Pope Francis recently suggested that President Trump is not a good Christian because of his stand on border security. That may say more about the Pope than it does the President. One of the big no-nos of my days in Catholic elementary school was judging others – lest ye be judged. So, maybe the Pope deserves to be judged.
Popes generally reflect a mix of traits — sometimes saintly, sometimes political, and sometimes corrupt. The measure of a pope – a papacy – is which of these traits dominates. Pope John Paul II was mostly saintly – and is on his way to being one. But he was also political in a saintly way – pushing back at the evils of totalitarian secularism known as communism. He was devoid of corruption – at least as any human can be.
His successor, Pope Benedict XVI, could be said to have been none of the above traits – at least in terms of accomplishment or scandal. His papacy was marked by not being marked by much of anything. His principle claim to historic fame is his resignation. He was fortunate enough to head into retirement before the stain of mostly homosexual pedophilia started rising to the upper ranks of the Church hierarchy.
If one were to objectively prioritize the three traits noted above for Pope Francis, politics would take the lead with corruption edging out saintliness.
Wow! That is a pretty harsh assessment.
Perhaps it is the fact that Pope Frances lived in Argentina by his pre-papal name of Jorge Bergoglio during the reign of Juan Peron. He rose to prominence in the Church in an environment where it was difficult to attain such a rank without at least the acquiescence of the Peron administration. His reputation in that banana republic was sullied by rumors of his cooperation with the oppressive regime.
Apologists for Pope Francis excuse his cooperation with the Peron by doing a bit of whitewashing of the dictator. They claim that Juan Peron was a populist and champion of the poor – ignoring his admiration of Adolf Hitler, his offering exile to throngs of Nazi war criminals, jailing and torturing critics, shutting down education and all those other things despots do. Thousands of opponents were arrested and “disappeared.” The Guardian noted that “the Provincial Superior of the Society of Jesus in Argentina, Jorge Bergoglio, was not among those who put themselves publicly at the forefront of that dangerous enterprise.” At one point, two priests who angered the Peron regime were kicked out of the Society of Jesus – leaving then vulnerable to the civil and military authorities. They were subsequently arrested and killed.
In addition to his political survival under an oppressive regime, Francis is a student of liberation theology. It is a Utopian theology that ironically manifests itself in such secular political movements as socialism and communism. Liberation theology places a religious imprimatur on the false idea that the interests of the poor are not considered by the rich and powerful – even though the theology or political philosophy, itself, is administered by people of wealth and power wherever it takes hold.
In terms of politics, Francis seems to be on the opposite side of John Paul, who challenged the authoritarian strongmen wherever he found them (except in Vatican City, of course), while Francis is more reluctant to call them out. If you recall, Francis’ response to ISIS killing Christians – or anyone else – was rather … well … wimpish.
More recently, Pope Francis appears to be more interested in minimizing the impact of the clergy sex scandal than to get to the bottom of it. He was reluctant to act against Cardinal Wuerl of the Washington, D.C. archdiocese for covering up the child abuse cases.
As far as I know, Francis has not called a single pro-abortion politician a bad Christian – excommunicated anyone for performing an abortion even though the Church rates abortion as the gravest of mortal sins that breaks the bond between Church and sinner and – if unforgiven by God — condemns the person to eternal damnation.
The fact that Francis did not speak out when Ireland made abortions legal suggests that he has taken a softer position than the Church demands.
The Pope’s judgement of Trump is only the latest in his continuing condemnations of the western world, capitalism, free markets and American foreign policy. In this most recent criticism, Pope Francis is siding with the radical left that believes in a borderless world. It may make him popular with the left and their moral relativism, but not with me.
So, there ‘tis.