Ethics Dunce: Pope Francis

The Pope and "the Angel of Peace"...

The Pope and “the Angel of Peace”…

Sigh.

I apologize in advance to all the Catholics and others who will be offended by this post. I wish I didn’t have to write it. But I just read one too many “nyah, nyah, nyah conservatives and Republicans, you’re so big on waving God at us and now the Pope says you’re full of crap” Facebook posts from someone who would no more set foot in a church than Damien in “The Omen.”  The Pope is as fair game for criticism when he abuses his influence and power as Kylie Jenner, who was the subject of the previous post, and for similar reasons. To those who say that it is disrespectful for me to compare the Pope’s ethics to those of an ignorant 18-year-old minor celebrity drunk on her own fame, my answer is that the Pope needs to stop acting like one.

I’m going to try to avoid the mocking tone I used with Kylie, I really am.

With great power, the saying goes, comes great responsibility. What I see in this Pope is a very, very nice and well-meaning man who suddenly was given the power to have his every opinion on any subject immediately plastered all over newspapers across the world and recited by news readers as significant, and literally can’t stop himself. He told an Argentinian journalist last week that he just wants to be remembered as “good guy.”  Mission accomplished: I believe he is a good guy. He’s also an irresponsible guy, who knows or should know that his pronouncements will be exploited for political advantage by people and parties that could not care less about his Church, God and religion generally, but who will use his words  to persuade voters who feel the need to know no more about a subject that what the “Vicar of Christ” tells them.

It may be “good to be Pope,” to paraphrase Mel Brooks, and it’s also not “easy being Pope,” to paraphrase Kermit the Frog. I don’t care: he accepted the job, and with it the duty to do it responsibly. Being a responsible Pope means not shooting off your mouth about every topic that occurs to you. In that same interview, Pope Francis opined that humans care too much about pets. I get it: poverty is, by his own assessment, the single most important aspect of the Church’s mission, so it’s natural for the Pope to believe that the money spent on movies, cable TV, make-up, CDs, and Jack Russell terriers should all be given to the Clinton Foundation or his Church instead. That’s a facile opinion from someone who has a staff catering to his every whim, and who sits on billions in the Vatican Bank. Does the Pope understand loneliness? Does he have any compassion for those suffering from it? Does he understand the needs of my sister, divorced and with both children gone, and her desire to have some unconditional love in the house when she returns to an otherwise empty home,  love that  takes the form of a happy, loyal, Havanese? “Care for pets is like programmed love,” the Pope told the interviewer. “I can program the loving response of a dog or a cat, and I don’t need the experience of a human, reciprocal love.”

My response: “Shut up. You don’t know what you’re talking about, and millions of people will assume you got this point of view straight from God.”

The Pope recently praised Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as an “angel of peace.” Take that, Republicans! This was irresponsible in the extreme. Abbas has been knee-deep in terrorism for decades: his mentor was Yassir Arafat. “Angel of peace”? This is nothing but an attack on Israel, whether good guy Francis realizes it or not. If I was sitting in the same throne as a predecessor who did nothing to stem or even condemn Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, I would avoid taking sides in this deadly controversy like I would avoid Dan Brown. Irresponsible, and an abuse of power.

Naturally, the Pope aligns himself with almost all progressive positions, some just because they are progressive positions. He was raised a socialist in a socialist political culture, and becoming Pope didn’t alter those biases, so I guess that means God is on the side of socialism, right? Go Bernie Sanders!  Thus the Pope is applauded by progressive allies who in every other respect have contempt for organized religion and think God is the opiate of the masses. If you don’t believe in God or religion, why does the Pope have more moral authority than, say, the Queen of England, Bill Maher, George Will, or Kylie Jenner? He doesn’t. Nonetheless, knowing that his statements will be used cynically and hypocritically, Pope Francis continues to deliver pronouncements about things he knows little or nothing about, throwing the weight of his authority behind policies and positions based on ideology alone.

To cite a blatant example, the Pope is preparing to issue a statement about the need for world climate change initiatives. I can say with absolute certainty that the Pope could no more interpret the validity of a climate change computer model than he could fly, and probably less, being Pope and all. His education was in the humanities and theology, with training in what it was to be a chemical technician 60 years ago. Like other progressives, the Pope sees climate change as a means to an end, the end being wealth distribution and world government, or perhaps he is just a “good guy” dupe for others who do. I resent the Pope, or any head of any religion, anywhere,  attempting to use his influence to direct public policy, especially public policy regarding complex and sophisticated issues that he understands no better than Kylie Jenner understands contrails. Catholics should resent it too.

Meanwhile, we learned this week that Pope Francis hasn’t watched television in 25 years. I know there are TV teetotalers here, but as a devoted, dogged, and often repulsed student of pop culture, I can state with authority that this means that he doesn’t understand the world he is telling how to live in, especially the younger parts of it. This too is irresponsible, and stunningly so. He’s old, he’s from one part of the world, and he has a narrow perspective, but is claiming that it is universal.

Ironically, it is more important for the Pope to understand the influence of Kylie Jenner and the social media she lives off of than it is for Kylie to know anything about the Pope.

I have heard the Pope make vague condemnations of terrorism, but I haven’t yet heard his endorsement of armed resistance to ISIS, or his honest attempt to reconcile the Church’s pacifism with the importance of stopping evil on the march. It is easier, after all, to take pot-shots at lonely people with too many cats, and to issue facile compliments to apologists for terrorism.

Yes, I am certain Pope Francis is a good guy. I know a lot of good guys, however. Being a good guy won’t justify using excessive influence unwisely and inappropriately. This is especially true for a position like the Pope’s, head of the Vatican, when the Vatican so miserably failed its greatest moral challenge during and after World War II. I am reading Gerald Posner’s “God’s Bankers,” about the vile history of the Vatican Bank, and the utter disconnect with reality evidenced by any Pope advocating for the poor and claiming moral authority to do so has never seemed more obvious or disturbing. Here is Posner on NPR, talking about the episode that literally made me nauseous as I read about it:

By World War II, the church had sizable investments and created the Vatican Bank in order to hide its financial dealings with the Nazis from the U.S. and the U.K.

“I was surprised the extent to which the Vatican was deeply embedded with German companies,” Posner says. “They bundled together life insurance policies of Jewish refugees who had been sent to Auschwitz and other death camps. They escheated these policies early on — meaning they took the cash value of them.”

Later, when the surviving children or grandchildren of the victims tried to collect on the insurance policies, they were refused.

“These insurance companies would refuse to pay out saying: ‘Show us a death certificate,’ which they knew was impossible,” Posner explains. “They would keep the money.”

I guess compared to this, Abbas doesn’t seem so bad.

_____________________________

Sources: NPR, The Guardian, NY Post, La Voz

92 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Pope Francis

    • Thanks for that link. The alternate quote is certainly more defensible: “May the angel of peace destroy the evil spirit of war. I thought of you: May you be an angel of peace.”

      On the other hand, I’d argue that after Abbas’s career involved in terrorism, that’s as naive a statement as they come. it’s way too late for any veteran Palestinian leader to become an “Angel of Peace.”

  1. I’m a Catholic, and I am not offended. Some of this needed to be said. The world needs a pope who will provide the moral gravitas to the great struggle against terror the way John Paul II did against communism during the Cold War. JPII himself never advocated violence, but he stood with those who opposed evil. Francis is no John Paul II, and going by this article, nor does he aspire to be one. Yes, he’s a nice guy, but he is also the wrong man in the job at the wrong time. He would have been just fine two decades ago, with the Cold War winding down and the world looking like it was headed toward a future of peace and prosperity. As it is, he looks like just one more clueless gnome walking in a world of violent ogres.

    • Another Catholic here, and I agree.

      My take is that we got Francis as a counterweight to Benedict. His predecessor looked too political and cunning, so for his successor the choice was the nicest possible guy. The problem is that for leadership positions, “nice guy” does not cut it. And while I’m convinced the Pope has the best intentions at heart, he’s looked awfully naïve more than once since he took the job.

      • “Pope” and “chief nice guy” are not interchangeable. Carter was a nice guy too, but he was a joke as President.

        • Reminds of the “I would have a beer with that guy” comment about Bush. Although I guess red wine would be more appropriate for Francis.

  2. I take exception. I haven’t watched television since 1973 and I very much understand this world. Too much so, I’m afraid.

      • Disagree. I maintain a strong presence on the net. I don’t blog anymore, and I don’t do Facebook anymore. But Twitter, along with the various sites I scan, including yours, keeps me well informed about the state of the world. How topical can I be? On Monday I gave a heads up to the school director about the #charliechallenge. How many here know what that is? And when did you learn of it?

          • Jack, I get all the popular culture I can stomach via the Internet. Videogame culture, for example… “swatters.” Bristol’s aborted nuptials. Kanye West’s insecurities. Nipples. Smart drugs. Smart nipples. I stay ahead of the curve only because I am insatiably curious and a confirmed voyeur of popular culture. And nipples.

  3. Unfortunately, I don’t have time today to go into all of your points, but I have 3 things to say.

    I haven’t investigated all of these “quotes” by the Pope, but I DO know that there are many misquotes running around the Interweb, and many misinterpretations of what he actually DID say. And the misinterpretations are being spread around as though THAT IS WHAT HE SAID, instead of what he actually said.

    I can’t at this time defend or decry most of what you have noted above. However, I do know that the Vatican initiative about the environment is exactly that. It is about the environment and about being good stewards of creation. I don’t know if the Pope specifically stated something about climate change initiatives. Frankly, I haven’t even kept up with all of the journalistic hype about the Pope and climate change because there has been nothing official yet. He is expected to promulgate an encyclical on the environment and on stewardship of creation. Until that is made public, I don’t really want to engage in conversation about what the Pope may or may not have to say about the environment. Because he hasn’t officially said anything, yet. And the Vatican has some very brilliant scientists on the payroll, so I wouldn’t say that the Pope has any less of an understanding of the environment than any world leader or religious leader.

    With regard to Abbas, the article goes on to say “During his 2014 visit to Israel and the West Bank, Francis called both Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres men of peace.”

    • “I wouldn’t say that the Pope has any less of an understanding of the environment than any world leader or religious leader.”

      I agree. None of them know what they are talking about, but a religious leader has no business talking about it at all.

      • >a religious leader has no business talking about it at all.

        Technically, he is also a national leader (of a minor state) and he directs policy of the Holy See. Certainly not in the scale of China, but sometimes small scale experiments are good.

        I’ll stop my free association game here before I end up proposing separation of church and state for the Vatican.

      • Jack, your points are based on your information sources. You are dealing with translations that are presented by a couple of news organizations from a Pope who does not present what he says in writing, as did the Vatican machine of the past, but is a transparent pastoral person who speaks from the heart. As you have not cited any of the original Italian or Spanish, which is of Argentinian quality, it explains why you have many of the difficulties you mention, to the point of believing that the Pope is quite simplistic in his methodology. In reality Pope Francis is much more nuanced than a written translation could express, which is often lost on those who may be looking for sound bytes to play with or with axes to grind… Unfortunately most in the Catholic Church too do not go to the original Italian sound bytes, but rather take summaries presented by the radio or TV station that found them interesting and useful to bring out their positions. Only time will tell!

        • 1. I did cite the Argentine source.
          2. If we don’t know what the Pope is saying or means, then he shouldn’t be quoted AT ALL.
          3. If he knows he’s being misquoted, he has an obligation to fix the record, or try.

          • Really, Jack? You yourself bemoan the state of journalism. How is he supposed to set the record straight? I guess he needs to have a personal voice recorder to record every little thing he says, and then go back into the Vatican and transcribe all of it, then hold a press conference to present that day’s correct quotes, and post them all on the internet. Sorry, nobody is obliged to be that circumspect.

            • He needs to watch what he says and stop shooting his mouth off like a guest on a talk show and start acting like a Pope.

            • Patrice, the commenter essentially said that absolutely nothing the guy says means what we are told, and that the news media unanimously misrepresents it. Maybe he’s not a good guy! Maybe he’s saying the opposite of what everyone thinks!

              Give me a break. “I was mistranslated” is the non-English speaker’s “I was taken out of context!”

  4. Thanks Jack. The guy is a menace. We now have radical nut jobs in the Vatican, the White House and Gracie Mansion. Who needs anonymous? The anarchists have won. The inmates are literally running the asylum. Again, the man is a menace.

    And I’m not some sort of anti-Papist. Super Catholic mother, altar boy, Catholic grade school and HS and Notre Dame (yes that Notre Dame) law school. I haven’t been to mass since I got my drivers’ license and could just disappear on Sundays, but as they say, once a Catholic, always a Catholic

    But the man is an absolute menace. How is it all society’s authority figures are now anti-authoritarians?

  5. Apologies in advance, as I had to rush through this.

    But, if I recall, your complaint about pets is off-base.

    If I recall, the Pope’s statement on that was that pets are not a replacement for children. (Have you seen the thing on Mother’s Day congratulating all those people who are mothers, even if only to their cat or dog? or something to that effect?)

    This is no offense to your sister, who needs an animal companion (or my sister who, as Catholic as she was, could not have kids). The idea was that pets are not a replacement for children and should not be looked at in such a way. The complaint is not about pets but “pets as proxies for people.”

    Did you totally miss that? (Or did I miss something?)

    (But, to the larger point, I am not that sympathetic to people who will misinterpret the Pope’s position based upon their own ignorance; they will use them to confirm their own bias against the Church, or to confirm other biases they have. It is just that, right now, liberals love the Pope because they think he agrees with them, whereas they hated his predecessor for not agreeing with them. They have not changed one whit!)

    -Jut

  6. I won’t reply to any one of the commenters who denigrate Pope Francis because I will reply to all.

    No, wait, I will remark about one. Pope Francis is “a menace”? What is it that you are afraid this “menace” is going to do? Replace the Eucharist with Brats and Beer? Turn the Mass into a Revival Meeting? Gee, I don’t know, maybe he will replace apathy in the church with renewed fervor. Maybe turn hardened hearts into hearts of compassion. Hmm, sounds a little like the, uh, founder of the Roman Catholic Church.

    I don’t believe that he is naive. I don’t believe that he is a “clueless gnome.” Nice guy? Hmm, he’s made heads roll in one of the most entrenched bureaucracies in the world. He has fired people (cardinals) who have not had the best interests of the people in their motivations. Good grief, the guy came into leading a church nearly destroyed by the sexual predator scandals of the last few decades (let alone the last 2 millennia), let alone the financial scandals, and has had to deal with that crap. This is a world/religious leader who has had to redefine what it means to be the leader of a Church that has been undermined by so many of the clergy who have zipper problems or embezzlement or extravagant investment in luxurious living and status quo employment. And it’s unfair (IMNSHO) to bring up the Nazi scandals. What does that have to do with anything? Geez, he’s doing what he can to fix the modern financial scandals in the Vatican.

    You know, I was thinking that a lot people in the time of Jesus were looking for a different kind of Messiah, one who would throw out the Romans and bring Judea back into being a Kingdom they could be proud of. Instead, they got a rabbi who ate with sinners and threw out the moneychangers in the Temple and roamed the countryside on foot with a ragtag group of followers (fishermen and tax collector, for crying out loud) and made people feel good about themselves. He turned conventional wisdom around with the Beatitudes — Blessed are the poor in spirit; Blessed are the meek; etc. The Kingdom of Heaven turned out to be not of this world. Even if you don’t believe in Heaven, this Kingdom of Heaven can be found in the landscape of the human heart.

    Nice guy? Maybe. Shrewd? probably. Out of touch? Not a chance. He knows what’s going on.

    • If he knows what’s going on, his embrace of Abbas is especially sinister then.

      I don’t see how the conduct of other Popes can be irrelevant, unless the Pope’s authority doesn’t come from where we are told it does. If he’s just another man, then his moral authority is based on what he personally has accomplished. It’s not based on that, though.

      Cleaning up the Church is great: that’s his job. Being a front man for world government, ecofascism and socialism is not his job, nor does he have the brief to justify it.

    • Again, he is being misinterpreted. This is about his personal humility, not about his vision for the Church. This is about not trying to be remembered for great deeds and actions, even though such things are likely. His goal is to be remembered as a humble servant of God, who might be called upon to do great deeds and actions, but those are simply part of the bigger picture of service.

  7. He’s a menace because, among other things, he’s a Marxist. He’s a menace because he thinks the crooked “leaders” of the third world are not responsible for the mess they’ve made, rather, it’s all the fault of the capitalist first world. He’s cut from the same cloth as our current president and the current mayor of New York City. This kind of stuff is corrosive. That’s why he’s a menace. If you want to deem modern western society as the equivalent of Imperial Rome, go ahead but just be careful of what you ask for. Ever heard of the Dark Ages?

    • He’s also a menace because given his relative youth, he could still be taking the Church on his personal joyride thirty years from now.

    • Pope Francis is not a Marxist. He does not “deem modern western society as the equivalent of Imperial Rome.” Being an advocate for the poor does not make one a Marxist.

      • Marxists think he’s a Marxist, and socialists think he’s a socialist. If his primary objective is the poor and he involves himself in public policy where he doesn’t belong, then he’s a tool for both. If I take your word for it, he’s just misunderstood, which means, as a World voice, he’s incompetent, or something. A Papal Rorschach test, where anyone can assume he shares their values? Is that leadership? (That’s Obama. Or, as the song says, That’s Amore!)I’m pretty smart: how am I supposed to figure out this complex message that only you seem capable of discerning? Do Catholics really believe in public policy and government that focuses its resources and objectives on the poor and peace above all else—and how one focuses on peace when in the real world it means diverting money and resources to defense, and feeding the poor means using resources for that, I also can’t fathom. No? What, then? What? What IS the Pope saying about Global Warming? That it’s “bad”? What?

        Arguing that nobody understands what the Pope is saying, that the media completely misinterprets him, and that though he is a the messenger of God, he has no obligation to make his messages clear, and has no obligation to clear up misinterpretations…is one strange way of advocating for him. Again, what you seem to be describing is incoherence and incompetence. Which is what I said. Or double secret competence, which, I admit, I don’t understand.

        • What Catholics believe is a loooooong answer, probably best set forth in the Baltimore Catechism, which I’m guessing you’ve probably never read in toto but probably consulted since there is some good ethical stuff in there. I hate to say it, but too often the Church, like the current president, turns to “somehow.” Somehow we must find enough resources for everyone in this world to have a decent standard of living, somehow we must set more places at the feast rather than turn unexpected guests away, somehow we must avoid violence both acute and structural. It never gets into the specifics, though. There are no economists at the Vatican writing up proposals for equitable wealth-sharing and no security experts drafting workable plans for collective security. Pope Francis may come off as a humble, likeable guy, but in the end he also comes off as just a man, and his words have less impact as a result. JPII came off as more than just an ordinary person, so folks gave his words a little more weight, but at this point a lot of folks, Catholics included, just read his feel–good idealism and say “seriously?” .

          • ” a lot of folks, Catholics included, just read his feel–good idealism and say “seriously?””

            And a lot of folks also say Bravo. Neither one of us can speak for any kind of majority of Catholics

            • And those who say Bravo, as Jack pointed out above, are often liberals looking for confirmation. Catholicism is not spiritualized liberalism.

              • Pope Benedict was not my favorite Pope, but he was still the Pope. As a liberal, I received little confirmation from him, but he was still the Pope.

                I believe that I am not suffering from confirmation bias. I don’t go around saying things like “See? See? Pope Francis says blah blah blah, so it must be true!” No, I merely applaud his saying things that seem to be in perfect connection with the source of his spirituality, i.e., Jesus.

                • Honest, I’m not trying to be difficult, but..”Pope Benedict was not my favorite Pope, but he was still the Pope. As a liberal, I received little confirmation from him, but he was still the Pope”…compels the question, was Pius XII “still the Pope”? And if acceptance of the Pope extends to ungodly, venal, cowardly and complicit conduct like his, why should any Pope be respected on the basis of his post alone? I really would like to know, because to me, this is Catholic contortionism. The facts defy reconciliation.

                  • The book is by no means closed on Pius XII…yet, but if you want a clearer example of a pope who did wrong you could always look to Innocent III, who tried to turn all Europe into a monarchy ruled by the Pope, or Celestine V, who folded under pressure and served as the door by which much evil entered the church. As a lawyer I’m sure you understand that you don’t have to respect the person wearing the robe of a judge, but, like it or not, you have to respect the office that person holds, extending to accepting bad rulings, tardiness, terrible jokes you have to laugh sycophantically at, and so on. So it is with the Pope and Catholics.

                  • If Pope Benedict (or Pope Francis, for that matter) did something as heinous as Pius XII did, I certainly wouldn’t say “Well, he’s the Pope, dum de dum de dum.”

                    George W. Bush was not my favorite POTUS, but he was still the president. I will never forgive him for getting us involved in Iraq based on lies. But he was still POTUS, and I wouldn’t spit in his eye, even today. Should I be distrustful of all subsequent presidents as a result of the errors and other questionable actions of this one president? Will you be distrustful of all subsequent presidents as a result of the errors and other questionable actions of our current president? I already know the answer to the last question, because I know that you respect the office if not the holder of that office.

                    • “or getting us involved in Iraq based on lies”

                      Since that is a lie in and of itself, you’ll have to come up with a better example to demonstrate your assertion, lest we be forced to disregard your overall argument as based purely on partisan emotionalism.

                    • Well, that’s very big of you, considering the MSM is even saying Bush DIDN’T lie us into Iraq now. Intelligence that could have been better, yes, but out and out lies, no. And why single him out as unforgivable or untrustworthy, given Clinton’s disgusting and deceitful behavior, Nixon’s out and out criminality, etc?

                    • For some reason, I am locked out of responding to the responses to my comment.

                      Anyway, I don’t watch CNN, so I haven’t heard that. I am not being partisan. I might not have been clear, but I am not saying necessarily that GWB lied, but that the war was based upon lies. Someone’s lies. I don’t know whose lies, but someone lied, and Bush and his Administration ran with it.

                    • Oh, and you are absolutely right about those other presidents. It’s just that I was personally harmed by our involvement in Iraq, so that looms larger for me than Watergate or Lewinsky.

                    • OK, you opened the door. How were you personally harmed by US involvement in Iraq? Assuming you were, don’t you think that might make you a bit, ah, less than objective? I really don’t think the blog needs a Cindy Sheehan type, although I don’t think you are quite as unhinged as she became.

                    • I’m pretty sure this isn’t what she meant, but I’d say we all were harmed by the Iraq botch.

                      I think it gave us Obama, and he has been a disaster in every way. I think it made the public shy away from US obligations abroad. I think it accelerated the debt, and made it tougher for the GOP oppose spending. I think a lot of soldiers were killed who didn’t have to be. I think it mad the US weaker, and the world needs the US to be strong.

                      I think the failure of Bush to make the people pay for the war with increased taxes and reduced spending undermined national accountability for policy decisions. I think it made the 2008 collapse worse than it had to be. I think the US was corrupted by the torture issue, and that the nation was embarrassed.

                    • And with all of those letter we can spell “hindsight bias” as none of those objections had anything to do with the decision to go to war, nor did any of those have to happen as a result of going to war.

                    • My, how generous of you to say that I’m not AS unhinged as Cindy Sheehan! I would be interested in knowing just how unhinged I am.

                      I never said I was objective about this. My nephew was killed in Ilbu Falris by an IED while he was out searching for other soldiers who had gone missing. He didn’t have to die there. Maybe he would have died in Afghanistan or some other God-forsaken place. Places where our involvement was not built on lies.

                      My unhinged self can be objective. I don’t need to be objective about something that should never have happened. However, I WAS objective long before my nephew was killed in thinking that the whole damned thing was wrong.

                    • Boo hoo! My poor nephew, lying on a slab, and it’s all Bush’s fault! Your credibility is shot to hell.

                    • Ya think?

                      I’ve always thought about Gen. Pickett later being bitter at R E Lee. What if the Charge had worked? It was nuts, but it could have worked…Lee won crazier gambles (with the lives of his men.) I understand Pickett’s emotional reaction—his name is attached to the fiasco—but is it fair and rational? It certainly isn’t professional.

                    • That’s mighty harsh, Steve-O. Emotional reactions are indeed not rational ones, but when they involve the deaths of loved ones, at least can be respected for what they are.

                    • Wow, I knew that you were a jerk but I just didn’t know how big of a jerk. And now I know, and now I have no reason to take anything that you write seriously. Thanks for the clarification.

                    • Jack, your objectivity is obviously “clouded” by your personal relationship with me. And texagg, I already noted that I was objective in my opinion about the war long before my nephew was killed.

                    • OK, that was heavy-handed. I really can’t stand Cindy Sheehan and what she stands for, and I dislike it when emotion substitutes for reason in these discussions. But the lying canard went out the window a while ago, and you’re going to have to do better than that.

                    • The lying canard is unkillable, I fear. MSNBC just was shouting about a Bush briefer who now says (12 years later) that the administrated misrepresented what he said. Yes, we knew that the WH hyped the intelligence. That’s not the same thing as saying there are WMDs when you know there aren’t. It IS dishonest, and is still lying. But The Bush WH was convinced that WMDs were at Saddam’s disposal, even though absolute proof was lacking. If it was convinced, and if it believed that there was a legitimate threat—and they were convinced, rightly or not, then it would have been irresponsible NOT to invade. They would argue that hyping the intelligence was justified in the best interest of the nation because the anti-war forces were using their own false data to make action unpopular with the public…and they were. Nobody ever talks about those lies (A million US casualties!!!), just as they wouldn’t talk about the hyping if the WMD’s had been found.

                      It’s too complicated for the sub-100 IQ points crowd to take in, so “Bush Lied and People died” is what we’re stuck with.

        • His “primary objective” is not the poor. Fighting poverty is a hallmark of his vision but not his primary objective. He is a religious leader first, a political leader second. The Pope’s mission is to be the leader of the Church as the individual members carry the Good News (aka The Gospel) to the world. Maybe he is so outspoken because too long has the Church been wimpy about social issues.

          Presuming that the Pope is so naive that he doesn’t understand the need for balancing priorities is in itself naive. The Pope, like many religious leaders, speaks in ideals. If he sounds as though he is advocating the poor and peace without the need to fund other things in order to get them, it is because there is the need to go beyond the mundane in order to get some people’s attention.

          You are being deliberately provocative by accusing me of being the “only” person “capable of discerning.” I believe in this stuff, so I am not predisposed to vilifying it. That’s not to say I’ve just drunk the Kool Aid. I’m just saying that as a believer I am not immediately ready to knock down what he says (or what someone reports that he says). I start from a shared perspective of the world, of priorities, and of mission. You, on the other hand, begin from a perspective of skepticism and so you are ready to disagree with everything. Is Pope Francis “preaching to the choir” when he speaks? Partly. But let me tell you that there are quite a few church organizations (and people) who have changed their tunes since he became Pope and began to make the message more important than the messenger.

          It’s not that “nobody” understands the Pope. But a skeptical perspective will turn the mildest quotation into a major blunder.

          • But Patrice, anyone not of the Catholic faith by definition must be skeptical. And as you say, he is not preaching to the choir. It’s his job to get past the skepticism if he wants to influence or persuade them.

            • Huh? Must one be skeptical of all that is not part of one’s own milieu? No possibility of openness to new ideas?

              • Being skeptical does not preclude being persuaded. Not at all. To cite a recent argument here, I was one very skeptical about same sex marriage, and look at me now! All it takes is facts, logic and good arguments.

                • I’m still somewhat skeptical not because of hate, but because of recent clashes of that and religious freedom. I think we’re still years away from a final consensus, after we see how all the side issues play out.

                  • Indeed, there is gray area wedged in between the right to unfettered religious practice, free speech and Equal Justice that will have to be resolved, mostly on the topic of what constitutes religious observance. Crispin could have discussed that issue. Instead he wanted to focus on how gays “chose” to “make a mockery of marriage.”

                    • No, he was just a bible-thumping hater. I didn’t base my hate on the Bible so it was a little easier to back off of by telling myself I’m not 16 trying to climb the social ladder by coming up with clever put-downs and steel-claw-in-the-velvet-glove insults. My main problem is that Equal Justice is supposed to be a shield to protect all, not a sword to attack others.

  8. The Pope recently praised Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as an “angel of peace.” Take that, Republicans! This was irresponsible in the extreme. Abbas has been knee-deep in terrorism for decades: his mentor was Yassir Arafat. “Angel of peace”? This is nothing but an attack on Israel, whether good guy Francis realizes it or not. If I was sitting in the same throne as a predecessor who did nothing to stem or even condemn Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, I would avoid taking sides in this deadly controversy like I would avoid Dan Brown. Irresponsible, and an abuse of power.

    Can anyone explain to me why we should not nuke Gaza? After all, it was okay to nuke Japan.

    To cite a blatant example, the Pope is preparing to issue a statement about the need for world climate change initiatives. I can say with absolute certainty that the Pope could no more interpret the validity of a climate change computer model than he could fly, and probably less, being Pope and all. His education was in the humanities and theology, with training in what it was to be a chemical technician 60 years ago. Like other progressives, the Pope sees climate change as a means to an end, the end being wealth distribution and world government, or perhaps he is just a “good guy” dupe for others who do. I resent the Pope, or any head of any religion, anywhere, attempting to use his influence to direct public policy, especially public policy regarding complex and sophisticated issues that he understands no better than Kylie Jenner understands contrails. Catholics should resent it too.

    Nuking Gaza would freeze climate change cold in its tracks. See Nuclear Winter: Global Consequences of Multiple Nuclear Explosions, R. P. Turco, O. B. Toon, T. P. Ackerman, J. B. Pollack 2, and Carl Sagan, Science, vol. 23, December 1983, Vol. 222. no. 4630, pp. 1283 – 129

  9. I have warmed up to Pope Francis considerable since he took office when I realized literally everything he has ever said has been bowdlerized beyond recognition. Stipulated is the fact that as Pope, he has a duty to be clear in his message, but I think the media has deeply failed to portray the Pope accurately. I do not vigorously dispute that the Pope’s media relations are problematic, but there are a few examples of media manipulation that I wish to elaborate upon.

    The most blatant example is his (infamous) quote “who am I to judge?” This made in specific reference to discreet, factually celibate priests. Yet the media portrays it as a huge turning point, when it merely builds on previous church teaching, and are slowly realizing that it did not mean they portrayed it to mean.

    The full quote echoes what the catechism says:

    Francis:There’s a lot of talk about the gay lobby, but I’ve never seen it on the Vatican ID card; When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem … they’re our brothers.”

    Catechism pp 2358: The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

    The Catechism, written in the early 1990’s and approved by John Paul II, similarly calls for compassion towards homosexuals, and refraining from unjust marginalization. Francis pushes this a tiny bit by literally saying the “tendency” is not the problem; but in context, it is the advocacy (by a homosexual lobby) that is the problem, rather than the tendency itself. Thus it should be no surprise that Francis continues to oppose same-sex marriage, because the Pope implied that gay advocacy is still problematic, however the media largely did not pick up on this subtly.

    I cannot argue with the proposition that the Pope needs to be clear, and perhaps more aggressive in correcting the media. However, as we see with the Clintons, the media is openly distorting that family’s hypocrisy and corruption. It is no stretch to consider that the media is maliciously misrepresenting the Pope’s words. (Perhaps if the Pope watched TV, he might realize how distorted his message has become…)

    Another widely misunderstood action of the Pope is his summit of the bishops to explore the possibility of giving communion to civilly remarried Catholics who have previously divorced. The media widely believes that this is very likely, but rejecting similar proposals is not unprecedented.

    In the 1960’s, Pope Paul set up a committee of theologians to explore the possibility that birth control were in fact moral to use; wanted to make sure that the church asked “no more” than was necessary of married couples. The media then thought it was slam dunk that the church would reform, particularly with rumors spreading that the committee was in favor of allowing birth control.

    Pope Paul, however, after weighing the argument presented to him by the committee, surprised everybody by declaring that birth control, in all forms, was indeed immoral. Francis may yet do the same regarding communion and the civilly remarried.

    The media is portraying Pope Francis as unprecedently “liberal”; the reality is that he is every bit as conservative as his predecessors. One simply does not get elected to Pope if this were not the case.

    Unfortunately, Catholic doctrine only guarantees that what the Pope formally teaches is without error. It certainly does not guarantee what the media teaches; nor does it guarantee that the Pope’s actions will be wise.

    • Heck, even on the matter of income inequality, it’s worth noting that he’s largely echoing concerns given by his predecessors (even if he is emphasizing them a bit more than John Paul or Benedict did). It’s also worth noting that his predecessors opposed the Iraq War, and I remember that John Paul never rescinded his original opposition to the 1991 Gulf War either.

      I do love that John Paul, unlike many of figures of his standing and profile, had the moral fiber to generally oppose dictatorships of all ideological stripes (even if his strong distrust of liberation theology sometimes overshadowed that side of him).

  10. Interesting article in light our criticism of the Pope’s communication:

    Vatican’s media operations in for overhaul
    Associated Press By NICOLE WINFIELD
    May 27, 2015 3:57 PM

    VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican’s media operations are in for a major overhaul to make them more efficient.

    The head of Pope Francis’ reform committee outlined the group’s recommendations Wednesday. At a speech in London, Chris Patten said the proposal calls for the Holy See’s newspaper, television and radio fiefdoms to be merged under a centralized management, with a souped-up spokesman’s office that can operate in multiple languages around the clock.

    http://news.yahoo.com/vaticans-media-operations-overhaul-194502977.html

  11. Hi Jack –
    I haven’t searched the entire blog and while I have scanned the comments, I haven’t read them in detail so apologies if this question is answered elsewhere (and if it is unethical to ask it without doing more homework!) Do your objections to Pope Francis’s political pronouncements extend to similar pronouncements by US bishops and cardinals on abortion, etc., or on using the sacrament of Communion to express approval or disapproval of the actions of some politicians? I also wonder to why you believe the Pope is unqualified to speak on something like climate change or economics. Certainly he is not personally expert in these areas, but he has access to experts who are on his staff. No US politician to my knowledge is expert on everything they pontificate on, but they rely on experts from their own staffs and from think tanks, etc. Are they being unethical?

    Best wishes…

    • Politicians should keep quite about religion, and religious leaders should shut up about public policy. Abortion is fair game; it is part of Catholic dogma and teaching. If the Church believes in life from conception, it must oppose abortion. Almost all politicians, journalists and pundits are unqualified to opine on climate change, some more than others. If they say there’s “consensus,” for example, we know they know nothing. There is near consensus that evidence shows that the planet is warming. No consensus: how fast, how long, because of what factors in what proportion, and what to do about it. That’s not consensus.

      You really think that the Pope has qualified geological specialists and climatologists on staff?

      No single politician has anything like the influence of the Pope. The closest is the President. The bigger the number of people you can mislead, the greater your obligation to know that what you are advocating is true. If the Pope didn’t learn about climate change from God, then he is obligated to make that clear.

      • Thanks for your response, Jack. Stewardship of the earth is also a part of Catholic social teaching. Why is it more ethical to speak about one part of that teaching than about another? People can certainly interpret the Bible differently from me, but almost all Christian traditions teach that our faith is to inform our living, of which (at least in this country) the opportunity to bring our faith to bear in our electoral politics is a part. I’m also not sure why you think the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences doesn’t have climatologists, etc. on staff. The report on climate change that they released in 2011 was put together by a working group chaired by Paul Crutzen, a Nobel laureate in atmospheric chemistry. The Pope may not be basing his opinions on climate change on something God told him directly, but he is basing it on the God-given gifts and talents of scientists and academics that the Vatican has assembled over the years. Thanks again for your prompt response!

        • The problem is that picking an expert gives that expert the weight of the Catholic Church hierarchy. OK, so this is that expert’s conclusion/opinion, brought to you by the Catholic Church. It is not the Catholic Church’s independent conclusion, after careful, objective analysis of the data, projections, biases, errors and motives of all concerned. Now that’s also true of 99% of politicians and pundits, and its also inappropriate, misleading and irresponsible. Why? Because the data and the interpretations of it are technical and complex, because the projections have been unreliable, because scientific dissent has been suppressed, because the tools of analysis are still inadequate to the task of predicting what will happen, and because the expense and political barriers of executing remedial policies that are still speculative are obscenely expensive.

        • Crutzen, eh?

          It turns out that Crutzen had earlier promoted the theory of nuclear winter. See The atmosphere after a nuclear war: Twilight at noon (1982)

          So apparently, if we are to believe climate science, nuclear winter is the panacea that we need. Here are the reasons of why we should start a nuclear winter to last as long as possible:

          * Nuclear winter will reduce the risk of people with asthma ending up in the hospital.

          * Nuclear winter will reduce or eliminate smog.

          * Nuclear winter will reduce or eliminate allergy seasons

          * Nuclear winter will reduce or eliminate extreme-weather injuries.

          Whatever bad stuff global warming will cause, nuclear winter will do exactly the opposite. And since global warming will be a disaster in every way, nuclear winter will be the opposite of a disaster. Imagine if we had an eternal nuclear winter. Then we will have a permanent perfect climate. Imagine a climate without smog, without allergy seasons, without extreme weather. That is the promise of nuclear winter. And we have the means to start a worldwide, permanent nuclear winter today.

  12. With the world being what it is and Christendom facing murderous persecution from without and depraved infiltrations from within, I’d say the last thing the Church (any church) needs right now is a “nice guy” at the helm.

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