Viva Il Papa

Long live the Pope, Pope Francis, that is. Pope Francis has written what is known as an apostolic exhortation, a 50,000 word statement challenging many of the assumptions of the capitalist West, particularly on uncontrolled free-market economics and the human toll that it is taking. He also said that the church needed to take steps to embrace a greater presence for women.

Such an action is not a new phenomena for popes. In May 1891, Pope Leo the XIII issued a papal encyclical labeled "Derum novarun," bearing on the relation between capital and labor, which gave impulse to the sacred movement along Christian lines.

Pope Leo's encyclical was earth-shattering and established Leo as one of the great popes of all time. There have been others since Pope John XXIII who called the Vatican councils emphasizing "let us open the windows and let some fresh air in."

Pope John Paul II is best known for his relentless opposition to Communist regimes in Russia and several other countries in mid-Europe. It should also be remembered that Pope Paul was also critical of the excesses in the materialism of the West, which fought vigorously against them.

Now along comes Pope Francis, who wrote in clear unmistakable words about the futility and future of the "trickle down theories" in economics. He wrote, "trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by free-markets, will succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world." Francis also wrote, "This opinion which has never been confirmed by facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the almost sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile the excluded are still waiting."

As Cardinal Francis of Argentina, Pope Francis saw first-hand the great inequalities in Argentina: the abuse of power and of lies (economic oligarchs maintaining their hold on the nation's wealth). Many of his supporters believe Francis sees that this is the direction the U.S. is leading.

Webster defines oligarchy as "the wealthy class that controls a government in which the wealthy rule." Sounds familiar? We the American people have a choice to save our country from becoming a nation with only two classes, namely the very rich and the very poor. We learn that opening windows and shouting "We're mad and we're not going to take it any more" is not enough. We must unite and demand political leaders to do more to stop this drift towards oligarchy. If we don't, then we might face the prospect some time in the future, waving as India, Japan, and even Russia pass us by.

Christians of all denominations should heed Pope Francis' exhortations. The oligarchs want to end universal medical guarantees, jeopardize Social Security, suppress measures that would protect seniors from abusive financial practices, protect women's health and safety, weaken consumer protection, eliminate the food stamp program, and weaken practices that insure that every voter counts.

In listening to Pope Francis, one hears the unmistakable words of Jesus talking to some of his disciples a few weeks before the crucifixion. In speaking about the last judgment, Jesus said the following:

"I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, in prison and you came to visit me. Then the just will ask Him: 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you or see you thirsty and give you drink? When did we welcome you away from home or clothe your nakedness? When did we visit you when you were ill or in prison?' The King will answer them: 'I assure you, as often as you did it for one of my least brothers, you did it for me.'

Then he will say to those on his left: 'Out of my sight, you condemned, into that everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels! I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink. I was away from home and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing. I was ill in prison and you did not come to comfort me.

Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or away from home or naked or ill or in prison and not attend you in your needs? He will answer them: 'I assure you, as often as you neglected to do it to one of these least ones, you neglected to do it to me.' These will go off to eternal punishment and the just to eternal life."

Hal Debona lives in Dorset.


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