Friday, September 25, 2015

The Problem with Pope Francis (UPDATED)

Did you listen to (or read) the Pope's words to Congress yesterday? Good for you! There were several high profile Catholics who didn't bother. They had already made up their mind about what the Pope was going to say and how it didn't square with their views (or maybe with their platform). Congressman Paul Gosar of Arizona even pre-announced his "boycott," based solely on media reports about what the Pope might say. Then three Supreme Court justices, Catholics all, skipped the historic address: Scalia, Thomas and Alito. I'm the most disappointed by Scalia, given that his son is a priest. Maybe we will find out today that the Senior Associate Justice had been rushed to the hospital. On second thought, perhaps he and the other absentee judges made the choice in order not to have to recuse themselves from future hearings on issues related to themes the Pope would bring up.

In any case, it might be safe for us to assume that the above-mentioned Catholic public figures have a problem with Pope Francis and the way he is carrying out his ministry. They wouldn't be alone. Francis makes a lot of people nervous. I came across a number of woebegone pro-lifers on social media yesterday, not only disappointed that the Pope did not harangue our fearless leaders (who had the day before failed to pass a motion that would allow the "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act), but that his mention of the "defense of human life at every stage of its development" led into a somewhat more developed appeal for the end of the death penalty. For some people, this was tantamount to preferring "guilty criminals" over the millions of innocent unborn who continue to suffer the death penalty of abortion.

Phil Lawler wrote a helpful commentary, "Why does Pope Francis back liberal causes directly, conservative causes subtly?" that can explain a lot.

But maybe part of the problem is that Pope Francis (who has already said, in every major address, that he will speak forcefully on the issues of marriage and the family at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia) is calling everyone to some kind of conversion. He knows that the Kingdom of God is not fully manifest in any of our lives, any of our parishes, any of our movements or organizations; that there are still areas where the Gospel needs to be given permission to extend beyond our comfort zones. Those who boycotted the Pope's talk may be like the busy people in the parable who turned down an invitation that didn't promise to advance their personal interests (Lk 14:15-24).

Now that's a problem.

Worthwhile reading for those who wonder "Why didn't Pope Francis talk to Congress about abortion and gay marriage?"


Jacqueline Vick said...

I try to remember that his job is to be a shepherd that brings ALL people to Jesus, not just me, and he has to meet them where they are.

gingerbap40 said...

I live in Ireland and I watched the Pope's speech at the Whitehouse live. He said one thing that comforted me a great deal -"God never repents of having created us!" You see I was repenting of having been born.

Sr Anne Flanagan said...

Oh, Ginger! Try to let God rejoice over you! (He'll do it anyway, but he wants you to participate in his joy that you exist--no matter what you may have done or what may have been done to you...)

bill bannon said...

Sr. Anne,
Francis was unwittingly supporting murder in his anti death penalty comments because yes middleclass countries don't need the death penalty but the third world does by UN stats simply looked at. The death penalty abolition movement by these last three Popes is looking only at white countries where the middle class is dominant...( does anyone think Mexico has secure prisons as described by ccc 2267?...Pablo Guzman has now twice escaped maximum security).
By the new UN figures, this white country perspective falls apart wherever the poor are a substantial part of the population. Catholic non death penalty northern Latin America from Brazil to Mexico has the highest rate of murder on earth...Africa is second with only11 of 54 countries with a death penalty. East Asia largely death penalty is the safest from murder area on earth by UN numbers....1 murder per 100,000. Brazil is 24 per 100,000 and Mexico is 20 per 100,000... both non death penalty. Compared to East Asia, thousands extra per year are being murdered in Catholic countries with no death penalty. These last three Popes quickly looked at Euro prisons and stats. But middleclass low poor population Europe is an outlier....not the norm. Affluent countries have few murders with or without the death penalty. US states mirror Europe when there are few poor...New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont. Read the UN world data which postdate JPII's cursory glance at data.

Sr Anne Flanagan said...

Is it poverty or rather corruption that explains the figures you cite? At any rate, it is always important to note the audience of a papal message. In this case, he was adddressing Congress. If he had been speaking to the Mexican government (and he just might when he visits in 2016) he might have focused on corruption, which is, of course, a major problem and not unrelated to crime and the lack of an effective correctional system.

Would you agree that Pope Francis is not concerned so much with criminal justice as he is with the salvation (even in terms of this life) of each and every person? His call, both to the US Congress and in a prison itself, for rehabilitation tell us that. He is convinced that society can be made whole again after a crime only if the criminal is restored as a functioning member of the social body. This never happens with the death penalty!
I think Francis may also be hinting that the death penalty, by limiting justice to a kind of transaction (eye for an eye), keeps all of society trapped in a vindictive mode, able only to execute justice (sorry for the pun) and not to "create" justice by restoring the prodigals to the family as contributing members.

bill bannon said...

I grew up in a poor area and two people I knew were murdered near my house in two different years...two entirely separate murders that had nothing to do with corruption outside of the murderers. The UN figures are online. In such poor areas you can save the murderers or you can save the victims....not both. Brazil and Mexico are saving the murderers....and victims are dead in the thousands...50,000 in a recent year in Brazil...the highest total in the world in the largest Catholic population. China is saving victims in the multi thousands and she's killing murderers as per Genesis 9:5-6 which appears abridged in section 39 of Evangelium Vitae but a Cardinal in the CDF printed the whole thing in ccc #2260.