Pope Francis the Liberator

A bit ago I wrote about the legacy of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI with regard to the social teaching of the Church. I wrote that he understood that those theologies which insist on making the social teaching into a political theology for socio-economic upheaval miss the whole point. The social teaching must be based on the truth, the truth of Christ Jesus and on nothing more. Jesus is sufficient, after all, to be the source of all the motivation we need to love the poor. But the point is that in the “dictatorship of relativism” love is emptied of any permanent meaning and can then be filled with evil gussied-up to look like charity.

pope-francisPope Francis, it seems, will pick up this teaching from Benedict and will run with it.

My Costa Rican mother was elated to discover we now have un Papa Latinamericano. So she went looking for everything she could read about the Holy Father in the Argentinean newspapers. She discovered some sermons of his which she shared with me. Truly I can say that the voice of this Holy Father is the voice of the Church.

In a sermon he gave at the Cathedral in Buenos Aires last May, Cardinal Bergoglio said:

“When there is not love, with what ease is the conscience numbed! Such a numbness of conscience indicates a stupor of the spirit and of life. We bring into our lives and, much worse, into the lives of our children and our youth, the magical and destructive solutions of drugs (both legal and illegal), of legalized gambling, of easy medication, the hollow banalities of shows and a fetishistic concern for the body. We are enclosed in a narcissistic and consumerist prison. And to our elderly, who are in this narcissism and consumerism made to be disposable things, we throw them on the dust heap of existence. Thus it is, that which lacks love founds a ‘culture of the dust heap.’ That which is of no use, throw away.”

These are tough words for the Western world, for the first world that is ever-so-concerned with its pastimes. The Cardinal-turned-Holy Father goes on to speak about our cowardice made manifest when we look away from the suffering of the poor. He points out the irony that we cannot suffer weakness in our society and yet it is exactly the acceptance of our own impotence that is the beginning of wisdom.

The Cardinal, who battled with the government of Argentina quite regularly, had some harsh words for the media as well. He said:

“This exclusion [of love], truly a social anesthesia, is reinforced, in part, by the identity politics in the media discourse which denigrates all who do not agree with the contemporary ideology and fashion….”

That sums up the attitude of the mainstream media alright. Those who do not conform are to be ridiculed.

But the Cardinal sees that the “social anesthesia” which plagues the world is also a result of the breakdown of the family. Indeed, this lack of love is a problem of families that no longer experience a kind of love that knows commitment. There is no firm and lasting love anymore. At the heart of the problem, children continue to be brought into the world disoriented by “adults who do not know how to love,” he says. This resonates with the teaching of Benedict. When love is empty of truth, it is a false love an ephemeral love.

Of course, the answer is the Cross of Jesus Christ. Of course, it is he that is Truth that is the source of love. “The real power,” says Bergoglio:

“is love, that which empowers others, that which arouses action, that which no chain is able to hold back, for even on the Cross or on the death bed one is able to love. One does not need youthful beauty, nor recognition or approval, nor money or prestige. Let love simply bloom… and it is unstoppable.”

There is much more to the sermon, which is a tour de force, but suffice it to say that I am very excited about the kind of message this Pontiff will bring to the world. Indeed, I think he will liberate the social teaching from the shackles of presumption and confusion that weigh it down. I am confident that his presentation of the teaching will free it from those on the political left who have held the teaching hostage for so long. Several people have commented, after all, on his firm opposition to abortion and gay marriage. But I am also sure that his message of hope and love will also be a message challenging the political right to dig deeper and live for more than winning the argument against big, bad government. And I am positive that his teaching will challenge all Catholics to make our faith obvious to the world.

Hold on folks, this will be a bumpy and gloriously wonderful ride.

  • Ralph Iyambo

    It all goes to show that Christ’s promise to Peter that the gates of hell will never prevail against the Church stands! The Holy Father was elected by the Cardinals under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, he will be equal to contemporary challenges facing both the Church and society in general. We will continue to pray for the Pope and the Church.

  • Rich Ketter

    Thank you for your message here. But is not just the mainstream media that ridicules those who do not conform. That is also an all to often reality on this website.
    I, too, believe that Papa Francisco I will challenge many of us, including you in how we live our faith. Moving from an great academic pope to a master of humility (if it is possible to honor a man in that way) and a great Pastor, will cause those who focus often from the intellect in response to issues in the church and society to move closer to the people and see not just how what we say impacts people, but how we say it and do it lifts up the community or harms individuals.
    God Bless Papa Francisco I
    Pax et Bonum

    • Omar Gutierrez

      Ahh Rich,

      Of course I never said that the mainstream media is the only one who ridicules, but of course the point is that the mainstream media has more of an audience and so, with that power, is in a position to truly ostracize. That is a power which they abuse very often. I might point out that you do not seem to be able to make a comment without criticism. Indeed, you have been quite guilty of ridiculing me to my employers without speaking to me before hand. Certainly that is not the the model for Christian behavior. Still, I hope that while he challenges the political right to open themselves up on issues like immigration I trust that you will open yourself up to issues of religious liberty. And, yes, God bless Pope Francis…just Francis.

      • Rich Ketter

        Ah Omar –
        Since it is MY church that you work for, I am able to make comments to your employer who also works for me, without restraint that it may hurt your feelings. Your arrognace is quite a problem in doing your job well, and your rigid and limited understanding of Social Teaching is both insulting and wrong in the diocese, and in this website.
        If you expect to speak without criticism, then I would suggest a private diary instead of trying to speak as teach of all and everything.
        Indeed you might look to the Pope as better example than your models now. He can speak truth in TRUE charity, and not have to change definitions of Church teaching to fit your small approach.
        I am glad that you stopped blogging on here for a long time, and that the Bishop did ask you to be more chritable in your writings.
        If you understood ministry, you would understand the need to be more open to the people you serve. Until you undertand that your ego gets in the way of being a true servant, you do damage to our church.
        If you think I am in a minority in the Omaha church, then you have no idea of what you speak. Open the door of that office and sit with the people instead of trying to lord over them. When he bishop is found to be more approachable than you, there is a problem.
        So maybe if you would not be so rude to people, you would not find criticizimg to be such a ridicule. Perhaps there is a bit of projection in that you tend to ridicule people and hide behind your psuedo-academic facade. There are many in Omaha who truly understand the Church’s Social teaching and can preach it and teach without trying to make others seem stupid (just as your arrogant response to the other commentator.)
        Learn from the new Pope, and get on the bus more often and bow and kiss the rings of others. You, as well as the rest of us, can learn greatly from his example.
        Now I would suggest that your respond to my comments instead of your paranoia or fear that someone else may actually know something about God and Church. You would be a better blogger if you did not join in with the childish games of the other bloggers. The pope and your mother would not be pleased.

        • Omar Gutierrez

          Oh Rich, Rich, Rich.

          I guess I hit a nerve. Well, I think you missed the point, which is that you’ve a very quick finger when it comes to criticizing others but when someone points out your flaw, like for instance your habit for detraction and calumny, you get all preachy. I’ll be praying for you Rich. Oh, but do let’s leave moms out of this, okay? You don’t know her or really me for that matter, so ease off your hatin’ buddy. It’s not good for the soul.

  • Pingback: » Pope Francis the Liberator Omar F. A. Gutiérrez

  • S Vieira

    Do you happen to have the whole of the sermon available?

    • Omar Gutierrez

      Sorry S, I have it only in Spanish at the moment. I’ll try to provide more in the near future though.

  • Kathy

    Great observations. Yes, I am excited as well. God bless you.

  • JQ Tomanek

    Great article. Good times coming.



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