Sunday, November 17, 2013

Wise Words from a Wise Man

Those of you who know me know I am not only not religious, I'm rather anti-religious in my views.  That goes doubly for Christianity since, during my lifetime, Christianity in America has morphed from something benign into a tumor that has metastasized onto our civic life.  Worst of all, Christianity's adherents use their faith as a cudgel to beat perceived outsiders (minorities, LGBT citizens, people of minority faiths like muslims) and as a device to enforce the racist white patriarchy.

But now comes a Pope who is saying all the right things and is presenting an original version of Christianity that is all about love, compassion and care for the less fortunate.  I only hope this Papal vaccine can reverse the cancerous Christian tumor that has infested the body politic in America.  These are excerpts of an interview the Pope did with an Italian paper that the Vatican press office is attempting to censor.
The most serious evils currently afflicting the world are unemployment among the young and the solitude in which the elderly are left. The elderly need care and companionship; the young need work and hope. However, they have neither the one nor the other, and the trouble is that they are no longer seeking for them. They have been crushed by the present.

On missionary work and "spreading the word:"
Proselytism is downright nonsense; it doesn’t make any sense. We need to learn to understand each other, listen to one another, and increase our knowledge about the world around us. It often happens that after one meeting I want to have another one because new ideas emerge and new needs are discovered. This is what is important: to know one another, to listen to one another, broaden the range of thought. The world is full of streets that converge and diverge; the important thing is that they lead to the Good.
On the deficiencies of the Catholic church and it's hierarchy:
The leaders of the Church have often been narcissistic, flattered and wrongly incited by their courtiers. The court is the plague of the papacy....  at times there are courtiers in the Curia, but the Curia as a whole is something else. It's what in the army is called the intendancy; it manages the entities that serve the Holy See. However, it has one defect: it is Vatican-centred. It looks after and cares for the Vatican's interests, which are still to a great extent temporal. This Vatican-centred vision ignores the world around it. I do not share this vision and I will do all I can to change it.
On the place of the Catholic church in civic life.
Personally I think that being a minority [religion, even in Italy] is actually a strength. We must be a leaven of life and love, and leaven is of an infinitely smaller quantity than the mass of fruit, flowers and trees that are born from that leaven. I think I said before that our objective is not to proselytise but to listen to needs, aspirations, disappointments, desperation and hopes. We must restore hope to the young, help the elderly, open up to the future and spread love. To be poor among the poor. We must include the excluded and preach peace.
When the interviewer observed that the Pope suggested people get involved in politics, the Pope made clear what he though about mingling politics and religion.
I didn't address myself only to Catholics but to all men of good will. I said that politics has pride of place among civil activities and that it has its own field of action which is not that of religion. Political institutions are secular by definition and they operate in independent spheres. ... The Church will never go beyond the task of expressing and spreading her values, at least as long as I'm here.
On the subject of the so-called "free market" and market liberalism, the Pope was even more blunt.
Personally I think that the so-called unbridled liberalism does nothing but make the strong stronger, the weak weaker and the excluded more excluded. What's needed is great freedom, no discrimination, no demagoguery and much love. We need rules of conduct and even, if necessary, direct intervention by the State to correct the most intolerable inequalities. 
 Pope Francis is truly a breath of fresh air in a institution desperately in need of airing out.  His words ring of a deep wisdom and an understanding of the original mission of the Christian church.

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