Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis

Update 12/5/2013.  The Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good have created a petition to protest the attacks on Pope Francis by Rush Limbaugh.  Although not a Catholic, which I made clear in the comments section, I signed this petition and I encourage you to consider doing so as well.  Rush's attack was delightfully stupid, and we should take advantage of this opportunity which he has so unintentionally provided.

One of the interesting things about the second decade of the 21st century is the complete silence among the political classes of America regarding poverty and its impact on its citizens. Complete indifference, absolute unwillingness to discuss either the causes, the effects and potential cures. Some of them fall back on bankrupt misunderstandings of discredited economic theory. Some deny the problem exists. Some acknowledge some of the problems but propose no policies to address the issues. Some propose policies or changes that at their best might address a few percent of the problem.

None of our civic leaders seem willing to discuss the issues honestly and address some real plans about what needs to be done. There is no Roosevelt or New Dealer or Tolstoy (1) among them.

But of all the leaders in this country and the world there is one who is willing to speak out on these issues: the issues of poverty and its effect on people's lives and of reliance on an economic theory that has no evidence to support it.

And that is "our" new Pope, Pope Francis.

A very photogenic Pope, it seems to me.

In his "Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium of the Holy Father Francis to the Bishops, Clergy, Consecrated Persons and the Lay Faithful on the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today's World", we have a very amusing jeremiad, so to speak, against injustice and greed in the world. Among other things we have the use of entertaining terminology such as kerygma and mystagogical. (2)

The complete statement can be found here.

Here are some excerpts

No to an economy of exclusion

53. Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.

Or .... 

191. In all places and circumstances, Christians, with the help of their pastors, are called to hear the cry of the poor. This has been eloquently stated by the bishops of Brazil: “We wish to take up daily the joys and hopes, the difficulties and sorrows of the Brazilian people, especially of those living in the barrios and the countryside – landless, homeless, lacking food and health care – to the detriment of their rights. Seeing their poverty, hearing their cries and knowing their sufferings, we are scandalized because we know that there is enough food for everyone and that hunger is the result of a poor distribution of goods and income. The problem is made worse by the generalized practice of wastefulness”.

192. Yet we desire even more than this; our dream soars higher. We are not simply talking about ensuring nourishment or a “dignified sustenance” for all people, but also their “general temporal welfare and prosperity”.  This means education, access to health care, and above all employment, for it is through free, creative,  participatory and mutually supportive labour that human beings express and enhance the dignity of their lives. A just wage enables them to have adequate access to all the other goods which are destined for our common use.

But this is my favorite ...

54. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and na├»ve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.

When was the last time we heard a presidential candidate speak clearly about economic disadvantage, dismiss the obviously failed principles of the rich helping the poor and advocate such unselfish goals? Any politician that did so would be crucified, so to speak, by the right-wing and the moneyed interests.

In a world of compromise and the failure of ethics, what a relief it is to read by a member of the power elite such an unambiguous call for improving the world. The obvious question is, should we call for Pope Francis to run for President?

[See this link for our discussion of what Atlantean Crystal Wisdom predicted about Pope Francis.]


1. Tolstoy famously wrote an essay about the starving poor of Moscow whose title was "What then is to be done?". Later, when Lenin called for the Bolshevik revolution, his essay title was the same in homage to Tolstoy.

2. Kerygma is used in the New Testament to refer to preaching and its later use seems to refer to the larger body of what it is that Jesus was called upon to preach, what was his "program" so to speak. A mystagogue is one who initiates others into the mysteries of a religion.

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