People’s pope

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013


RUSH Limbaugh, “a conservative American radio talk show host,” has accused Pope Francis of mouthing off “pure Marxism” in his Apostolic Exhortation “Joy of the Gospel.” This is hardly surprising for Capitalism’s defenders, Catholics and non-Catholics alike have always fought off the system’s critics by tagging them “communist.”

This ploy, for instance, worked very well when priests who actively opposed Martial Law on grounds of Christian morality got no more than grudging support from many bishops. The regime had simply succeeded in tagging all activists as “communist” and, by implication, “enemies” of Catholicism.

Yet, in “Joy of the Gospel,” the pope merely challenges Catholics to rethink Capitalism since he observes it to be an “economy of exclusion and inequality.” The obvious fact that under Capitalism the gap between rich and poor just keeps getting wider validates this papal “snapshot” of the economic situation. Hence, on wealth’s responsibility to improve the lives of others, he exhorts Catholics to rethink, intervene and tweak the system so the lives of the poor are not left to the cruelty of inexorable market forces.

True, Capitalism is avowedly neither godless nor violent. Nevertheless, it extols like gods the principles of absolute ownership and of unregulated consumption. Capitalism worships these false gods with such fierce devotion that it never had qualms throughout its history about using violence (Martial Law was one such instance) to defend the god-like absoluteness of these principles.

Catholics, however, cannot rethink Capitalism unless they also rethink Catholicism.

They cannot rethink Capitalism unless they allow Pope Francis to remind them of the Church’s much-forgotten teaching that God created the earth for the equitable use and enjoyment of all. Pope Francis is Person of the Year also because he has consistently asked Catholics to go beyond almsgiving and reform social structures that cause so
many to live in the economic, political and cultural fringes of human society.

Ironically, Rush Limbaugh tags Pope Francis a Marxist for telling Catholics it is an imitation of Christ to exercise responsibility for others by reforming poverty-inducing social structures. This is not such a new fangled idea really. It is an age-old Church social teaching that only sounds new because it has long disappeared into the fancy masonry and woodwork of majestic Church buildings and/or been lost in the elaborate rituals of a Church that is failing, in the words of Pope Francis, to smell like the sheep it is supposed to shepherd.

For challenging Catholics to rethink the two “isms,” Francis gives hope to the world’s poor. He is truly the People’s Pope.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 18, 2013.

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