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.