Monday, March 25, 2013

A church for the poor

Holy Week commences. This year there's a brand new pope --the first-ever American pope ("American" in the larger sense) and the first Jesuit.

Curious, then, that he, a Jesuit, chose to take the name of the founder of the Franciscan Order. Or is it?

Right away, with regard to the poor, I thought of St. Francis of Assisi, then I thought of war. Francis loved peace and that is how the name came to me. --Pope Francis, on how he chose his papal name

With the election of Pope Francis, who vows to make the Church a "church for the poor," I'm reminded of why I love it.

In 2005, back in the dark days of the Junior Bush presidency, when the reactionaries in the US House passed HR 4437, a measure that mandated that any organization must check the immigration status of an individual before it could render social or charitable services, Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles, spoke out against the bill forcefully. The Cardinal announced that he would order the clergy and laity of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to ignore the bill if it were to become law.

Cardinal Mahony quoted scripture when he wrote to Junior Bush, protesting the bill:
"Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me."
Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'
And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen. I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'" (Matthew 25: 31-46)
Subsequently, HR 4437 died an ignominious death in the US Senate. I'll always remember that act of courage and defiance by Cardinal Mahoney.

And so I'm encouraged and hopeful with the election of Pope Francis. His career has shown him to be a champion of the poor, unwilling to ignore the injustice of the current global economic structure.

In 2002, he said this regarding the economic crisis that struck his homeland of Argentina: "Let's not tolerate the sad spectacle of those who no longer know how to lie and contradict themselves to hold onto their privileges, their rapaciousness, and their ill-earned wealth." Take that, neo-feudalists!

Pope Francis reportedly has resisted the comforts afforded a man of his position. He cooks his own meals and rides public transportation.

Yesterday, on his first Palm Sunday as Pope, Francis greeted the crowd in St. Peter's Square, shaking hands and dispensing blessings.

"Don't let yourselves be robbed of hope! Don't let yourselves be robbed of hope!" he exhorted to the crowd of 250,000.

A champion for the poor! Pope Francis!


Roger Buck said...

Dade, I've not been able to visit Facebook or your fine blog for months, due to massive upheavals in my life, which have been very, very heavy but which on the bright side are at last leading my family out of the Anglo-American world and into what remains of Catholic Ireland.

My sheer relief knows no bounds ...

And on Pope Francis ...

It has been many years, I think, since the conclave elected a bad pope and Bl John Paul II seems to me the greatest leader the Church may have had in the last 1000 years.

Bl. John Paul II was also a complete pauper ...

While I celebrate Francis' clear commitment to the fight against global injustice and capitalism, I fear he may lack the same acuteness in these regards as the last two popes.

Some of his gestures beloved by the media are fine things, but I doubt he has the same extremely sharp acuity of his predecessors regarding world evil nor possibly the ability to lay the same kind of theological/philosophical arguments against global capitalism, as, for example, those in Benedict XVI's last encyclical Caritas in Veritate (

Catholics will still be pondering Caritas in Veritate 100 years from now ... assuming civilisation lasts that long ...

These gestures so beloved by a media whose attention span is measured in soundbites rather than centuries will be gone ... (Again as beautiful as some of them are).

Meanwhile, my own trials in the last months leave me more convinced than ever of the darkness of the human heart and because of this - including my own heart of darkness - my need for a Church that understands it central Mysteries ...

Benedict XVI understood those mysteries, our dark and broken hearts and their need for those mysteries as well as the need to not let the world be drowned in capitalism.

I pray to God his successor has the same acuity ...

And Dade I look forward to returning to your fine writings when I get out of England at last ...

Roger Buck said...

Five minutes later ... slight revision.

If I knew how to modify the above post, I would modify the statement about JPII above with a word such as "perhaps".

I do not know ... Still I think it possible when one considers Karol Wotlya's non-violent movement starting in Poland in 1953 ... which played a key role in dismantling the Soviet Union.

A Gandhi like endeavour that of course you will not hear of in our secular media's disinformation and hatred for the Church's resistance to materialistic hedonism.

Still I wish I could insert the word "perhaps" in the above, but there it is ...