Papal Fallibility On Display

Pope

 

While sojourning in Cuba, Pope Francis had only nuanced criticisms of the Castro regime even though that government seized and nationalized Catholic churches and schools, and has locked up Catholic clergy. Contrast this Pope’s careful words expressed in Cuba with the speeches of Pope John Paul II when he visited his native Poland in 1987. John Paul II leveled a litany of criticisms against the Communist government, and forayed into the political realm by criticizing the Polish government’s outlawing of the Solidarity Party in 1981. Some of these criticisms were even leveled while the Pope shared the platform with the communist President, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski. This Pope refrained from any highly charged specifics.

The problem of the ethical and political orientation of the Roman Catholic Church goes back many centuries. Although this Pope was happy to quote from the U.S. Declaration of Independence in his speech to our Congress, that document was clearly in a Protestant tradition antithetical to the axioms and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. By the time it was written, Great Britain (too un-democratic for the American colonies) had already passed a law saying that no Catholic could be a king or queen of that country. And the Declaration of Rights passed in England in 1689 was to stand as a bulwark against Catholic monarchic despotism. Further, one need only look at the French Revolution’s strong anti-clerical momentum. The Church, not the bourgeoisie, in its alliance with the nobility and the political-economic status quo was identified by the Jacobins with the oppression of the masses of people. The R.C. church was only partially restored to its former hegemony in France by Napoleon who saw in religion a stabilizing force in society. He did not see any special political or economic validity or special claim to insight in the Catholic faith.

Pope Francis is the voice of a pendulum swing. No longer is the Papacy the voice of monarchy and the social elites. Instead, this Pope portrays himself as the voice of the masses yearning to be free…a Lady Liberty with a skullcap and a special automobile. Is this a revolutionized church or a new face of papal authoritarianism? Is he pandering to the masses as he attempts to regain lost power?   Although in his speech to Congress he discusses the pitfalls of polarization, every student of history knows to be soft against wickedness is to encourage it. How can he be soft on Castro, yet reprimand us for our treatment of Native Americans? How can he kiss the Qu’ran despite the unparalleled persecution and murders of Christians in Muslim lands? How can he call for more openness towards refugees by America, truly, more than any country in the history of the world, a haven for the dispossessed and suffering masses?

In his Congressional speech, he put the spiritual spotlight on Moses as lawmaker par excellence. Yet at the same time, Francis criticized the tendency to polarize found in our political and social philosophies. To this writer, it is almost unfathomable that he would uplift Moses and an end to polarization in the same speech. Moses was the sina qua non of polarization from the day he re-entered Egypt to confront the Pharaoh on behalf of Almighty God to cry out for the liberation of the Israelites. It was holy polarization from beginning to end. And, when the Israelite rebels against Almighty God, led by Korah, lined up against Moses, the Lord himself intervened [“polarized”] and Numbers 16: 32-33 tells us, “And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation.” Thus, Israelites as well as Egyptians, when they polarized themselves against God’s will experienced His wrath!   It bespeaks a colossal lack of Biblical understanding to speak of Moses and opposition to polarization in the same speech.

Although he is the head of the Roman Catholic Church, in his speech to the U.S. Congress, the Holy Pontiff did not make one reference to Jesus Christ. That omission speaks volumes to anyone, whether Evangelical, Catholic, or Orthodox whose salvation and hope rests on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. This writer knows that there are congregations whose members include Palestinian Arabs and Jews in Israel who have come to know the Savior who are worshipping together in peace and harmony within Israel. Decades of hatred and conflict have been wiped clean from their souls by the cleansing Blood of the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. The one verse from the entire Holy Bible (66 books) that the Pope quoted was the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” (Matthew 7-12). Yet, while the idea of the Golden Rule is excellent, it is not uniquely Christian, but has been proposed by such diverse writers as Thales, Lao-tze, Zoroaster, and Confucius. Thus, the unique founder of the Christian faith and the unique ethical and moral light that is Christianity is really not to be found in Francis’ speech to Congress.

Further, the Pope in his speeches keeps telling “the world” what it should do to advance “the common good” and compassion. It is primarily a leftist program throughout. Instead, this writer would expect the head of an organization that comprised hundreds of millions of people to outline his agenda for the RC for the next 10-50 years. Yet, no such outline was offered. How many millions do they hope to feed? How many new wells for impoverished areas that have no clean drinking water? How many orphanages will be established in Latin America, Asia, and Africa? None of the “good works” that exist or will come into existence under the auspices of the RC church were enumerated. Does this not bespeak an incredible arrogance – coming forth to lecture the whole world about what its proper political and economic perspective should be, yet in his vision of world compassion, ignoring the role of the church he leads.

Sadly, we have an important church leader who has neglected to speak about what he should know best, namely his own vast organization’s activities and theological position. Instead, Francis chose to present a vague and over-generalized amalgam of ideas to create an impression of high-mindedness, yet lacking direction and godliness.

 

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