The Catholic Church looks neither right nor left but up. In other words, the Church is not a vehicle for conservatism or liberalism, capitalism or socialism, but a vehicle for Catholicism. Anyone who thinks and believes otherwise has surely misunderstood the teaching and purpose of the institution left us by Christ Jesus. I say this because within hours of Pope Francis taking to the balcony in Rome, commentators were trying to shape the man in their own image. It’s an outrageous, but inevitable, thing to do. Pope Francis the friend of the poor, Pope Francis the defender of marriage; Pope Francis the Jesuit, Pope Francis the orthodox cleric; Pope Francis the critic of unbridled globalization, Pope Francis the fighter for the unborn.
The real answer is that he’s not some of these, but all of these.
And this is the very quintessence of the faith: a glorious duality, a pristine combination, a Chestertonian paradox of simultaneous truths. It’s a difficult concept for those who splash around the muddy pool of banal politics, but obvious to followers of Christ. There is no contradiction whatsoever between moral conservatism and fierce empathy with the poor and underprivileged. If anything, abortion’s targeting of the handicapped, the black and brown, and women, makes it an attack on the most vulnerable in our society. Similarly, contraceptives are liberating and empowering for lascivious men rather than oppressed women. Ask any couple living the Billings method, for example, who has most power in their physical relationship!
In the direct caring and loving of the poor and the marginalized we live and see not a contradiction of moral orthodoxy but a consequence of it. Two hands to one body, two sides of the same coin. And this was presented nowhere better than by the sparkling juxtaposition of Pope Francis in Argentina washing and kissing the feet of men dying of AIDS, but also fiercely opposing the government’s move to allow gay marriage and the adoption of children by homosexuals.
Consider Jesus and the woman found in adultery. It’s one of the most quoted passages of Scripture, frequently used by liberals wanting to silence Christians who offer an opinion on moral issues. They interpret it as Christ telling people not to judge, not to have a point of view. Absurd of course, in that he has numerous opinions, and tells followers to do the same. No, the story is actually about hypocrisy and judgmentalism. The crowd is testing Jesus; is he a legalist or a reformer? Neither. He exposes the mob’s genuine motives, and then tells the woman that she is forgiven, but that she must change her ways. You are loved, you are clean now, but in return you must try to be better, to live an improved life. It’s at the heart of the sacrament of Confession, and the key to fully understanding our new pope.
But the world seldom attempts to understand. The honeymoon lasted just a few moments, and within an hour of the Papal election, the Guardian newspaper in Britain screamed with a story that, far from being a friend of the oppressed, Pope Francis had been a buddy of the crypto-fascists in Argentina, had allowed or even encouraged the kidnapping of fellow Jesuit priests, and had said and done little as the junta ravaged and raped its own people. The Guardian is an acid newspaper, never missing an opportunity to blacken any white sepulchers it can find – as long as they are not socialist or leftist ones. The Guardian started it, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the rest of the mainstream media soon followed.
The Vatican Press Office is at long last learning its trade (perhaps influenced by a Canadian priest, who one hopes will have a long-term leadership position in the area) and responded quickly and effectively:
The campaign against Bergoglio is well-known and dates back to many years ago. It has been made by a publication that carries out sometimes slanderous and defamatory campaigns. The anticlerical cast of this campaign and of other accusations against Bergoglio is well-known and obvious. The charges refer to the time before Jorge Mario Bergoglio became bishop [of Buenos Aires], when he was Provincial Superior of the Jesuits in Argentina and accuse him of not having protected two priests who were kidnapped.”
It continued: “This was never a concrete or credible accusation in his regard. He was questioned by an Argentinian court as someone aware of the situation but never as a defendant. He has, in documented form, denied any accusations. Instead, there have been many declarations demonstrating how much Bergoglio did to protect many persons at the time of the military dictatorship. Bergoglio’s role, once he became bishop, in promoting a request for forgiveness of the Church in Argentina for not having done enough at the time of the dictatorship is also well-known. The accusations pertain to a use of historical-sociological analysis of the dictatorship period made years ago by anticlerical elements to attack the Church. They must be firmly rejected.”
Quite so. Good Lord, there have been two full-scale biographies of the man and myriad articles and profiles in highly literate and vibrant Argentina. The Anglo-Saxon media is immensely chauvinistic and insular, and acted as though they had uncovered some hideous scandal that had never before been discussed in backwards Latin America. Reality cries out to be heard. This issue, this dark propaganda, has been debated and defeated time and time again, and there is nothing new and nothing important or relevant here. Nothing to see, folks, nothing to see.
To add to the sheer hypocrisy of it all, we need to remember that when Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher led Britain against General Galtieri’s junta-fuelled Argentina, it was the same left-wing journalists now attacking the Pope who then condemned Thatcher for defending the Falklands against fascist-led troops. The succession of juntas stopped due to that very war, but if those Guardian types had had their way, it would have continued for years to come.
Do not, however, assume that this is the final attack. Pope Benedict was a German so according to the press he had to be a Nazi; Pope Francis is Argentinian, so according to that same press he had to be a supporter of authoritarianism. The usual suspects will doubtless find more stones to throw at the Pope and the Church, and a few windows may well shatter. But the house will stand firm, and its owner will stand tall. The more successful the Holy Father is, the more he will be attacked. In other words, speaking the truth has consequences.
Prayer all round please, for everybody’s sake, particularly Pope Francis.