Contributor Post Created with Sketch. About That Pope

 

Over at the Guardian, Jonathan Freedland exults in a new pope he believes is the “obvious new hero of the left” arguing that “even atheists should be praying” for him, a statement that can be read (on one interpretation) as assuming that atheists are on the left, something that isn’t necessarily so (trust me on this).

There is the usual discussion of where the pope may stand on sexual morality (I’d guess a—so to speak— compassionate conservative with a little medieval thrown in to spice things up), but I found this more interesting:

 It seems [Francis] wants to do more than simply stroke the brow of the weak. He is taking on the system that has made them weak and keeps them that way.

 “My thoughts turn to all who are unemployed, often as a result of a self-centred mindset bent on profit at any cost,” he tweeted in May. A day earlier he denounced as “slave labour” the conditions endured by Bangladeshi workers killed in a building collapse. In September he said that God wanted men and women to be at the heart of the world and yet we live in a global economic order that worships “an idol called money”….

 …[H]e also seems set to lead a church campaign on the environment. He was photographed this week with anti-fracking activists, while his biographer, Paul Vallely, has revealed that the pope has made contact with Leonardo Boff, an eco-theologian previously shunned by Rome and sentenced to “obsequious silence” by the office formerly known as the “Inquisition”. An encyclical on care for the planet is said to be on the way.

 Boff? Never heard of him. Perhaps that obsequious silence was just too deep.

 A back issue of National Catholic Reporter Online fills the gap:

One of Pope Francis’ most vocal supporters since his election three days ago has been Leonardo Boff, one of the founders of liberation theology….

 And no, that’s not reassuring.

FWIW, I don’t think that Francis has signed up for liberation theology. When it comes to economics, at least, his thinking appears to be a muddle of Rerum Novarum and Juan Peron.

 And no, that’s not particularly reassuring either.

There are 53 comments.

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  1. katievs Member
    katievsJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Say, Ryan, in general, would you say Christianity judges politics and policies, or politics and policies judges Christianity?

    Which is higher, deeper, more comprehensive? Which is more absolute and authoritative? Which is more pure and unambiguous?

    As for me, here are some things I hold:

    1) While I think the Burke and Kirk school of thought the best out there when it comes to political principles, I don’t worship it. I don’t think it’s infallible. I don’t think it’s perfect. I don’t think its utterly adequate to and comprehensive for human life.

    2) While I think liberalism (in the American sense) disastrous and asinine, I don’t think liberals have no just concerns. I don’t think they’re all dumb and evil-minded.

    3) While I think free market capitalism on the whole the best economic system available, I don’t imagine it has no faults, it needs no correction, it’s wholesome in all its effects.

    When I defend the Pope, I’m not doing it because, no matter what he says and how obviously liberal he is, I’m a loyal Catholic. Rather, I think his critics are wrong about him.

    • #1
    • November 21, 2013, at 1:56 AM PST
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  2. katievs Member
    katievsJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Going by the Pope’s words, acts, and history, we can say the following:

    – He would not identify himself as a political conservative. His “sphere” of interest and competence isn’t politics, but religion.

    – He rejects liberation theology outright.

    – He upholds the teaching of the Church in all areas, including the area of sexual morality.

    – His “environmentalism” is not the environmentalism of the left, but of St. Francis. It’s not about government control; it’s about fostering a culture of cherishing and opposing a culture of waste. 

    – His “social justice” is not the social justice of your average feminist nun. It’s the social justice of the papal encyclicals of the last century, i.e. a social justice perfectly compatible with conservatism, but not compatible with socialism or communism, or the “adolescent progressivism” and “globalism” that the Pope rejected as a force of destruction in the world when he was still Cardinal Bergoglio.

    – Unlike your typical leftist, the Pope upholds the objectivity of truth, the priority of morality, the priority of the personal over the programatic, etc.

    He may not be a conservative, but anyone who thinks he’s a leftist hasn’t understood him.

    • #2
    • November 21, 2013, at 2:09 AM PST
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  3. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra FractusJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    If there’s one thing you should have learned from the countless threads already posted on this subject it’s, “Don’t trust anything the media says about Pope Francis.”

    • #3
    • November 21, 2013, at 4:16 AM PST
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  4. Andrew Stuttaford Contributor
    Andrew Stuttaford
    Umbra Fractus: If there’s one thing you should have learned from the countless threads already posted on this subject it’s, “Don’t trust anything the media says about Pope Francis.” · 8 minutes ago

    I read what the media says on this topic with caution to be sure, but when it comes to his comments on politics and economics Francis’s words are what they are.

    Check out for example this (broadly conservative) analysis of the pope’s Lampedusa speech: http://www.libertylawsite.org/2013/07/22/pope-francis-should-seek-clarity-on-moral-responsibility/
    • #4
    • November 21, 2013, at 4:30 AM PST
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  5. Andrew Stuttaford Contributor
    Andrew Stuttaford

     

    BrentB67: Andrew, is that picture real? · 11 hours ago

    That was my first reaction too!

    But yes..

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/11/14/2939591/pope-francis-anti-fracking-activist/

    • #5
    • November 21, 2013, at 4:56 AM PST
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  6. Crow's Nest Inactive

    I’m just thankful that we have a Pope so thoroughly, deeply, extensively schooled in hydrocarbons, geophysics, hydraulics, economics, politics, and 21st century media that he can offer an opinion that matters on such subjects….

    • #6
    • November 21, 2013, at 5:22 AM PST
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  7. BrentB67 Inactive

    Andrew, is that picture real? 

    • #7
    • November 21, 2013, at 5:39 AM PST
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  8. KC Mulville Inactive

    Ryan, as was said before, when you see Catholics defending the pope, almost every month .. that’s because he’s being attacked almost every month. The defense follows the attack.

    The pattern is frustrating. The pope says that we can’t boil morality down to arguing about abortion. Christianity is more than just naming the sin; we also have to complement that with mercy, and welcome the sinner back through forgiveness. (Standard teaching, by the way.)

    • The leftist media reports that as the pope is “softening” the opposition to abortion.
    • Conservatives, taking the bait, leap to argue that the pope is (oh, obviously) a communist leftist.
    • When people like me come along, and argue that this isn’t what he said, we get dismissed as knee-jerk defenders.

    Who’s got the bigger knee-jerk? Those who defend him, or those with the hair-trigger readiness to attack him?

    When Francis was elected and walked out onto the balcony without the plush red cape, that was immediately interpreted as a rejection of tradition … a rejection of Benedict … he’s going to overthrow conservatism of JPII !!!. From observation to hysteria in about 6 seconds.

    • #8
    • November 21, 2013, at 7:15 AM PST
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  9. Crow's Nest Inactive
    KC Mulville: 

    The pattern is frustrating. The pope says that we can’t boil morality down to arguing about abortion. Christianity is more than just naming the sin; we also have to complement that with mercy, and welcome the sinner back through forgiveness. (Standard teaching, by the way.)

    • The leftist media reports that as the pope is “softening” the opposition to abortion.
    • Conservatives, taking the bait, leap to argue that the pope is (oh, obviously) a communist leftist.
    • When people like me come along, and argue that this isn’t what he said, we get dismissed as knee-jerk defenders.

    Who’s got the bigger knee-jerk? Those who defend him, or those with the hair-trigger readiness to attack him?

    I think all of this is valid, by the way.

    Since I’ve been critical of Francis–and very carefully so in the way I’ve indicted him on a number of our threads (snarky comment at the beginning of this thread aside), I’m hardly a knee-jerk critic–I should also say where I think the opposite is the case.

    His point on sexual morality and Christianity was indeed taken out of context and distorted.

    • #9
    • November 21, 2013, at 8:01 AM PST
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  10. Hammer, The Member
    Umbra Fractus: If there’s one thing you should have learned from the countless threads already posted on this subject it’s, “Don’t trust anything the media says about Pope Francis.”

    If there’s one thing you should learn from the countless threads already posted about Pope Francis, it is: “he could be wearing a freaking CHE shirt and some Ricochet catholics would still jump to his defense.”

    • #10
    • November 21, 2013, at 8:08 AM PST
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  11. Hammer, The Member

    I’ll tell you what is so extremely frustrating about the Catholics here and the pope. It is the same thing I say to my clients. 

    Prosecution has a dozen pieces of evidence. You have an explanation for every single one. Each thing is a coincidence or a misunderstanding. We can try to spend all day explaining everything away… and what the prosecutor is going to say is that there is also one very simple explanation. The evidence points to one very obvious conclusion: that you are guilty of this offense.

    Same with the pope. We misinterpret the first liberal-sounding comment… and the second … and the third … the media was biased when it reported this, and that, and that, and that one over there. We’re missing the proper Catholic lingo to read this properly, we took that one out of context.

    Yeah… I’ve got a few simpler explanations that cover everything all at once. I know it hurts to admit that a pope (!) could be so dramatically wrong about things that we all agree are very important. But guess what? It’s possible. The evidence is such that I’d be advising my client to plea…

    • #11
    • November 21, 2013, at 8:29 AM PST
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  12. KC Mulville Inactive

    That said, I confess to being a little worried about the so-called “environmental encyclical” coming our way.

    So I’ll say it upfront. If the principle is that we have a moral obligation to respect and “steward” the earth because it is a gift from God, I support that enthusiastically. If the moral principle is that we can’t pollute the earth, I support that enthusiastically. If the principle is that, like in Humanae Vitae, trying to use technology to meddle with nature itself is an act of human hubris, I can support that.

    I’ll also point out a distinction, before it comes wrapped in other issues, between the church’s opposition to “consumerism” versus capitalism. The church doesn’t believe that the virtues of life are in material things, so any movements in society toward accumulating unnecessary material things are misguided distractions away from what really matters. But that isn’t a rejection of capitalism. Capitalism isn’t the urge to accumulate goods.

    But that said, an “environmental” encyclical could be a moral admonition against a sin that doesn’t exist. Technology shouldn’t replace nature, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use technology.

    • #12
    • November 21, 2013, at 9:03 AM PST
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  13. Profile Photo Member

    Why was it that the media wasn’t able to portray JP2 as a leftist? Oh, that’s right, he helped destroy the Soviet Union. JP2 (who’ll most likely be the finest pope of my lifetime) left nothing open to interpretation. He always made it pretty clear where he stood. Why can’t Pope Francis do the same?

    • #13
    • November 21, 2013, at 9:14 AM PST
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  14. katievs Member
    katievsJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Bob Laing: Why was it that the media wasn’t able to portray JP2 as a leftist? Oh, that’s right, he helped destroy the Soviet Union. JP2 (who’ll most likely be the finest pope of my lifetime) left nothing open to interpretation. He always made it pretty clear where he stood. Why can’t Pope Francis do the same? · 10 minutes ago

    Are you kidding? My first ever letter to the editor (written I think in 1991) was in response to an article in the NYT (IHT version) musing on the “contradictory Pope”. On the one hand, (the article claimed) JP II is a liberal who fights for human rights, celebrates ecumenism, defends labor unions, criticizes capitalism, opposes the war in Iraq, opposes the death penalty, etc., while on the other, he’s completely hidebound when it comes to abortion and contraception.

    L’histoire, se repete.

    • #14
    • November 21, 2013, at 9:33 AM PST
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  15. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra FractusJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I think the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect is in play here. The same people who scream, “The media lies!” about nearly every other subject suddenly take them at their word regarding the Pope’s political positions.

    • #15
    • November 21, 2013, at 9:50 AM PST
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  16. Stephen Hall Inactive

    Catholics do not believe in his infallibility except in matters of faith and doctrine. He is no more (or less) expert on matters of politics or economics than the average taxi driver.Just as it was possible for a leftist to be a Catholic during JP2’s pontificate, so it is possible for a conservative to be a Catholic under F1.For what little it’s worth, this Catholic is starting to take F1’s non-doctrinal pronouncements with a large measure of skepticism.

    • #16
    • November 21, 2013, at 9:54 AM PST
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  17. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor
    Andrew Stuttaford

    Check out for example this (broadly conservative) analysis of the pope’s Lampedusa speech: 

    http://www.libertylawsite.org/2013/07/22/pope-francis-should-seek-clarity-on-moral-responsibility/

    I’d be curious for Katie or KC’s take on Dalrymple’s piece. I thought it was an excellent criticism.

    • #17
    • November 21, 2013, at 10:01 AM PST
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  18. KC Mulville Inactive

    To extend my thoughts on “environmental” encyclical …

    The concept of global warming worries me. I don’t necessarily buy global warming, but my attitude is that I’m not the guy who can make that judgment. I don’t know diddly about the science, other than the Michael Crichton book, a few Mark Steyn-related articles, and a bit of google surfing. 

    And also, I’m not sure the pope gets to judge the science either.

    And whereas I’ll quickly obey the pope on the morality and theological teachings about the environment, I hope the encyclical doesn’t ask me to buy the climate change “science” of it.

    OK … I know … I shouldn’t make predictions or stoke fears about a document or a church teaching that doesn’t even formally exist yet. I guess I’m trying to make distinctions ahead of time so that no one can accuse me of making them up on the fly just to defend the pope.

    • #18
    • November 21, 2013, at 10:01 AM PST
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  19. Hammer, The Member
    Stephen Hall: Catholics do not believe in his infallibility except in matters of faith and doctrine. He is no more (or less) expert on matters of politics or economics than the average taxi driver.

    yet, they say one thing and do quite another. Pope is not infallible, but if you say anything about the pope, the justifications and excuses pile on. Out of one side of their mouths, they say he’s not infallible, and out of the other side, they defend literally everything he says, in an attempt to deny any fallibility. The above words are meaningless if the pope can still do no wrong.

    (and I’m not anti-pope… I just find this tendency extremely frustrating, because those same people are perfectly rational in all other areas, especially on Ricochet)

    • #19
    • November 21, 2013, at 10:16 AM PST
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  20. Crow's Nest Inactive
    Umbra Fractus: I think the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect is in play here. The same people who scream, “The media lies!” about nearly every other subject suddenly take them at their word regarding the Pope’s political positions.

    Certainly true in many cases.

    But can we also admit that critics can fall into a number of categories and that while some are always just looking to be offended by something, or would be inclined to be uncharitable toward the Papacy anyway, there are others for whom this is not their motivation? That we genuinely disagree with what he has actually said/done in context on some occasions?

    I am not naive enough, nor do I think most Catholic are, to believe that the law is not a moral teacher. Morality and politics can never quite be separated. A man who serves primarily as a moral teacher does have a political effect when he teaches, intended or not.

    It is perfectly fine for the Pope to speak about conservation and stewardship as moral duties–but he should not be appearing with anti-fracking activists in a manner which seems to indicate he supports their partisan activism. That is not his place.

    • #20
    • November 21, 2013, at 10:17 AM PST
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  21. Crow's Nest Inactive
    KC Mulville: OK … I know … I shouldn’t make predictions or stoke fears about a document or a church teaching that doesn’t even formally exist yet. I guess I’m trying to make distinctions ahead of time so that no one can accuse me of making them up on the fly just to defend the pope. 

    Eminently fair in everything you’ve said so far, and I share your fears about what may emerge from the environmental encyclical. 

    I will be happy to celebrate together here if our fears are unrealized!

    • #21
    • November 21, 2013, at 10:20 AM PST
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  22. KC Mulville Inactive
    Tom Meyer

    I’d be curious for Katie or KC’s take on Dalrymple’s piece. I thought it was an excellent criticism.

    To no surprise, I didn’t. Which was disappointing, because I’ve read other pieces of Dalrymple that I liked.

    My objection is based on Dalrymple’s rhetorical technique of setting up two possibilities:

    Knowledge of suffering seems to place upon us an obligation of compassion that is greater than we can possibly bear. We respond in one of two ways: to claim a level of feeling that is greater than we actually can or do feel, in which case we become humbugs; or we harden our hearts and become like Pharaoh.

    Then he said that the pope’s homily fit into the first possibility … and then accused the pope of …

    By elevating feeling over thought, by making compassion the measure of all things, the Pope was able to evade the complexities of the situation, in effect indulging in one of the characteristic vices of our time, moral exhibitionism

    Well, wait. Dalrymple mentioned only two possibilities, which he himself defined, and then rebutted the pope based on his own assumptions. Not an “objective” measure, but his assumptions.

    • #22
    • November 21, 2013, at 10:24 AM PST
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  23. Crow's Nest Inactive
    Tom Meyer
    Andrew Stuttaford

    Check out for example this (broadly conservative) analysis of the pope’s Lampedusa speech: 

    http://www.libertylawsite.org/2013/07/22/pope-francis-should-seek-clarity-on-moral-responsibility/

    I’d be curious for Katie or KC’s take on Dalrymple’s piece. I thought it was an excellent criticism. · 18 minutes ago

    I agree. Dalrymple’s piece is wrestling with what was actually said–and what went unsaid–and not with a media-manufactured distortion of it.

    • #23
    • November 21, 2013, at 10:34 AM PST
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  24. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra FractusJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Ryan M

    (and I’m not anti-pope… I just find this tendency extremely frustrating, because those same people are perfectly rational in all other areas, especially on Ricochet) · 0 minutes ago

    And I find the near monthly pile-on, which almost always has the subtext of, “Why do you continue to associate with these tyrants?” equally frustrating. And I’m sure I’m not the only Catholic who feels that way.

    • #24
    • November 21, 2013, at 10:43 AM PST
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  25. Hammer, The Member
    Umbra Fractus
    Ryan M

    And I find the near monthly pile-on, which almost always has the subtext of, “Why do you continue to associate with these tyrants?” equally frustrating. And I’m sure I’m not the only Catholic who feels that way.

    Maybe if he didn’t have a near-monthly gaffe, eh? But give me a break. Most of the criticism has come from conservative Christians who WANT to like the pope. We would love to have a great pope. We are extremely skeptical of the media, as you can see from countless posts on countless other topics. Yet, any criticism of the pope is automatically tiresome “piling on”. As I said. Completely rational 99% of the time. This pope has opened himself up to so much criticism, and the Ricochet catholics’ absolute refusal to allow for even the slightest has really damaged their credibility.

    Any other topic in the world, and you’d be “piling on” as well. If it was Obama, you’d be talking about the lapdog media… but when it comes to your preferred lap… suddenly it is the exact same phenomenon. To those of us on the outside, it’s ridiculous.

    • #25
    • November 21, 2013, at 10:53 AM PST
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  26. Crow's Nest Inactive
    KC Mulville

    Well, wait. Dalrymple mentioned only two possibilities, which he himself defined, and then rebutted the pope based on his own assumptions. Not an “objective” measure, but his assumptions. 

    But Dalrymple’s overall criticism does not stand or fall by the two possibilities line you quote above. His point is summed up by his final paragraph:

    That is one of the reasons why the kingdom of the Pope’s master could not possibly be of this world. And the absence of the tragic sense in the Pope’s remarks allowed him to wallow in a pleasing warm bath of sentiment without distraction by complex and unpleasant realities. Perhaps this will earn him applause in the short run; but in the long run he does not serve his flock by such over-simplifications.

    There is no city of God until the Eschaton. Here and now, we have only “these cities”. There is no perfect justice in this world, only greater and smaller injustices.

    We can, of course, criticize the city’s imperfect justice from the position of God’s perfect justice, but we must make it clear no worldly policy can erase that gap; terrible harm can come from trying.

    • #26
    • November 21, 2013, at 10:53 AM PST
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  27. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor
    KC Mulville

    Dalrymple mentioned only two possibilities, which he himself defined, and then rebutted the pope based on his own assumptions. Not an “objective” measure, but his assumptions. 

    I see what you’re saying, but I think the fuller context was an apt criticism of Francis’s sloppy thinking on this:

    The analogy between the two situations, the murder of the tyrant in Fuente Ovejuna and the death by drowning of thousands of migrants, is weak to the point of non-existence. After all, someone in Fuente Ovejuna did kill the tyrant; no one in the west drowned the migrants. Is the Pope then saying that Europe’s refusal to allow in all who want to come is the moral equivalent of actually wielding the knife?

    By elevating feeling over thought, by making compassion the measure of all things, the Pope was able to evade the complexities of the situation, in effect indulging in one of the characteristic vices of our time, moral exhibitionism, which is the espousal of generous sentiment without the pain of having to think of the costs to other people of the implied (but unstated) morally-appropriate policy.

    • #27
    • November 21, 2013, at 11:03 AM PST
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  28. Hammer, The Member
    katievs:

    – His “environmentalism” is not the environmentalism of the left, but of St. Francis. It’s not about government control; it’s about fostering a culture of cherishing and opposing a culture of waste. 

    Katie, the problem is that he is outright pandering to the left, and I don’t think the man is stupid, which is what needs to be assumed to think he’s so terribly misunderstood.

    I love St. Francis ever since reading Chesterton’s biography – but his politics/environmentalism/etc… are of a monk, and were very timely. Emulating that today would be bad policy, while taking the lesson would obviously be good. That’s where PF breaks down, I think. But beyond that, it is becoming somewhat obvious where he wants to align himself politically. We can have justifications for individual stances that he takes, and we can draw distinctions, but what it adds up to is ultimate support (and endorsement) of policies that go against much of what he claims – or what you claim for him.

    Posing with the anti-fracking activists is just stupid. I’m a little surprised to see you guys trying to defend that.

    • #28
    • November 21, 2013, at 11:32 AM PST
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  29. Hammer, The Member
    KC Mulville: Ryan, as was said before, when you see Catholics defending the pope, almost every month .. that’s because he’s being attacked almost every month. The defense follows the attack.

    And the attack follows things like the pope posing with anti-fracking activists!! SEE picture above!! Good Lord, Mulville, these aren’t random attacks. At what point, do you start to think that maybe your pope isn’t being picked on – maybe he’s inviting it?! I hear this every day – but always from criminal defendants, for crying out loud.

    • #29
    • November 21, 2013, at 11:34 AM PST
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  30. KC Mulville Inactive

    With respect, I disagree. I thought Dalrymple misinterpreted a homily for a treatise.

    According to reports, the pope specifically chose that refugee camp as his first venture out of Rome specifically to highlight the problems of immigration, refugees, and human trafficking.

    • The pope is well known to have frequented the huge barrios of Buenos Aires, trying to draw attention to the residents and to not allow them to be forgotten.
    • I’ve followed his homilies every morning (when they’re available), and the theme of not forgetting the poor is one of his favorites – combined with his demand that the church has to go out and be with the poor, not just talk about them.

    He went there to be there.

    So when he’s standing there, among the poor and forgotten, I think it was a little tone deaf to accuse him – at that homily – of not being precise on immigration policy. And then, to speculate from such “loose” talk, that the pope was just morally preening, and indulging in moral exhibitionism.

    Why the urge to slam him for imprecision … then? He wasn’t calling for any policy at that point, only calling attention to the problem.

    • #30
    • November 21, 2013, at 11:36 AM PST
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