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Pope Francis has arrived in America. Good for him and hooray for the American Catholic Church. It’s always nice to hear a good news. Living in Ireland, where the Roman Catholic church has been turned into the proverbial boogeyman once reserved for my English cousins — with falling priest numbers and even fewer congregations — I am always happy to see a positive story about the Catholic Church, no matter the occasion. Let us hope it leads to a boom in vocations in the American homeland, and perhaps a trickle here in Ireland, too.
Since his election two years ago, Francis has done more wonders for the Catholic Church’s public relations than 1,000 spin merchants working day and night across the oceans. Ordinary people — believers and non-believers, Catholics and non-Catholics — who would normally never give the Church or its leaders the time of day fall over themselves to praise or take interest in him.
Whilst it unnerved (and still unnerves) this exceptionally lousy, traditional Catholic to see friends and liberal celebrities offer their praise Francis — especially give the way they unfairly excoriated Pope Benedict — I have come to realize that he may be a shepherd who can reach out beyond those who are already within the Catholic tent. This has to be good, right? Even the secular liberal press who normally enjoy sticking the knife into conservatives and orthodox Catholics have taken it upon themselves to spin for Francis (whether he knows about this or what they are stating/pushing on his behalf is unclear). While also unnerving, given some of the lies told on his behalf, it is also welcome.
Alas, not all are happy about Francis’ trip to America. Over the last few weeks, there have been murmurings from many conservatives and libertarian blogs excoriating Francis for his vocal positions on climate change, Cuba, and capitalism and demanding that he stick to the usual papal topics that coincide with their conservative opinions such as abortion and morals. George Will, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, Brian Kilmeade, Judge Napatalino and many more. I have no problem with any of this. In fact, on some areas, they are quite right to attack him.
Pope Francis should be criticized in areas where he gives political opinions on in the public domain, and I myself find his take on climate change to be wrong (but he has the right to his opinion), and I disagree with his approach toward the Castros (though we do not know what is going on behind scenes). On capitalism, I am more sympathetic to Francis than most of his detractors, in that people must recognize that his criticisms are product of his upbringing and his traditionalist understanding. In Latin America in general — and especially in his native Argentina — capitalism is synonymous with corporatism. Also, several Popes including John Paul II (no socialist) and Pope Benedict (no commie) excoriated capitalism for its failings.
As for areas where conservatives want Pope Francis to speak out, I share their hopes. Given the revelations of the disgusting treatment of the unborn in Planned Parenthood’s abortion mills, I would hope that he uses the chair of Peter to call on, or at least shame, the Democrats on their complete capitulation to the forces of evil on this issue. I hope he gives encouragement to the faithful in a world which regularly scorns them and their beliefs on issues concerning life, sex, morality, and faith. I also look forward and pray he calls upon Obama and Congress to defend Christians at home and abroad from persecution (I know, fat chance) but at least he can make the guy squirm with pointed word and call the world media’s attention to plight of Christians.
Lastly, it has sadly come to my attention that some commentators on right are engaging in anti-Catholic rhetoric involving money, modernism, and science. Shame on them. Criticize Pope Francis and the Church as you see fit. However, engaging in Catholic myths about hostility towards science and hatred for poor is beneath people on the right. It is also historically illiterate.
I wish Pope Francis a successful papal visit to your shores. I will pray for him and my fellow Catholics in America. Some who hear his message may stop and give pause to it, and give God a chance in their lives. I seem to remember Christ talking about lost sheep who come back to the fold. Give Francis a chance. God bless you.
Image Credit: Victoria Pickering/ FlickrPublished in