Why the World Misunderstands the Message of the New Pope; the Round Peg of Godliness Doesn't Fit the Square Hole of Politics

By Taube, Michael | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 23, 2014 | Go to article overview

Why the World Misunderstands the Message of the New Pope; the Round Peg of Godliness Doesn't Fit the Square Hole of Politics


Taube, Michael, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Byline: Michael Taube, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Ever since Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis last March, it's been extraordinary to hear the different interpretations of his ideas and overall message. With apologies to English playwright Robert Bolt, we've truly been witnessing the equivalent of a Pontiff for All Seasons.

Here are a few examples.

First, Francis has been called a liberal reformer by some analysts. In particular, Brent Budowsky, former aide to Democratic Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Rep. Bill Alexander, wrote in a Nov. 26 op-ed essay in The Hill that he can fairly be called a liberal populist reformer on matters of economics, finance, poverty, social justice, education and health care.

Second, Francis' papal exhortation Evangelli Gaudium raised some eyebrows last year based on its less-than-subtle criticism of private property, global capitalism and free enterprise. As Rachel Lu wrote in a fairly balanced piece for Crisis Magazine, I'm a Catholic who likes free markets ... . Admittedly, there are a few lines in Evangelii Gaudium that are difficult for an economic conservative to take ... . Nevertheless, I believe we will find, if we can elevate ourselves above the fray of American politics, that Pope Francis' message is mainly a moral one, and on that level, I am not in the least tempted to dissent.

Third, some have interpreted Francis' moderate comments about the homosexual community and about women as a sign that he's going to radically change the Roman Catholic Church. To quote syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan, there is concern His Holiness seeks to move the Catholic Church to a stance of non-belligerence, if not neutrality, in the culture war for the soul of the West.

Fourth, Francis X. Rocca, Catholic News Service's Rome bureau chief, added the Holy Father to a growing list of the pope as peacemaker. As he wrote in a Jan. 17 op-ed essay in The Wall Street Journal, Francis' call for peace in Syria is a role no more than a century old and few actions are more characteristic of the modern papacy than appeals for peace.

I think you get the point. With the exception of Mr. Rocca's historical piece, I would argue that some or all of these other interpretations simply don't hold water.

Certainly, this pope studied with the Jesuits, who are known for their stern views on issues such as social justice and poverty. …

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