Friday, April 4, 2014

Pope Francis: the Picture on the Puzzle Box

It might not have been as exciting as Shark Week, but somehow this week has turned into Pope Week. The Bear will be pondering the week's discussion for a long time to come. Finally, it looks like we may have found the box lid with the picture of Pope Francis once all the pieces of the puzzle are put together.

  • Peronism
  • Latin America
  • Liberation Theology
  • Political Struggle of the Poor
  • Rejection of Non-Activist Catholicism
  • Frustration With Northern Transatlantic Catholicism
Of course we don't understand him. His message is not a Euro-U.S. message. And of course he doesn't understand us. His vision is intense, but constricted. The South really is smaller than the North, and Buenos Aires isn't Rome. His outlook may be Catholic, but it is not yet catholic, as in universal.

North vs. South

All the issues the Bear has been snuffling around this week snap into focus when he dons his Latin American goggles. Here is what they look like:

OUR CATHOLICISM is defined by going to Mass, saying the rosary, and culture wars over moral issues. We are affluent, and our poor are decently fed and housed compared to other parts of the world. The free market has worked well for us. If there are inequalities of outcome, hey, everybody is going to find his rung on the ladder of success.

POPE FRANCIS wants a boots-on-the-ground Catholicism that cannot be separated from literally joining the poor in their struggle. Yes, it is Liberation Theology, albeit non-Marxist. Peronism rejects both capitalism and communism. Culture wars? A hobby of the effete los norte├▒os. Remember when he said we can't spend all of our time talking about contraception, abortion and gay marriage? Bingo. That's why baptizing a baby in the custody of two lesbians is not that big a deal. Are not homosexuals pueblo, too? And don't sit in your house saying a rosary, do something!




WE ARE NICE, DOCILE CATHOLICS who mostly follow the rules. We wait our turn in line. If we have questions, we can look up the answers in our Catechisms, and find them in black and white.

POPE FRANCIS doesn't much care about doctrines or canon law. He doesn't care about liturgy, one way or the other, either, but is frustrated by those who make a big fuss over it. Nothing is black and white. A lot of broken china would be forgiven if we would advance the cause of the descamisados, in any way.

How many have secretly scoffed at the heavy-handed humility of living in the guest house, instead of the papal residence? What looks rather silly to us, means something to Pope Francis and his people, the poor of Buenos Aires. Jorge Bergoglio live in a palace? ¡Nunca! "I am not a Renaissance prince." The Pope is a man of the people, at least the poor people.

Mutual Frustration

This produces frustration. We can't understand why he's calling us slothful hypocrites, and he can't understand why he has inherited a Church full of slothful hypocrites. 

The responsibility for this frustration must rest with Pope Francis. Euro-U.S. Catholics are entitled to their expectations as much as any Catholics, poor or not. If the Pope wants to change Catholic culture in the northern hemisphere, he should get to know it and appreciate it first. American Catholics may not talk about the poor all the time (except the USCCB), but we take pretty good care of them and are generous with the fruits of our capitalism. Let's have a conversation. 

Americans are used to being scolded by liberals, and by now it goes in one ear and out the other. With the possible exception of the Democrat Party, the Catholic Church has issued more statements and performed more theater about the poor than any institution in history. Meanwhile the engine of North American capitalism has lifted more persons out of poverty than all Latin American revolutions throughout history.

If Pope Francis really is motivated by some sort of Liberation Theology, let him speak of it openly, and share his vision of the world. How does he see our culture contributing? It might be exciting, who knows? But we'll never know unless he trusts his flock enough to stop with the riddles, hints and criticism.

6 comments:

  1. THings you cannot say in Mark SHea's combox. (Not that it merits expulsion, but it offends the sensibilities, nonetheless. I know. I've tried. There is lots of anti-capitalism there and anger at the "rich".)

    "We are affluent, and our poor are decently fed and housed compared to other parts of the world. The free market has worked well for us. If there are inequalities of outcome, hey, everybody is going to find his rung on the ladder of success."

    "American Catholics may not talk about the poor all the time (except the USCCB), but we take pretty good care of them and are generous with the fruits of our capitalism. Let's have a conversation. "

    "Meanwhile the engine of North American capitalism has lifted more persons out of poverty than all Latin American revolutions throughout history."

    ReplyDelete
  2. Maybe Mark should go to other countries (not just their restaurants) and see how the poor fare. I've seen people living in shipping crates in Italy. I know who the poor are, because many of my clients are indigent. I have issues with a culture that reduces humans to atomized economic units, but the Left does that all the time in their class struggle rhetoric. If my lazy analysis is correct, Pope Francis is much more a man of the Left (in American terms) and the Liberal element of the Church than my initial impression. Without commenting on him as pope, he's a provincial that may have a hard time understanding the Western democracies.

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  3. This anti-West direction may indeed be the way of the future. The 3d world is where the religious energy is these days. Western priests and missionaries went into South America and Africa centuries ago to spread Catholicism. Today priests from those areas are coming to the West to aid the paucity of home grown priests to at least keep the Church on life support here and in Europe. In my opinion, Francis is not an aberration. He is the first of his line.

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  4. Bear: Yes, Francis is not of the north-western developed world. His understanding and experiences are not ours. But, as Terry G is pointing out, he may be the first of the 3rd worlder popes...The Church is growing there. I'd rather have African faithfulness, than Latin American Liberation theology.

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  5. The Anglo-European genius seems to be in running things, though, at least when it is allowed to. Frankly, it appears to the Bear that the cultural genius of African and Latin cultures may lie in other areas. (Man, that was nicely put for a bear!)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Really so awesome the Picture on the Puzzle Box. I like every thing very much...
    Puzzlebox

    ReplyDelete

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