Unpopular though it may be to say so, I, for one, grew exhausted by the non-stop pronouncements /commentaries of Pope Francis. The spiritual leader of 1 billion Catholics — roughly half of the world’s Christians — Francis just completed a high-profile, endlessly publicized visit to the United States.
But unlike past visiting pontiffs, the Argentine-born Francis weighed in on a number of hot-button U.S. social, domestic, and foreign-policy issues during a heated presidential-election cycle.
Francis, in characteristic cryptic language, pontificated about climate change. He lectured on illegal immigration. He harped on the harshness of capitalism, as well as abortion and capital punishment.
A fair-minded person might infer from his advice that capitalism is more prone to impoverish than to create enough wealth to bring the underclass out of poverty. Yet the poor in the free-market United States are mostly better off than the middle classes in Pope Francis’ homeland. Argentina’s statism has transformed one of the most resource-rich countries in the world into an impoverished nation. Are the wages of socialism therefore less than Christian?
Authoritarian regimes such as the Castro dynasty in Cuba or Iran’s theocracy do not receive much criticism from the pope for their administration of state justice. Yet Francis blasted capital punishment, which in America is mostly reserved for first-degree murderers, not the perpetrators of thought crimes as in Cuba and Iran.
Francis believes — and ipso facto puts the church behind the creed — that global warming is man-caused. It is supposedly ongoing and can be addressed only though radical state intervention.
Francis, who arrived in the U.S. in a carbon-spewing jet, seems to leave no room for other views. If the climate really is becoming warmer, it cannot be because of naturally occurring cycles of long duration.
Hundreds of thousands of migrants are now swarming illegally into the West, whether into Europe mostly from the Middle East, or into America from Latin America. They arrive in numbers that make them difficult to assimilate and integrate, with radical repercussions on the host country’s ability to serve the social needs of its own poorer citizens.
Yet Francis reserves most of his advice for host countries to ensure that they treat the often-impoverished and mostly young male newcomers with Christian humanity. That advice is admirable. But the pope might have likewise lectured the leaders of countries such as Syria and Mexico to stop whatever they are doing to heartlessly drive out millions of their own citizens from their homes.
Or he might have suggested that migrants seek lawful immigration and thereby more charitably not harm the interests of immigrants who wait patiently until they can resettle lawfully.
Or he might have praised the West for uniquely creating conditions that draw in, rather than repel, the world’s migrants.
In sum, Francis did not fully understand a country founded on the principle of separation of church and state. And he has tragically harmed that delicate American equilibrium.
If a Christian truly believes that capitalism is the world’s only hope, that illegal immigration is detrimental to all involved, or that the Iranian nuke deal is a prelude to either war or nuclear proliferation, is he thereby somewhat less Christian or Catholic?
Is Francis aware of age-old hospitality adages about guests and hosts, or warnings about those who live in glass houses?
Would an American president dare to visit the Vatican to lecture the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church about their blatant sex and age discrimination, and to advise Francis that his successor should be female or under 50?
Should Americans urge the pope to adopt the supposedly enlightened Western doctrine of disparate impact, which might fault senior Vatican clergymen for failing to promote diversity in matters of sex, race, or age?
In this new freewheeling climate of frank exchange, should Protestant friends now advise Catholic dioceses to open their aggregate 200 million acres of global church lands to help house current migrants? Or should Francis first deplore the capitalist business practices in the administration of the so-called Vatican Bank?
Should the Church turn over to prosecuting attorneys all the names of past and present clergy accused of criminal sexual abuse, and cede all investigation and punishment entirely to the state?
Lots of hypocrisy inevitably follows when churches and their leaders politick.
Conservatives who object to Francis’s sermonizing often enjoy it when the moral majority and born-again Evangelicals stamp their own social agendas with Protestant piety.
Liberals might applaud the pope when he weighs in on global warming and cutthroat capitalism but perhaps want him to stick to religion when he frowns on abortions or female priests.
Because Pope Francis has shed the Catholic Church’s historic immunity from American politics, for good or bad, he and the church are fair game for political pushback.
But do we really want a priest in the role of Bernie Sanders or Ted Cruz, dressed in ancient Roman miter and vestments, addressing hot-button issues with divine sanction?
© 2015 Tribune Media Services, Inc.