Monday, September 28, 2015

The Pope and the American Right

From the American Conservative:
The right’s contretemps with Pope Francis has brought out into the open what is rarely mentioned in polite company: most visible and famous Catholics who fight on behalf of Catholic causes in America focus almost exclusively on sexual issues (as Pope Francis himself seemed to be pointing out, and chastising, in his America interview), but have been generally silent regarding a century-old tradition of Catholic social and economic teaching. The meritocracy and economic elite have been a main beneficiary of this silence: those most serious about Catholicism—and thus who could have brought to bear a powerful tradition of thinking about economics that avoids both the radical individualistic presuppositions of capitalism as well as the collectivism of socialism—have spent their energies fighting the sexual/culture wars, even while Republican-Democratic ruling machine has merely changed driver seat in a limousine that delivers them to ever-more exclusive zip codes.

In the past several months, when discussing Pope Francis, the left press has at every opportunity advanced a “narrative of rupture,” claiming that Francis essentially is repudiating nearly everything that Popes JPII and Benedict XVI stood for. The left press and commentariat has celebrated Francis as the anti-Benedict following his  impromptu airplane interview (“who am I to judge?”) and lengthy interview with the Jesuit magazine America. However, in these more recent reactions to Francis by the right press and commentariat, we witness extensive agreement by many Catholics regarding the “narrative of rupture,” wishing for the good old days of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

But there has been no rupture—neither the one wished for by the left nor feared by the right. Pope Francis has been entirely consistent with those previous two Popes who are today alternatively hated or loved, for Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI spoke with equal force and power against the depredations of capitalism. (JPII in the encyclical Centesimus Annus and Benedict XVI in the encyclical Caritas in Veritate.)  But these encyclicals—more authoritative than an Apostolic Exhortation—did not provoke the same reaction as Francis’s critiques of capitalism. This is because the dominant narrative about John Paul II and Benedict XVI had them pegged them as, well, Republicans. For the left, they were old conservatives who obsessed with sexual matters; for the right, solid traditionalists who cared about Catholicism’s core moral teachings. Both largely ignored their social and economic teachings, so focused were they on their emphasis on “faith and morals.” All overlooked that, for Catholics, economics is a branch of moral philosophy. (Read more.)


MadMonarchist said...

I've always had a problem with this argument, and I've heard it practically from Day One of Francis' pontificate. I have absolutely no patience with those who equate "caring for the poor" (which is what all of the critiques of capitalism, immigration etc boil down to) with issues like abortion or gay marriage, lumped together by those who accuse others of being "obsessed with sex". I have no patience because there is a big, huge, gaping difference between these two which is that, regardless of what one chooses to emphasize, *no one is claiming that caring for the poor is bad*.

No one is or ever has said that caring for the poor, being kind and compassionate is a bad thing but we have a horde of people arguing that fornication, abortion and homosexuality are *good* things that should be not only accepted but embraced. No one is disputing the righteousness of charity but they are disputing virtually every aspect of sexual morality and traditional family life so it seems entirely appropriate to me, I would say even absolutely necessary, to focus on defending what is under attack that reinforcing what everyone from President Obama to President Xi Jinping already agree on, whether it is "caring for the poor" or climate change.

I would also add that I am very fearful about how absolutely everything is now a "moral issue" because I can see it leading to a tremendous loss of souls if the Church sets itself against what works on the grounds that it is "immoral". Wealth redistribution has nowhere been shown to relieve poverty but have invariably increased poverty. Similarly, on issues such as the "refugee" crisis, I am also worried that history will repeat itself if the Church places itself on the side that will see Europeans wiped out in a demographic flood. History has shown that when people are forced to choose between their nation and the Church, the nation usually wins and I don't want the Church to even be seen as being opposed to the survival of certain peoples in favor of others. Of course, it wouldn't be so much of an issue if Europeans listened to the Church on the subject of birth control but then that would be harping on those sexual issues again rather than welcoming in and caring for the poor.

I don't see the former Christendom being depopulated of Christians (thanks to sexual immorality) and filled with Muslims or political-economic movements with a record of vicious hostility to Christianity (in the name of caring for the poor) as being a good thing for the Catholic Church or the salvation of souls. But, what do I know? I'm certainly not in line with popular opinion.

elena maria vidal said...

I agree with what you say, MM. Let me just add that the POPe has been saying a lot about sexual morality, probably as much as the other popes. It is just not getting reported. And I remember the other popes being constantly criticized by The Remnant and Catholic Family News for being too liberal.

Also, His Holiness sees that the Catholic teachings on charity and chastity are interconnected. It's not extol one and forget about the other. Rather, you cannot have one without the other. Even as I was reading your comment it struck me how much the self-indulgence of the contraceptive mentality makes socialism possible. Socialism is not the same as Christian charity for many reasons. For one thing, it shields the elite from actually having any contact with the poor. It just throws money at things without the human touch. Plus it steals money from some to give to others. So different from the example given by St. Teresa of Calcutta and a myriad of other Catholic saints, as I know you are aware.

MadMonarchist said...

Yes, Catholic Family & The Remnant are good at criticism but past popes were certainly not treated the way Francis is by everyone else. Francis is not the first pontiff in history to be kind and compassionate, so why is he so much more praised? The effusive praise of non-Catholic, non-Christians I find more than a little unsettling. Pope Francis has been urging *government* action, not just individual charity and every government has claimed to be looking out for the poor, common man for years and indeed the First World countries he criticizes the most offer more assistance to the "poor" than anyone in history. If, however, Pope Francis is just as strident on traditional values as past popes and is being wildly and extensively distorted by the media, at this point I think the question has to be asked; why is this pope specifically the target of this media conspiracy and why, after so many incidents, has the Pope not corrected it?

elena maria vidal said...

We must be reading different news sources because I have heard His Holiness correct the misinterpretation of his words many times. But, yes, it pains me to see the left praise Pope Francis' humility as if the two preceding popes were not humble as well, they just had different ways of expressing it. I think that all three are great saints.

MadMonarchist said...

I'm sorry, you misunderstood me. I meant correcting himself, his way of speaking, so that he cannot be so grossly misunderstood. I too have heard, pretty much every time, the "he didn't really mean, he meant something like this..." type of correction, by others, after the fact. That's fine but a correction after an error never gets as much attention so it would be better, I would think, to adjust yourself so as not to be so easily misunderstood in the first place.

As for the great saints part, I don't know. Every deceased pontiff since V2 is or is in the process of being canonized and I'm beginning to wonder if I am even correct in my understanding of the word anymore. Traditionally, it was extremely rare for a pope to be canonized. Oddly enough, long ago I was told that this was because popes did not want to be seen as setting themselves up as spiritually superior to others -an effort at being more humble if you will. That must have been incorrect though in light of what I am told about how things are now.

elena maria vidal said...

I understood what you meant, MM, and I am not talking about what others say. I think the main problem is that the Pope is quoted out of context by the media. When I read the full interviews and his entire statements, it all makes sense. Zenit and the Vatican Information Service have been helpful to me in this way. When I say I think the last 3 popes are saints it does not mean I think canonization; it is just my personal opinion based upon what I have read, that's all. In past times, Popes were canonized when they had faced great crises such as Pope Leo the Great and Pope Gregory the Great, and Gregory VII Hildebrand. I don't have any problem with it.

julygirl said...

In this era of over-politicized thinking and rhetoric, there are those who will never be able to understand or come to terms with the Holy Father's mentality. It can be correlated with a parent trying to conduct a dialog with a teenager who has come to believe he/she has all the answers.