Tag: Pope Francis

Fr. Schall on “Laudato Si”


SchallEighty-seven years old, Rev. James Schall, S.J. is one of the most respected Catholic scholars in the nation. A philosopher, theologian, and political theorist, Fr. Schall, the author of dozens of books, served as a professor of government at Georgetown University for 35 years before retiring to a Jesuit home here in California in 2012. (If you’d like a thrilling intellectual experience, go to YouTube, then, in the search bar, type “Fr. Schall’s final lecture at Georgetown.”)

Fr. Schall has just published a long article on Laudato Si, the encyclical on the environment that Pope Francis published earlier this summer. Fr. Schall’s analysis is respectful, erudite, intellectually humble — and devastating.


In Which the Pontiff Admits That—Is There Any Other Way to Put This?—He Has Not the Slightest Idea What He’s Talking About


FrancisFrom an article in the New York Times about the conversation Pope Francis had with journalists as he flew back to Rome from his trip to Latin America:

[T]he pope expressed “a great allergy to economic things,” explaining that his father had been an accountant who often brought work home on weekends.

“I don’t understand it very well,” he said of economics, even though the issue of economic justice has become central to his papacy.

Francis, the (Misled) Humanist Environmentalist


shutterstock_195361532I started reading Laudato Si’ over the weekend; I’ve a long way to go, but I’m now reasonably familiar with some of the basic arguments Pope Francis makes in the early chapters.

One thing that leaped off the page is the world of difference between the pope’s views and those of the environmentalist left, especially of the Paul Ehrlich variety. This is hardly surprising. Where the latter sees humanity as a sentient blight on the world that needs to reduce its number to negligible sustainable levels, the pope begins with a concern for the welfare of human beings (particularly, the poor) and expresses concern that they’re bearing the brunt of our industrialist/consumerist culture while being denied their share of its benefits. If lefty environmentalism is anti-human, Francis’ environmentalism is decidedly humanist in the best (and very Catholic) sense of the word.

Again, it’s hardly surprising the leader of the oldest and largest Christian denomination is concerned with human well-being, particularly that of the poor. What’s frustrating, however, is Francis’s apparent blindness to the similarly-human-centric motivations of the many climate change skeptics, fossil-fuel apologists, and free marketeers that he lambasts. Over and over, the pope identifies these groups as the defenders of a short-term focused, get-mine-while-I-can “throwaway culture” that’s largely to blame for the world’s material suffering. He writes repeatedly about the need to “protect” Nature, without ever hinting how, in so many ways, She seems to have it in for us — and that we’re only able to fight back thanks to this technology.

Laudato Si’: Now What Does a Catholic Do?


shutterstock_195361532For Catholics who advocate for free markets, Pope Francis has just made life extremely complicated. The Holy Father’s encyclical, Laudato Si’ — which I have only begun to read — contains statements that clearly indicate that the Pope has fallen in with the progressives. Although the encyclical still prohibits birth control, abortion, and euthanasia, Francis seems tone deaf to the constant demands of the left, particularly the environmental left, that the Church abandon her teachings and encourage the use of these prohibited techniques. The Pope also seems to have largely adopted the platform of the American Democratic Party. As a Republican, my stomach is queasy.

So what to do? As a Catholic, I must submit my personal convictions to the authority of the Magisterium– which means to the Pope insofar as he speaks within Church tradition on theological matters. That gives me some weasel room on Francis’s economic views. But not much room. A Catholic’s first duty is obedience, or as my daughter wrote in her new article for Catholic Exchange:

…our lives are not our own. They belong to God and that means a total emptying of self. It is within this framework that we will examine our call to love and submit in obedience to the hierarchical Church. In learning this obedience, we will mature and grow in our faith. Since Christ left us the Church, it is He who calls us to loving submission to the Church.

Pope Francis Endorses Climate Science, Trashes Modernity


shutterstock_186370886As promised, the pope’s encyclical came out today, so I spent most of my morning reading and processing so I could say something useful about it. (Amusingly, I was recently pre-interviewed for an NPR panel on the topic, but they got spooked when they discovered that I’m a climate skeptic. Such disreputable views are obviously not suitable for NPR. So I had to wait and read the encyclical today, with the rest of the plebs.)

So here’s something you already knew: Pope Francis believes in climate change. Here’s something else you knew: he’s wary of free markets. Despite that, I found it a very enjoyable read. Neither climate change nor free markets were the central focus. It’s more of a meditation on the dehumanizing, technocratic tendencies of modernity. It occurred to me as I was reading that Pope Francis believes in climate change mainly for the same sorts of reasons that conservatives are prone to doom-and-gloom future projections: the progressive disregard for nature has advanced so far that it seems credible to him that the earth is on the brink of disaster.

So, that’s some interesting food for thought. I’ll pull out a few passages that I liked, and invite others to leave whatever reactions they want to share.

Pope Francis Is a Radical; But Not in the Way We Think


On the day the College of Cardinals elected Pope Francis, many Catholics felt their guts tighten. Jorge Mario Bergolio’s theological beliefs were largely unknown. His roots in South America triggered anxiety, it being the birth place of Liberation Theology with its Marxist philosophy and focus on worldly salvation. Of even greater concern was his Jesuit (Society of Jesus) background. The Society of Jesus has been a problem almost from its inception, and was even suppressed by Pope Clement XIV in 1767, though the reasons are complicated. Jesuit Universities are a hotbed of Marxism with a Catholic flavor; a good many Jesuit professors hold capitalism in utter contempt. (One of my Jesuit professors even told me that Marx was a prophet, but that he never sought disciples. That is the very definition of idiocy). There was great anxiety that Francis would also weaken the Church’s position on abortion and gay marriage.

It took Francis only a few weeks to confirm many of these suspicions. First, he gave the America interview in which he seemed to suggest that Catholic opponents of abortion were motivated by strict adherence to the law of the Church, rather than by a spirit of mercy. I was infuriated at what I took to be a caricature of the pro-life movement. I knew from personal experience that pro-life Catholics love the innocent, and make enormous sacrifices of their time, money, and talents, not just on behalf of babies, but also of mothers who abort and thus ruin much of their lives.

Dithering Toward Brutality



Of all the aspects of the Rite of Christian Initiation classes and discussions I’ve had — with one teaching or concept yielding beautifully to the next as though a flower were opening to reveal succeeding layers of transcendent wonder — very little has captivated me like the quest for a patron saint. My admittedly rudimentary understanding of Catholic doctrine and history tells me that the saints are not mere corpses whose visage here and there adorn stained glass. On the contrary, they are intercessors on our behalf, whose devotion offers an example to emulate, and whose wisdom offers guidance to those who will listen.

Very well then. I’ve been invited to choose one who will be, upon confirmation, my Patron Saint. The Catechism describes the term, “communion of saints,” as “…the communion of ‘holy persons’ (sancti) in Christ who ‘died for all,’ so that what each one does or suffers in and for Christ bears fruit for all.” In that regard, during my quest I’ve been struck by the writing and philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas who, among other things, further developed Just War Theory as espoused by St. Augustine.

Pope Francis: Doggie Heaven Is Real


During a recent appearance, Pope Francis comforted a little boy who had just lost his dog. The Pontiff said, “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.”

I never think much about this issue until I’m the one dealing with a dying pet. I’ve lost two Corgis in the past several years, and each required lengthy conversations with my young daughters about the cute little guys’ eternal resting place. Though I was non-committal, I employed several “maybes” and “could be’s” to comfort crying kids who wanted a firm promise they would see their puppies again. If I’m being honest, the thought also comforted me more than a little.

Should Food Be a Commodity?


Every second Monday something miraculous happens in my kitchen. One minute the cupboards are bare: the next minute groceries are delivered right on to the kitchen counters. I use Grocery Gateway, owned by Longos, to order groceries on the internet and have them delivered as they say, “right on to your kitchen table!” Fabulous!

This week, it occurred to me to wonder at the tremendous amount of human effort that had been involved in bringing such a rich harvest to my home. Grapes from Chili, oranges from California, tomatoes from Ontario: everything had been collected from such widespread parts of the world. I thought of the owners of the farms and orchards, the workers who had picked the crops, the transport people who had brought everything together to Toronto, Canada. Then there were the people who had made up my order, and those who had brought it to my door and delivered it with a smile. I felt grateful to them all, and willingly paid the price asked for such a service.

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What else to make of this excerpt from Francis’ letter to Tony Abbot (the Australian PM) on the occasion of the G20: The situation in the Middle East has revived debate about the responsibility of the international community to protect individuals and peoples from extreme attacks on human rights and a total disregard for humanitarian […]

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A Homily for Pope Francis: The Problem with Capitalism


8723683376_8e3e907a37_zEven at their best, people are arrogant, prideful, avaricious, covetous, and irrational beings, capable of the most horrendous evil. We are also the first to declare ourselves enlightened and inculpable. We convince ourselves that material and technological advancement is somehow evidence that we are on a path to irreversible redemption. We rationalize that this is somehow an ascendant, political path. We’re on the right side of history, we like to think. We fashion ourselves as noble creatures while ignoring the worst kind of news, rationalizing an inexhaustible historical archive of evidence proving otherwise.

That’s not to say that human beings are not capable of amazing invention, cooperation, and compassion.  We are. Our laws, customs, norms, institutions and moral codes provide us with a framework for civility and order. Domesticated humans have evolved as both fragile and advanced creatures, but like all domesticated animals, we are also capable of nearly immediate reversion to our undomesticated selves.

Capitalism, as we in America describe it, rests on a single principle: the right to property. This right extends to both the tangible and intangible, ones stuff and the fruit of ones labor. No person or institution has the right to take what is not theirs without the consent of the owner and just compensation. We make a single exception to this principle; we allow the government to take, that is to tax. However this taking is limited to what is necessary to fund and execute a finite number of collective functions.

The Fiasco in Rome


I have never before heard of Andrew Ratelle, I confess, but he has just produced one of the most insightful–and disturbing–observations I’ve come across about the fiasco last week in Rome:

By upholding the nuclear family, the Church made what was perhaps the most important social investment in history. People in the poorer, more pagan regions of the world where polygamy, polyandry, arranged and child marriages were common, now had a place to look for support when it came to building a life that was most beneficial for themselves and their children. By weakening this support, or at the very least dispersing it to include more “diverse” arrangements, these bishops have weakened the very shield from which the nuclear family has received so much protection. Even in our own country, where “diverse” familial arrangements have almost become synonymous with urban poverty and crime (at least for those who have no gilded safety net to fall into), where should families look to now, since the Church has seen fit to dilute the medicine they have thrived on for so long?

God Bless Cardinal Pell. (And Margaret Thatcher. And, for that Matter, Capitalism.)


From an article in the London Spectator describing the changes Pope Francis is making in the curia:

154078-cardinal-george-pellThe Pope has begun his attack on the Curia by placing its scandal-ridden financial structures under the control of a new department with unprecedented powers: the Secretariat for the Economy. Its first prefect is Cardinal George Pell, the conservative former Archbishop of Sydney.

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Martyrdom is not a central theological concept in Judaism. But given the span and scope of post-exilic Jewish history, the fact of Jewish martyrdom is inescapable. So the Sabbath prayer service includes a brief appeal on behalf of martyrs’ memory: Compassionate Father, who dwells on high, in His deep compassion may He remember the pious, […]

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