3 views of Pope Francis after the South America trip

I bring to your attention three interesting analysis pieces about Pope Francis following his trip to South America.

First, check out George Weigel at National Review. My impression is that Mr. Weigel has drawn a line through the pontificate (at least one aspect of the pontificate), but probably only in pencil rather than in ink. Excerpt:

Has the Vatican Already Forgotten the Lessons of John Paul II?


John Paul was wily enough to let Casaroli continue his diplomacy behind the Iron Curtain, so that the Communist powers couldn’t publicly accuse this Pole of reneging on previous deals and acting as a front for NATO. Yet while he never would have put it as Ronald Reagan did when the future president said that his idea of ending the Cold War was that “we win and they lose,” the Polish pope knew that this was indeed a zero-sum game: Someone was going to win and someone was going to lose, not so much for reasons of power but because Communism was based on a false understanding of the human person, human community, human origins, and human destiny. And by restoring to his own Polish people the truth about themselves, John Paul II helped them forge tools of liberation that Communism could not match, while reinforcing the similar strategy of resistance by “living in the truth” that was being deployed by secular, anti-Communist human-rights activists such as Václav Havel, using what Havel famously called “the power of the powerless.”

The people in charge of Vatican diplomacy today seem to have missed all this or forgotten all this — or are, perhaps, deliberately ignoring it (not least because of the overwhelming archival evidence that the most important concrete effect of the Ostpolitik was to open the Vatican to serious penetration by Warsaw Pact intelligence services, an unhappy fact I thoroughly documented in the second volume of my John Paul II biography, The End and the Beginning). Those guiding the Holy See’s interface with politics today were born and bred in the Casaroli School. And they are busily replicating Casaroli’s accommodationist (or, if you prefer, less confrontational) formula. This seems clear, if unfortunately clear, in the Vatican’s diplomacy with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and in the Holy See’s refusal to describe what is afoot in Ukraine as a gross violation of international law: an armed aggression by one state against another. It seems evident in the welcome that was afforded Raúl Castro in the Vatican several months ago. Now, to judge from the just-concluded papal visit to Ecuador, Bolivia, and Paraguay, Casaroli 2.0 seems to be informing the Vatican’s approach to the new authoritarians of continental Latin America.


Read the rest there. He also comments on the Commie-crux or the Sickle-fix.

Next, look at Sam Gregg’s hard-hitting piece at The Stream. Excerpt:

Don’t Cry for Me Argentina: Pope Francis and Economic Populism
The notion of a Latin American “Third Way” between capitalism and socialism is utopian sentimental nonsense.


In the first place, Francis discussed the injustice inflicted by “a system,” by which he seems to mean economic globalization. This “system,” he argued, has resulted in “an economy of exclusion” that denies millions the blessings of prosperity. Francis then specifically attacked “corporations, loan agencies, certain ‘free trade’ treaties” as part of an “anonymous influence of mammon” and “new colonialism.”

Some of this rhetoric is hard to distinguish from that used by Latin American populists, ranging from Argentina’s long-deceased Juan Perón to Bolivia’s Morales and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa. Leaving that aside, one wonders whether Pope Francis and his advisors have ever studied the respective merits of free trade versus protectionism. My suspicion is they haven’t, since tariffs and subsidies are precisely what allow already-wealthy countries to limit developing countries’ access to global markets. By definition, it’s protectionism that is an economy of exclusion — not free trade.

Likewise while the historical record of multinational corporations in developing nations isn’t lily-white, they have bought desperately-needed investment and jobs to Latin America. Francis lamented that new forms of colonialism often reduce developing nations to being “mere providers of raw material and cheap labor.” Yet if developing countries stopped capitalizing on what’s often their comparative advantage in the global economy — i.e., their lower labor costs and vast natural resources — it’s hard to see how they could generate enough wealth to lift millions out of poverty.

Moreover, whoever might be the “loan agencies” the pope has in mind, developing nations need infusions of foreign capital if they want to diminish poverty.


Finally, check out the formerly nearly ubiquitous John L Allen at Crux. Excerpt:

Under Francis, there’s a new dogma: Papal fallibility


In that context, it’s especially striking that Pope Francis appears determined to set the record straight by embracing what one might dub his own “dogma of fallibility.” The pontiff seems utterly unabashed about admitting mistakes, confessing ignorance, and acknowledging that he may have left himself open to misinterpretation.

Whether such candor is charming or simply confusing, leaving one to wonder if the pope actually means what he says, perhaps is in the eye of the beholder. In any case, it’s become a defining feature of Francis’ style.

A classic, almost emblematic case in point came during the pontiff’s airborne news conference on the way back to Rome on Sunday after a week-long trip to Latin America.

During a 65-minute session with reporters, Francis embraced his own fallibility at least seven times:


To be clear, it’s hardly as if Francis was backing away from his stinging critique of what he termed in Bolivia a global economic system that “imposes the mentality of profit at any price” at the expense of the poor.

On the contrary, he took another swipe during the news conference at what he termed a “new colonization … the colonization of consumerism,” which the pontiff said causes “disequilibrium in the personality … in the internal economy, in social justice, even in physical and mental health.”

What he added, however, was a dose of personal humility in acknowledging a lack of technical expertise and a capacity for error when he speaks on such matters, both in the substance of his positions and in the way he formulates them.


What’s great about that piece, is that the ever-nimble Allen uses even the occasion of the Pope being wrong to show how humble Francis is.  Gotta hand it to you, John.  You’re good!

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  1. Pnkn says:

    regarding the crucifix, I read from this transcript:

    ON THE CRUCIFIX WITH THE HAMMER AND SICKLE: Holy Father, what did you feel, when Bolivia’s President Evo Morales gave you a crucifix with the hammer and sickle? And where has this object ended up?

    I was curious. I didn’t know this, nor did I know that Father Espinal was a sculptor and also a poet. I learned this in these days. I saw it and for me it was a surprise.

    Second, one can qualify it as a genre of protest art, for example in Buenos Aires, some years ago, there was an exhibit of a good sculptor, a creative Argentine who is now dead. It was protest art, and I recall one that was a crucified Christ on a bomber plane that was coming down. It is Christianity but a criticism that let’s say of Christianity allied with imperialism which is (represented by) the bomber plane genre. Second point. If first I didn’t know then, second, I would qualify it as protest art that in some cases can be offensive. In some cases.

    Third. In this concrete case, Father Espinal was killed in 1980. It was a time when liberation theology had many different branches. One of the branches was with the Marxist analysis of reality. Father Espinal belonged to this. Yes, I knew this because in those years I was rector of the theology faculty and we talked a lot about it, about the different branches and who were the representatives, no? In that same year, the Father General of the Society (of Jesus), Father Arrupe, wrote a letter to the whole Society on the Marxist analysis of reality in theology. Putting a stop to this a bit, saying this isn’t on; these are different things, it’s not on, it’s not correct. Then 4 years later, in 1984, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published its first small booklet (on the subject): the first declaration on liberation theology that criticises this. Then there was a second (booklet) which opens the more Christian perspectives. I’m simplifying a little. No?

    So let’s do the hermeneutics of the time: Espinal was an enthusiast of this Marxist analysis of the reality. but also of theology using Marxism in this. He came up with this work; also the poetry of Espinal was of this genre of protest. But it was his life. It was his thinking. He was a special man, with so much human geniality, who fought in good faith. No? Using a hermeneutic of this genre, I understand this work. It was not offensive to me. But I had to use this hermeneutic. And I say this to you so that there aren’t any wrong opinions.

    Did you leave it (the crucifix) there?

    No, I brought it with me. Maybe you heard that President Morales wanted to give me honours: one is the most important in Bolivia, the other is the Order of Father Espinal, a new order. I never accept honours. I don’t do it. But he (the President) did it with so much good will, with good will and to something pleasing to me. And I thought, this comes from the people of Boliva. So I prayed, what should I do? If I bring it to the Vatican it will l go to the museum and end up there. And no one … so I thought about leaving it with the Madonna of Copacabana, the mother of Bolivia. It will go to the sanctuary. It will be in the sanctuary of the Madonna of Copacabana, the Madonna with these two honours, but I have brought the Christ with me.

  2. Robbie says:

    I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but Mr. Weigel made a similar point to the one I made about the hammer and sickle episode. He wrote, “My point is that Casaroli 2.0, the Vatican’s new diplomacy of accommodation, has created circumstances in which a thug like Morales thinks he can get way with such a stunt.”

  3. Benedict Joseph says:

    The three views of the trip are of some interest, until you read the transcript of the interview on the plane. That says it all. That says it all.

  4. Traductora says:

    I read the interview and the thing that bothered me most was not his obvious enthusiasm for the Marxist crucifix or the fact that he used the word “hermeneutic” about 100 times (never a good sign), but the fact that he said virtually nothing that had anything to do with religion in general or the Catholic faith in particular. He believes he’s an expert on economics, global politics, and just about anything else that rolls across the front pages of the press…note his comments on Greece…but he seems to forget that he’s actually supposed to be a religious leader and should at least occasionally address himself to the faithful – other than a few condescending photo-ops with “the poor” or the “those who are not perfect” (unlike the rest of us, who know we are?).

    He said barely a word about the subject he actually is supposed to know something about: the Christian faith. Less cracker-barrel Marxism and more Christianity, please.

  5. Auggie says:

    That transcript is troubling. If it’s for real, it’s perhaps worse than troubling.

  6. benedetta says:

    Kind of interesting how even a 15 year old can easily notice the irony of Western cultural elites pronouncing glowing approval on communism all funded by capitalism…Our media is pretty much in the current moment premised all on Christianity hating, and it is all profit-driven in that to boot. It is a very strange thing for people who profit via corporate capitalist piggery to advocate for Marxist policies for others. The new imperialism, that. Our media elites and moralizing academics and activists here would have little platform at all if it weren’t for our expansive capitalist enterprises in efforts variously termed media, entertainment, culture. A lot of things in culture sort of owe their success and currency to antagonizing Christian hatreds: Madonna, Lady Gaga, a great number of rock and metal acts, countless tv series, best selling books, even newsmen. Why, if it weren’t for orthodoxy, plenty of rich entertainers would be out of work, and a great many activists would not be able to cut their teeth in academe on describing what should happen in other people’s backyards. I say class action. We should stand up and demand our cut of the pie! (lol)…Anyone who would like some opportune reading on big corporate market based on anti Christian bigotry should consult an article in the new yorker some years back describing the focus group weirdness that served as the marketing direction for a rather ridiculously stereotypically anti-Catholic fiction blockbuster when the film version was about to open.

  7. Mojoron says:

    To be added to the “system failure” would be crooked governments, where in my opinion, are worse than evil corporations by a long shot. Much of Africa and South America are at the mercy of socialists, in the case of SA and murderous chieftains in the case of Africa. Take away those tyrants and the world just might be a better place. Of course I am not mentioning the Religion of Peace in my comments for that is understood for they ARE the religion of piece(sic).

  8. Gratias says:

    Marxism has found new lease on life in Latin America. One must see this Pope’s gesture through the prism of his lifetime experiences. In 1967 in Bolivia Famous Communist Che Guevara was summarily executed by the CIA. In 1971 the famous book “Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina” by Uruguayan Marxist Eduardo Galeano was published. It basically encapsulates the belief of the Latin American Left that all the problems of this pauperized subcontinent was caused by American Imperialism. Instead, it was caused by lack of the rule of law and protectionist trade policies. Also in 1971 Fr. Gutierrez of Peru published the first Liberation Theology book. In his interview Pope Francisco says that the Communist Crucifix was a creation of an artistic Jesuit that believed in the old synthesis of Liberation Theology and Marxism. The present hermeneutic is of course that Liberation Theology is about service to the poor, but someone of Pope Francisco’s generation knows better. The author of the Communist Crucifix was an Spanish Jesuit who went to Bolivia to continue the Guevaran Revolution and was killed for it. The Cold War after Vietnam was fought in Latin America and it was not cold at all. In the meantime, Argentina suffered several atrocious Peronist Governments and Fr. Bergoglio was part of the Peronist movement, on the moderate side of Peronistas but still with the people that brought Argentina to the cesspool of corruption, lawlessness, and poverty it now enjoys. If Pope Francisco wanted to do something for Ecuador, Bolivia, or Paraguay, He could had advocated open commerce, capitalism and the rule of law. Perhaps Dios, Patria y propiedad, instead of Tierra, techo y trabajo. Or he could have said at a minimum that outside of the Church there is no salvation or perhaps someting how we should try to get into Heaven trough our personal sanctity and what good example that gives to others. As it is now, the wood carved Communist Crucifix is now safe in The Vatican for future generations to admire how Christendom merged with its most implacable enemy in the philosophical swamps of the Latin Third World.

  9. Clinton R. says:

    In regards to the blasphemous crucifix, I saw a comment on another blog that was thought provoking; if Hitler had presented Pope Pius XII with the Lord crucified on a swastika, would Pius XII have accepted it?

  10. transparent2one says:

    If the president of the United States presented you with our Lord crucified on the Stars and Stripes would you accept it ?

  11. discens says:

    Gee, all this angst and hand wringing over Pope Francis and nostalgia for Pope St. JPII. I think the reactions here prove that Pope Francis is getting it right. He’s causing a ruckus where he needs to: among those who’ve bought into the myth of US capitalism and think the enemy is Marxism or communism or Islam. The enemy is us, or rather US. I mean when an admirer of JPII like George Weigel cannot see that the “gross violation of international law” in the Ukraine, the “armed aggression by one state against another,” has been and is still being committed by US and NATO and that only Russia has done anything (but with no invasion) to protect the people in Eastern Ukraine from Kiev’s murderous assaults — when praise is still being heaped on US capitalism as the cure for South America’s ills (ignoring how the mess in South and Central America today is the result of liberation movements, largerly masonic, supported by US against the distant royal rule of Catholic Spain) — when nothing is said of the Church’s teaching about the common destination of property (a teaching on whose rejection capitalism was founded — just read John Locke, darling of US, on property) — then thank God for Pope Francis and Morales’ crucifix. Let’s have a lot more of the same please!

  12. JPK says:

    “Gee, all this angst and hand wringing over Pope Francis and nostalgia for Pope St. JPII. I think the reactions here prove that Pope Francis is getting it right. He’s causing a ruckus where he needs to: ”

    Perhaps. But, to me Pope Francis is like a bull in a china shop. And after the bull leaves the shop someone must clean up the mess.

  13. Mike says:

    Let’s have a lot more of the same please!

    Without acquitting crony-capitalist venality (which now as ever is no small driver and funder of the “progressive” agenda), let me note that if you were to say a Hail Mary for each of the hundred million victims of the Marxists’ bottomless, Hell-spawned appetite for what it pleases them (and evidently you) to call “progress,” you might get through by the end of your life. In the meantime, may God have mercy on all our souls.

  14. discens says:

    Mike. Your anger is distorting your ability to read. Nothing I said implied I call Marxism progress. What I implied, if I did not outright say, is that I don’t call a capitalism that denies Church teaching progress, nor liberation movements that destroyed regal Spanish oversight progress, nor the violent reduction of countries in North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia (and where else?) to misery and chaos progress. Yet all three are called progress by US. Do you call them progress?

    Marxism by the way commits the same mistake as capitalism but in the opposite direction. The Church teaches that private property has a universal destination. Marxism denies private property; capitalism denies universal destination; both are murderous, but it’s a nice question as to which has been more so. Probably capitalism — it’s been around longer, it’s the ideology of more and larger countries, it’s more prevalent, it’s still going strong.

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  17. frival says:

    I think if you want to be honest discens it’s only proper for you to lay out what you *do* think supports Church thinking. It’s a little intellectually dishonest to lead readers in one direction only to announce your bluff when someone bites. Surely in this combox we can lay our respective cards on the table and not play coy?

  18. discens says:

    Frival. I don’t understand your complaint. I said the enemy is US. I said why. I added what the Church’s doctrine on property is. I praised Pope Francis for stirring things up by preaching that doctrine. As for Marxism I thought it obvious it can’t be the enemy — it’s long been dead. Some may think it is still twitching and needs a stake driven through it. Perhaps so. But US capitalism is alive and kicking. The real battle lies there. Francis has a surer grasp of today’s realities — Deo gratias.

  19. stephen c says:

    discens – Mike did not show any anger, as far as I can tell. He expressed sorrow and compassion. The first is how we all should feel faced with apologists for “Marxism” and the second is how we all should feel for the staggering number of victims of “Marxism.” The issue here is the sinful lack of sorrow and compassion that so many people who should know better have demonstrated in recent times.

  20. chantgirl says:

    Pope Francis had a lot of criticism for capitalism on his south American visit (I haven’t heard much criticism from him about socialism) but how many in south America and central America are risking their lives to illegally get to the US? Capitalism is not a perfect system, and I would argue that we don’t really have a very pure form of capitalism in the US, but it has still been the most successful modern system for lifting people out of poverty. How many generations of poor immigrants have come here from all over the world and have seen their children and grandchildren grow up more comfortably than they did?

  21. Imrahil says:

    Dear discens,

    I tend to not say anything w.r.t. the Ukraine conflict.

    However, the theoretical point should at least considered that Eastern Ukraine is subject to Kiev, and that Kiev may have perceived itself to have the right to give orders to Eastern Ukraine, and if there should arise a rebellion against it, to crush it with the might of the state.

    That at least is true: in Ukraine, US and NATO (who act on Kiev’s invitation – who was the “suggester” is irrelevant), have not been guilty of agression against a foreign state (unless you count New-Russia as a state).

  22. discens says:

    Thanks to all for the further discussion. Sorry for the longish reply:

    Stephen c, Chantgirl: I thought Mike was angry because he accused me of thinking Marxism progress, which none of my words implied. But there is no need to press the point. What I pressed, and continue to press, is that capitalism of the US and Western variety is no less guilty of crimes against humanity, even if the crimes are superficially ‘softer’ because indirect. Usury and the exclusiveness of private property destroy just as surely as bullets or gulags. People did not come to the US because of usury but because of free markets and free enterprise, reward for honest labor and social mobility, which are all separable from capitalism and are the real driver of material progress. Usury and exclusive private property are parasitical on them. There was no need for the Pope to attack socialism. It’s dead as a system, if only because it is dead in Russia and China. Russia has returned to its traditional form of Tsarism and Orthodox Christianity. In China socialism died with Mao and was well and truly buried by Deng Xiao Ping. That country too has returned to its traditional form — centralized dynasty fearful of revolt. Not the best of systems but not socialism either. North Korea is a sad joke, Bolivia couldn’t threaten anyone if it tried, Cuba is changing from within — a process the recent rapprochement with the US will accelerate. The system in the world that’s strong and getting worse is US style capitalism. Greece is being bled dry by usury, and so is most of the rest of Europe. The same is happening in the US — when the debts become due (and they already are) it isn’t the oligarchs who’ll pay but the middle class and the poor. The Pope has got it right. He’s going after the real and living enemy.

    Imrahil: I could not disagree with you more on the Ukraine, but I agree it’s probably better not to get too much involved in debate on the matter.

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