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My Kinda Pope

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I tell you this: whatever you did to the least of these brothers of mine, you did to me.”
–Jesus of Nazareth From the Gospel According to Matthew

“How can it be that it is not news when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”
–Pope Francis

BREAKING NEWS: He’s read the memo! At about 9:30 this morning, I tweeted the following message to Pope Francis: @Pontifex: Your Holiness, you are driving the right wing in America nuts. Thank you.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

It was a wondrous thing to wake up to. In an eighty-four page Apostolic Exhortation. The new pontiff left no doubt about where he stood on the subject of “trickle down” (he used those very words) economics. Francis called this era of conservative economics the “new tyranny” of “unfettered capitalism”. Not to anyone’s surprise (certainly not to mine) the right wing scream machine broke down with a severe case of spastic apoplexy. Rush Limbaugh referred to the document as “pure Marxism”. He elaborated for the amusement of us all: “There’s no such unfettered capitalism – that doesn’t exist anywhere,” he said while turning a lovely shade of purple, “‘unfettered capitalism’ is a liberal socialist phrase to describe the United States.” On Fox Noise, Stuart Varney went a bit further. As reported this morning on the delightfully subversive website, AlterNet:

“Capitalism, in my opinion, is a liberator,” he lectured Pope Francis from his television pulpit. “The free choice of millions of people is the essence of freedom. In my opinion, society benefits most when people are free to pursue their own self-interest. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but it is not.”

He’s trying to make some sort of point there. Let’s give the poor old bugger an A for effort. What the pope has done here is held up a mirror, and the plutocracy – worldwide – is recoiling at the hideous reflection. They stand before us stark-raving-naked. It must be an unsettling thing to be exposed like that for all the world to see. Oh, who shall rid them of this meddlesome pope?

Conservative Catholics should be grateful. All Catholics should be grateful. This pope – and a whole lot of pesky nuns riding around on buses – are the ones who will save Catholicism. The last twenty years have been the darkest ones in centuries for the Church of Rome (I’ll spare you the details – you know what I’m talking about). Francis is resuscitating it. Who was the last pope to take his vow of poverty as seriously as this one? I like this dude!

Jesus Christ, Son of God

Jesus Christ, Son of God

Why are many conservative Christians so single-minded  in their concentration on the Old Testament? Why do they not, instead, pay more attention to the teachings of Jesus Christ? The answer to that question is obvious: The lessons that the Prince of Peace was trying to impart to us in the Beatitudes are completely at odds with the agenda of the right wing. Think about it!

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.

Dick Gregory circa 1970

Dick Gregory circa 1970

Dick Gregory, can you see what I’m talking about? That’s not a very conservative message, is it? In fact (just between you and me) the Son of God sounds like some kind of KNEE-GROW SOCIALIST in that message. You can’t blame the extreme right wing for feeling a tad awkward and uncomfortable when a religious leader takes us all to task for not living up to the fundamental meaning of Christianity. I feel a bit awkward myself, come to think about it. Dick Gregory once remarked that if Christ were to come back today, the right-wingers would tie him to a giant peace sign and roll him off a cliff. The dirty secret is that there a conflict between conservatism and Christianity – a serious one. I’m speaking as somewhat of a lapsed Catholic. I’m the last person on the planet who should be lecturing anyone on their theological sensibilities, believe me. It’s just that it seems to me that this one should be a no-brainer. What is a “Christian” but one who feeds the hungry,  clothes the naked and ministers to the sick? That’s what it’s all about! What part of that message do they not understand?

For those who are waiting for Pope Francis to open the doors to gay marriage in the Catholic Church – or even the ordination of women as priests – don’t hold your breath. And a pro abortion-rights pope? That’s never gonna happen. But at least he’s making an attempt at inclusion. He seems to want us to accept gays and lesbians as members of the Catholic community. He seems to want to expand the role of women in the church. That’s at least a beginning. The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step as they say.

More than anything, he needs to address the question of celibacy for priests and nuns. We had a priest in our parish a few years back named Father Trevor Nicholls. He was an Anglican convert with a wife and four wonderful children. They were an asset to the community, not an embarrassment. Doing away with the doctrine of mandatory celibacy would mark a rebirth for the Catholic religion. Just a suggestion, Frankie.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Fifty years ago, Pope John the XXIII initiated the task of modernizing Catholicism by bringing it out into the open light of day. I’m just barely old enough to remember a time when priests recited mass in Latin – a language that had been dead for hundreds of years. His Second Vatican Council changed the church forever – and for the better I think. The Catholic Church is a half century overdue for a serious shot of adrenaline. Pope Francis is providing his flock with a mega-dose. Let’s hope Catholics all over the world line up for their medications. It’ll only pinch for a second.

And each time I leave – Pope Francis is – tugging my sleeve.

Tom Degan

Tom Degan

TOM DEGAN is a fifty-four year old malcontent from the Western Hemisphere.

He was born in Goshen, NY in 1958 and, after living all over the United States and Canada, moved back there in 1992. He is a high school dropout who in 1977 received an equivalency diploma (HEY, IT'S LEGAL!) He attended SUNY in Middletown, NY and in 1986 studied journalism at the New School in New York City. He is the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and has worked as a truck driver, a radio DJ, and a metal worker.

OK, he didn't ACTUALLY receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but he DID get some kind of ribbon of sorts when he was in the Cub Scouts.

He is the inventor of Cheez Whiz and lives off the royalties on the sales of that fine product. He loves children and little baby duckies.

FULL DISCLOSURE: He didn't really invent Cheez Whiz.

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“And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.” Revelation 13:1-3.

And the beast called itself GOP and written upon its seven heads are: Avarice, Cowardice, Entitlement, Homophobia, Ignorance, Misogyny, and Racism. And the meek shall cry out in agony. And the beast shall be slain by the Lamb, in their name. And the beast's name shall be erased from the minds of men forever.

Amen