Is the Pope Perhaps Not Full of Shit?
Another surprisingly humble, non-inflammatory comment from Pope Francis at year’s end:
True peace is not a balance of opposing forces. It is not a lovely facade which conceals conflicts and divisions. Peace calls for daily commitment… I invite even nonbelievers to desire peace. Let us all unite, either with prayer or with desire, but everyone, for peace.
The article indicates that Francis went “off-script” when he invited atheists to work for peace. This follows his repeated criticisms of the inequality and moral emptiness spawned by global capitalism — criticisms which, in the US at least, have shocked those used to seeing the anti-abortion and anti-birth control doctrines of the Catholic Church raised high above all other issues. I am not a Catholic, but I must say that it is delicious to observe the purple-faced rage of America’s right-wing shock troops as they lose their grip on an effective culture-war cudgel.
However, one thought has bothered me as I’ve watched all this unfold in the news. Is Francis’s message of peace and inclusiveness real, or is it all some crazy setup? Like on January 1 he announces that we will solve all the world’s problems by getting rid of The Jews. Or, that world peace really means that we should buy an official Vatican World Peace Nokia Cellphone. Or, that his famously ascetic lifestyle masks an extreme Mother Teresa-type belief that salvation can only be achieved through intense physical suffering. Or, that he is latching onto nice, cheap words about inequality in an effort to divert attention from the criminal conspiracy among Church elites to squash their global pederasty scandal.
If my attitude seems quite negative, keep in mind that as an American I am pretty used to getting sold to, sold out, and screwed over on a regular basis. My citizen duty is to shop, as our borderline-narcissistic former President reminded us twelve years ago. And thanks to his successor, one of the most epically smarmy men on the planet, citizen-shopping for basic services may be the only thing I have time for a few years from now.
It’s sad to realize how programmed I am, so that when I hear a world leader give a guileless message of peace and understanding, I automatically wonder, “What’s his angle?”
Ultimately, the angle doesn’t matter. Something is frighteningly wrong in our society. Francis is giving voice to the problem that must not be named, if you’re a member of the neoliberal elite. After 35 years of There Is No Alternative, even lip service is a welcome change.