PopeWatch: Zeitgeist

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PopeWatch has long believed that the key to understanding the Pope is the way in which his native Argentina impacted his thought.  Over the weekend PopeWatch was reading a fascinating article published in 2015 that looked at the Pope’s intellectual background based on the dominant intellectual trends in Argentina during his formative years.  The author, Claudio I. Remeseira, summarizes the main aspects of his thought that explains much of his papacy:

Francis’ mindset straddles this divide. One Anti-Modern trait of his thinking is his mistrust of Liberalism. Despite his constant appeals to political tolerance, Francis’ political thought is rooted in a pre-modern, organicist view of the community as foundation of social and political life. Liberal democracy and the modern doctrine of human rights are the antithesis of that view. In Evangelii gaudium, the word “people” appears 164 times; the word “democracy”, not once.

Another trait is his hostility toward capitalism. Far for being inspired in any left-wing or Marxist philosophy, Francis’ anti-capitalism comes down from the European right-wing writers of the early 20th century, who in turn found their source of inspiration in the Middle Ages. At the final stage of the Cold War, John Paul II made a timid move towards accepting the market as an autonomous social force. In the age of the anti-globalization movement, Francis would have none of it. His critique of capitalism seems to go even further than the objections traditionally made by Catholic Social Teaching since Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum. It is when indicting the world’s economic woes that Francis strikes his most prophetic tone (which, by the way, is another characteristic of Argentinian theology). The encyclical Laudato si, his great jeremiad against the evils of capitalism, has established Francis as one of the world’s foremost critics of Neoliberalism.

But, did the old adversary of Liberation Theology really turn into a radical leftist, as some critics on the right say? A quarter of a century after the demise of the Soviet Union and when the other world-Communist power, China, has morphed into its own kind of State-steered Capitalism, there is more room for the Pope to openly condemn social injustice without raising the suspicion of being a revolutionary. In any case, what Francis probably has in mind is not a socialist but some sort of populist economic system — something, perhaps, closer to a 21st-century update of the Peronist social-welfare state. Some of his initiatives, such as the World Encounter of Popular Movements, seemed to have been conceived with the intention of becoming the Solidarność of a post-Industrial era.

That era, already unfolding before us, has in Francis’ view one preeminent protagonist: the masses of the poor and the excluded, the disenfranchised of the world. They are the Peoples of God, the pilgrims of the Trinitarian God’s journey on this planet. To Francis, the mission of the Church is indistinguishable from them — it must be a Church of poverty and for the poor. Herein lies his true radicalism: an uncompromising identification between the suffering of the poor and Christ, and his determination to persuade the world to join in that mission.

Go here to read the entire article, and it should be read in its entirety.  The Pope comes out of an intellectual milieu strange to most Americans, and this article sheds light on some aspects of this pontificate that have been opaque.

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7 Comments

  1. The pope got his views on economics from European right-wing writers who looked back to the Middle Ages and not from Marxists? I don’t think so. This is the same pope who gladly accepted a sacrilegious crucifix with Christ on a hammer and sickle. Also, all of his “friends” in high office are at least socialists.

  2. I don’t buy it. If the pope is against neoliberalism, why does he prominently ally himself with the neoliberal globalist establishment (Jeffrey Sachs, Paul Ehrlich, George Soros, U.N.dignitaries, etc.)? Why does he favor the same causes as they do, using much the same language (open borders, environmentalism, population control)? He decries capitalism, sure, but then so do many of his globalist partners. As Father of Seven points out, he seems never to have met a socialist “popular movement” not to his liking.

    As far as I can tell, there are two options: the pope is either an unwitting tool of the globalists–the most useful of idiots–or he is their conscious ally.

  3. As far as I can tell, there are two options: the pope is either an unwitting tool of the globalists–the most useful of idiots–or he is their conscious ally.

    I think you’re assuming more sophistication on the part of the Pope than is actually there. Consider the environment of Pope Francis coming of age. Back in 1963, the American University Field Staff published an anthology on the evolution of political life in a raft of 3d world countries, Argentina included. The scholar writing about Argentina remarked that the political culture was bereft of a notion of mutually-beneficial exchange, hence politics had degenerated into a contest for power that income might be redistributed to one set of clientele or another, zero sum. The Pope also seems to conceive of ordinary business activity as a set of injuries done by criminals against abstractions in his mind (“the poor”). Law enforcement and employers are just big bad wolves to him.

  4. Argentina is a basket case. It’s politics, economics, philosophy, it’s entire outlook on life is a failure. Blessed with natural resources, the Argentine state is maybe the b8ggwst failure on the world stage, rivaled by Mexico. In Bergoglio’s Argentina, the US is hated, but no Argentine would pass on the opportunity to move to the US.
    Argentina’s population is similar to Canada and Poland. Both nations have a superior economy. Poland has surpassed Argentina in less than 30 Yeats of being a free nation.
    The mission of the Church I’d to lead souls to Christ, rich, poor, middle class, whatever and wherever.
    The current Pontiff does not think so such because he is incapable of it. He is a Caudillo Pope, a bully who squashes all who disagree with him. The greater failure is not Bergoglio but the cardinals who elected him.

  5. South Sudan is a basket case. Argentina’s merely a disappointment. It’s political life is far more orderly than it was in 1963 and it remains (bar Chile and Urguay) the most affluent Latin American country (and one of the few with a homicide rate under 10 per 100,000). Still, the Pope’s understanding of his world likely gelled when Argentina was a politico-economic mess.

  6. To me the Pope has no business engaging in public political or economic discussion. His job is to be the Vicar of Christ and do what Christ would do if He were here, which, as far as we know, is still the salvation of souls. How many times have we listened to Pope Francis and were inspired to become more holy ourselves? How about never?

    One thing Pope Francis could do right now is to advocate the increased use of the sacrament of Confession. But can any of imagine him doing such a thing? Of course not. Unfortunately, Pope Francis is all about the things of this world, i.e, government handouts, antipathy towards Capitalism, and denigration of orthodox Catholics. As a result he fails in his mission of doing what Christ would do.

  7. I’m still waiting for somebody to show me where in the bible Jesus taught and directed his disciples to go get government to take care of the poor. Did not Jesus say, “You will always have the poor.” Why is the leadership in the Church so willing to turn over to government the responsibility of “caring for the poor?”

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