so I had to repost it. Therefore, I had to repost the second, follow-up post (originally published on November 30, 2013) to offset the changes in this post! So read this post first, then read the one titled “another post on the pope’s papal proclamations” (now dated December 1, 2013).


Popes in Rome and Politics in America and Never the Twain Shall Meet, Part 1: on the Surprising New Pontiff

Pope Francis on Tuesday sharply criticized growing economic inequality and unfettered markets in a wide-ranging and decidedly populist teaching that revealed how he plans to reshape the Catholic Church.

In his most authoritative writings as pontiff, Francis decried an ‘idolatry of money’ in secular culture and warned that it would lead to ‘a new tyranny.’ But he reserved a large part of his critique for what he sees as an excessively top-down Catholic Church hierarchy, calling for more local governance and greater inclusiveness—including ‘broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church.’

The 50,000 word statement is the latest sign that Francis intends to push the church in a new direction.

“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.

This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”

Although Francis has previously raised concerns about the growing gap between the wealthy and the poor, the direct reference to “trickle-down” economics in the English translation of his statement is striking.

The phrase has often been used derisively to describe a popular version of conservative economic philosophy that argues that allowing the wealthy to run their businesses unencumbered by regulation or taxation bears economic benefits that lead to more jobs and income for the rest of society.

Some scholars say the pope’s statement should invariably shape the thinking of today’s Catholics.

The statements and quotes above are taken from an article titled Pope Francis denounces ‘trickle-down’ economic theories in critique of inequality by Zachary A. Goldfarb and Michelle Boorstein for The Washington Post (November 26, 2013).


Popes in Rome and Politics in America and Never the Twain Shall Meet, Part 2: on Voodoo and Reaganomics

In 1980, during the Republican presidential primaries, the two candidates vying for the top spot were Ronald Reagan and George H. Bush. Candidate Reagan introduced his plan to bring supply-side economics—a new name for an older, less laudable theory known as trickle-down economics—to bear on the US economy if elected. Candidate Bush sneeringly called Reagan’s ideas to be “voodoo economics”—one of the highlights of Mr. Bush’s career as a public speaker.

In 1981, David Stockman, President Reagan’s budget director, acknowledged that, in fact, supply-side economics IS trickle-down economics: “It’s kind of hard to sell trickle-down, so the supply-side formula was the only way to get a tax policy that was really trickle-down. Supply-side is trickle-down theory.” Stockman also added that “None of us really understands what’s going on with all these numbers.”

In 1982, economist John Kenneth Galbraith noted that trickle-down economics had been tried before in the 1890s: “Mr. Stockman has said that supply-side economics was merely a cover for the trickle-down approach to economic policy—what an older and less elegant generation called the horse-and-sparrow theory: ‘If you feed the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows.’ ”

Galbraith continued by opining that the horse and sparrow theory was partly to blame for the Panic of 1896, a stock market crash centered around a series of bank collapses in Chicago. 

In 2012, Reverend Al Sharpton, a figure righties love to hate, claimed: “I first heard it when Ronald Reagan went in [in] 1980. We in the 21st century—how long are we gonna wait for the trickle? I mean we been waiting and waiting and waiting—it never got down to us. Thirty years later, we got the down, but we never got the trickle.”

In 2013, Michael Grego, high-school classmate of mine and indefatigable Facebook commenter, brilliantly summed up the Republican demi-deity: “Ronald Reagan loved America so much he created two of them—one for the haves and one for the have-nots.”


Popes in Rome and Politics in America and Never the Twain Shall Meet, Part 3: on Finding God Elsewhere

In the summer of 1964, I was not quite 13-years old and I was trying to stay awake and alert in the crowded, unventilated confines of St. Ann’s Chapel in Kingston, Pennsylvania.

Father Devlin was performing the Mass, his sonorous voice chanting the Latin in his mildly monotonous manner—but even that had a hypnotically soothing effect. Which, really, is a polite way of saying it was boring.

I was bored. But then I was always bored, as religion and all of its trapping bored me—still does, especially the doddering, aging behemoth that was the Church of Rome. (When, of course, it isn’t inflaming me with its strictures and rules and laws and hypocrisy and near total lack of meaning to consensual reality yadda yadda blah blah und so weiter).

But that day I was not to be bored for long, as I was scheduled for a minor epiphany. Midway through mass, the Holy Spirit alighted upon my shoulder and proceeded to bring me a message from on high.

The Holy Spirit was a maker-shaker/messenger/harbinger of God/was God/is God. Today, the Spirit was here as messenger: “You will not find God in church. You must seek Him elsewhere.”

Christianity is a fairly mystical religion, with Roman Catholicism perhaps its most mystical variant. Still, I knew I should not tell anyone—and that includes my parents and brother and sister and best friend—that the Holy Ghost was visiting me at St. Ann’s and telling me that I was wasting my time at there. But, that’s another story, eh?

Needless to say, I have had little intellectual or spiritual use for or appreciation of the various men who have been elected Pope by their peers in my lifetime. I have always thought that the Church of Rome would benefit by a ‘modern’ pontiff that placed the values of Jesus (empathy, compassion, generosity, charity, and yes, a revolutionary spirit and attitude towards the philistines who rule our everyday reality) above those of the Church.

The only people who I have ever met who embraced the values of jesus and attempted to walk in his footsteps were a few LSD-inspired hippies back in the early ’70s.

And I do NOT mean those hippies who became known as “Jesus freaks” and who laid the foundation for the contemporary Evangelical movement that has infiltrated the Republican Party and polluted our politics with its non/anti-political obsessive/compulsive behavior. But, like the Holy Spirit anecdote above, that’s another story . . .


Popes in Rome and Politics in America and Never the Twain Shall Meet, Part 4: on the First Jesuit Pope

So, back to our main story: Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born on December 17, 1936, in Buenos Aires, the son of Italian parents. He chose the papal name of Francis in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi. Pope Francis is the first Jesuit pope, the first pope from the Americas, and the first pope from the Southern Hemisphere of our world.

“Pope Francis, while affirming the present Church teachings, has stated that Catholics have concentrated officiously on condemning abortion, contraception, and homosexual acts while neglecting the greater need for tenderness, mercy, and compassion.

Furthermore, the Pontiff emphasizes the Christian obligation to assist the poor, destitute, and marginalized in society, while upholding the orthodox teachings of the Catholic faith with clemency and optimistic tone.” (Wikipedia)

To which I say, “It’s blewdy well about time and Godspeed, Francis!” Um, but there is one more thing: exactly where does our Jesuit Pope stand on Liberation Theology?

Comments, suggestions, additions, and arguments welcome!