The acknowledgement of the church’s sexual abuse issues was largely praised and welcomed. If the tacit acceptance of homosexuality was more daring, one could look at it as the recognition of a worldwide cultural shift, one practically vested among the younger flock. With Francisco’s trip to the U.S. fast approaching, however, perhaps his latest lurch is going to cost.
It’s not that the Vatican has previously abstained from political thought. All tolerance for a progressive agenda goes out the stained glass window, however, the moment the leader of the Christian world starts channeling Naomi Klein. You want to take on poverty? God bless you. You want to tackle climate change? Just start with some Hail Marys. But link them together, laying them at the wing-tipped feet of the international financiers? Well, you see what the economic bishops are currently reigning down on Athens? Well, Rome isn’t that far away.
In terms of restoring some luster to the church and creating a beloved public identity for himself, it’s like the man has walked on water. To the extent mainstream journalism, however, is steeped in the capitalist gospel, does the Pope really imagine his saintly burnish is long for this earth?
The fact is, the Pope’s economic conscience campaign, unveiled just before his recently completed trip to South America, is already showing signs of a fall. If the road trip started out as a prime evangelizing opportunity, the aim being to shore up the Catholic Church’s eroding market share in the region, it ended upas more of a Reagan-era reprise of the Cold War. That’s in: don’t look now but the Holy Father, with those wild ideas, is comparing theology with the ideological heathens.
Damned with progressive praise, you might also have also noticed how much the Vatican was backpedaling for all the credit heaped on it for bringing its Cuban comrades into the American realm.
And, you can also see signs of slippage in this AP photo illustrating their summary of the South American tour. What a confounding image, the inordinately open, publicly-engaged and photo-centric Pontiff suddenly and strangely framed alone in front of a “no photo” sign at a Roman basilica.
But the money shot, if you will, the smoking gun, is clearly that photo of Papa receiving a carved hammer and sickle crucifix from Evo Morales, whom free market conservatives would freely term a snake in the grass. …The genuinely surprised Pope softened the propaganda blow by referring to the object as political performance art.
(It sort of reminds me, in fact, of another photo op. It’s the one in which Obama, early in his tenure, too, was taken by surprise by Hugo Chavez on his first trip to the region in 2009. You can see “the people’s dictator” thrust a copy of the anti-capitalist tome, ‘The Open Veins of Latin America,’ by Eduardo Galeano in his hand.
Now, the fathers of globalization couldn’t let the Pope encyclical himself into unchallenged pontification about economic asymmetry, could they? And what chance is there that the financial titans, those chaste proponents of austerity in the developing world, would simply turn a blind eye as the Pope ministered on about the inequitable distribution of natural resources or the corporate plunder of air, water and earth?
And with a potentially rapturous trip to Philly, New York and DC on the horizon (including a rockstar turn at the pulpit before a joint session of Congress), there’s one thing I can promise….
Unless the Pope dials back on the liberal politics, it’s probably not the last time you’ll see that funny crucifix photo.
(photo 1: Reuters caption: The pope looked bemused when leftist Bolivian president Evo Morales handed him one of the more unusual gifts he has received: a wooden hammer and sickle crucifix.photo 2: AP caption: Pope Francis leaves after paying a visit to the St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome, Monday, July 13, 2015. Pope Francis landed in Rome Monday after a week-long trip to South America, including Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. photo 3: Jim Watson – AFP/Getty Images caption: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (R) gives a book, ‘The Open Veins of Latin America’ of Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano to US President Barack Obama (L) during a multilateral meeting to begin during the Summit of the Americas at the Hyatt Regency in Port of Spain, Trinidad April 18, 2009.)