No, Francis is not the Catholic Obama

Adam Shaw, the video game critic, has not been especially sought after as a commentator on faith before.

Now, thanks to the power of Drudge, I am receiving e-mails about his critique of the Pope as a “new Obama” as if he is a pastoral force to be reckoned with.

Maybe he is. Rather than dismiss him for his lack of credentials, let’s look at his arguments.

Begins Shaw: “Just as President Obama has been a disappointment for America, Pope Francis will prove a disaster for the Catholic Church.”

francis obamaWow. That seems extreme and unwarranted. Not the Obama part: He has indeed been a bad thing for America, by promoting policies that are antithetical to American principles: Abortion, which is against the right to life; stripping conscience rights and religious liberty, on which we were founded; and taking over health care in a way that directly contradicts the separation of powers (ht, Drudge!).

But is Pope Francis similarly poised to oppose the Church’s teachings in the way Obama contravenes founding principles?

Shaw thinks so: “Francis is beating a retreat for the Catholic Church, and making sure its controversial doctrines are whispered, not yelled – no wonder the New York Times is in love.”

Is he really? What evidence?

Says Shaw: “Just like President Obama loved apologizing for America, Pope Francis likes to apologize for the Catholic Church … In his interviews with those in the left-wing media he seeks to impress, Francis has said that the Church needs to stop being ‘obsessed’ with abortion and gay marriage, and instead of seeking to convert people, ‘we need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us.’”

More on that in a minute. First, some context: We quickly find that Shaw’s real problem is with Vatican II.

Says Shaw of the Council: “The result was the Catholic version of New Coke. Across the West where the effects were felt, seminaries and convents emptied, church attendance plummeted, and adherence to Church doctrine diminished.”

He disdains the council while praising the last two popes:

“John Paul II and Benedict XVI worked hard to turn this trend around, but now Pope Francis wants the bad old days to resume.”

jpThat’s odd because they were nothing if not defenders  and extenders  of Vatican II.

Vatican II

Benedict and John Paul knew that blaming Vatican II for the defections from the Church is a classic post hoc ergo propter hoc mistake.

The mistake is easily revealed: If the pre-Vatican II Catholic faith was so strong, why did all those people abandon the Church Militant in droves at the drop of a biretta? Fulton Sheen compared it to the thinning of Gideon’s army when the cowards left; that’s how easily they abandoned the sacraments.

The papal  project of the past 40 years has been to shore up the troops in the army after the disserters fled.

That is why it is not Pope Francis but Pope John Paul II who is known for apologies.

And that is why it is not Francis but Benedict who first chafed at seeing Catholicism defined as the “anti” Church:

Pope Benedict said that when he was interviewed in the 1980s and 1990s, “I always knew the questions in advance. They concerned the ordination of women, contraception, abortion and other such constantly recurring problems. If we let ourselves be drawn into these discussions, the Church is then identified with certain commandments or prohibitions; we give the impression that we are moralists with a few somewhat antiquated convictions, and not even a hint of the true greatness of the faith appears. I therefore consider it essential always to highlight the greatness of our faith – a commitment from which we must not allow such situations to divert us.” (Benedict in 2006 to the Swiss bishops, spotted by Wheat & Weeds)

So, let Shaw and those he has rattled be forewarned: If Francis’ approach is wrong, so was Benedict’s and John Paul’s. Francis is following the example of his predecessors.

Pope Francis’ much ballyhooed “obsessed” comment sounds like Pope Benedict:

Says Francis: “The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus.”

BenedictI don’t think Benedict, John Paul or even Adam Shaw can disagree with that. I certainly don’t.

Economics and Marketing

Which raises the question: What exactly does Adam Shaw disagree with? It seems to be Pope Francis’ economics and his marketing.

First, the economics. Mr. Shaw begins by claiming the Pope likes communism. Here’s a shortcut for you: If you are reading someone who says that Francis is sympathetic to communism, know that the person you are reading is either willfully misrepresenting the truth, or is a bad journalist. In either case, stop reading.

It is a matter of a quick Google search to find an interview book with Pope Francis that quotes his real feelings about Communism — he sees it as a soul-killing exercise in materialism.

Even in the quote Mr. Shaw offers as evidence, Francis doesn’t praise communism. He says that in younger days he learned from a communist thinker, and then rejected communism for the Church.

The rest of his economic critique was given more comprehensively by Rush Limbaugh, and is wrong for the same reasons Rush was wrong.

But at the heart of Shaw’s critique of the “New Coke” Church is marketing.

Says Shaw:  “That Francis didn’t see that this would be translated into headlines of ‘Pope tells Catholics to shut up about things that offend Sandra Fluke’ by every left-wing media outlet shows a terrifying naivety.”

pope francisAnd as a marketing guy, I’ve got to say: If Adam Shaw is saying the best communication strategy for Pope Francis is to go after Sandra Fluke, he ought to check with Rush first about how successful that is.

But Shaw makes his best point next:

Says Shaw: “For years, the majority of priests didn’t dare cover controversial topics in their homilies in fear of getting angry letters from pick-and-choose Catholics outraged that their pastor dared to say something out of line with the Democratic Party. Most parishioners therefore haven’t heard the Church’s argument on controversial topics. Consequently, usage of contraception is only slightly lower in Catholics than in the general population, and support of gay marriage is actually higher in Catholics than the general population. Perhaps talking about it even less isn’t the answer?”

Shaw is absolutely right. Most homilists not only don’t stress moral issues — they don’t mention them. And that imperils souls.

But the point Pope Francis makes in his America interview isn’t that the moral issues are secondary in importance — it’s that they are second in chronology.

Says Francis, “The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.”

There is no chicken-or-egg confusion in the question: “Do we love God because we are supposed to or do we do what we are supposed to because we love God?” We love God first; “what we are supposed to do” comes next.

peterWhat Is a Pope?

And this gets to the heart of the problem with Mr. Shaw’s article. It comes down to the question: What is a Pope?

Is he the Marketing Director of the Coca Cola Catholic Church? If so, then maybe it’s true: Pope Francis might be a lousy one.

Is the Pope the Political Boss of the Catholic Party? If so, then maybe the cardinals should pick someone better at scratching the right backs and stroking the right egos.

Is he the Guardian of Nostalgia, whose job is to make sure the Church delivers the same experiences to the same people in the same way?

Of course he is all of those things, in part. But not fundamentally. Fundamentally, the Pope is the vicar of Christ.

Christ himself was rejected by the religious of his day, because he didn’t do things the way they were accustomed to. He didn’t make nice with either the Saducees or their rival Pharisees. He didn’t make the zealots happy, either.

Christ himself gave the woman caught in adultery a “Who am I to judge” moment — adding “Go and sin no more,” just as Francis added, “If they accept the Lord and have goodwill …”

Christ himself was criticized for liturgical lapses, frequently — even on liturgical matters that touched the commandments.

Shaw criticizes Pope Francis for each of those in his article.

But we need not let it rattle us.

You can criticize Obama for opposing American founding principles such as the right to life. But Francis isn’t the head of the Catholic Church; Christ is. He is our “founding principle” — and Francis has stayed close to him.

So long as his vicar cleaves to Christ, the Church has nothing to worry about.

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Categories:Pope Francis President Obama

37 thoughts on “No, Francis is not the Catholic Obama

  1. Janet O'Connor says:

    The Pope according to both Phil Lawler as well as Ralph Martin have to more careful in how he speaks and what he says whether about economics or anything else or he will continue to be mistaken as a Marxist or Modernist or both.

  2. anonymous says:

    I would also like to point out, Jeff, that Abp. Sheen was no stranger to the spotlight, and in fact hosted his own TV show. That’s a publicity move beyond any Pope Francis has taken.

  3. Mike W. says:

    We want the church and our pope to stand with us on the values that are right. In the 1960′s the Catholic church got behind the war on poverty idea of the left worldwide as the socialist democracies in Europe were starting and LBJ was starting welfare in the US. The Catholic Church saw this as some sort of charity. If YOU and other Catholics would have stood up then and voiced the idea that taking money forcibly from one group of citizens and giving it to another is wrong we wouldn’t have gone so far down this path.
    I actually think the whole thing is demonic on 2 levels. It robs the receiver from any kind of appreciation because they certainly don’t look at it as charity (it’s called an entitlement for a reason) and it robs the givers because they are forced to give and takes from them the benefit they receive from true charity. I don’t think this is what Jesus had in mind at all. He said sell all you have and give it to the poor. He DID NOT say lobby Caesar to forcibly take from those rich Romans and give it to the poor or anything like I really wish the Romans would be nicer to us and give more to the poor. No, Jesus put the onus on the individual. This life is temporary and half the reason Jesus was concerned with the poor was for the givers because he knew that would lead them to God and isn’t that what it is all supposed to be about anyway. Now the vicar of Christ is saying that governments should do something to curb capitalism and help the poor. Governments? really? You don’t see that as a cop out? Why not return to the individual and say that WE as Catholics need to do more for the poor and fight this Tyrannical government that is trying to destroy the Catholic Church. It was his own version of appeasement. He says something that very well could have come from the mouth of Obama and maybe the great Obama will stop tearing down the church. I miss John Paul II. He was staunchly against socialism because he knew where it leads. He was there and largely played a role in bringing down the USSR with his visits to Poland. Now we have a pope that sympathizes with the ideals of socialism. It is very sad. Those churches in Europe are empty for one reason. They don’t need God anymore. They have the Government. the Government tells them what they can or cannot do, the Government provides for their needs if they are poor. (I am spelling government with a capitol “G” for a reason.) Who needs God when you have a government that provides all your needs. Now you watch how fast the Catholic churches in America empty out when our pope sides with the governments of the world to do more to regulate capitalism and help the poor. He should be warning us where this leads and telling us not to fall for the opiate of government dependency. AND telling the governments of the world that they have failed in the war on poverty and that GOD, prayer and the people of God on earth are the answer to the problem of poverty worldwide. Most people will figure “why give to the church, I pay a lot of taxes and the government is using that to help the poor” Without money the church will fall apart. I think it is a very sad time for us as catholics. Nothing you have posted is contradicting anything I am saying. He didn’t use the exact wording that was reported but his ideas are the same. It is very scary when you feel like even your church has been infiltrated. I never even for a second thought that he liked communism. I think he LOVES Socialism. There is a difference. Quote something to me that demonstrates his love for capitalism. Capitalism is the only answer to the problem of poverty worldwide. It has just never been tried.

    1. julie anzer says:

      I could not have said it better Mike, I’m so dissappointed in this pope. I am writing him a letter. I love my catholic faith but would rather belong to another church.

      1. Mike W. says:

        Matt,
        Where do you think all the money the Catholic church has comes from? Us. We the people voluntarily and happily support the church financially. Are you saying that it is not enough so it is right for the church to encourage governments to take it from us by force at the end of a gun if necessary? That is what taxes are after all? They are not voluntary gifts that benefit us as the givers. There is something that happens to a human being when he freely gives of his labor to help other people. It changes him and I think leads him to a closer relationship with God. This tendency for the church to think it is a good idea for the government to coerce us into helping the poor just seems misguided to me. In the end, what is the ultimate reason for help for the poor. If the infinite God can see the “Big Picture” then he must see their temporary suffering as a tiny fragment of time and therefore this physical suffering does not matter that much. I believe that the point is when people of God personally help the poor or when the Church helps the poor, it is so that both the givers and the receivers have a better chance to achieve salvation. If it is only to relieve physical suffering on this temporary life on earth, then it all means nothing.

        1. Kevin N. Krayeski says:

          If you think it all means nothing to ease the suffering of a starving child, or anyone for that matter, then I truly pity you. That is not the way a Catholic should feel. Of the utmost importance is salvation, but we must also seek to help and ease the suffering of even those who might never be saved! Christ helped many and I am sure some of those may not have ultimately been saved. Mother Teresa helped ease the suffering of many who were not Catholic (Christian) simply because it was the right thing to do.

    2. Matt says:

      Mike W., I think the point you missed was that individuals have proven time and time again that by and large they will not give up their wealth to the poor voluntarily. Hence, historic levels of income inequality.

    3. Kevin N. Krayeski says:

      The Pope does not love socialism and for you to say so shows a lack of charity and of knowledge. The Holy Father can no more be a socialist than he can be a protestant. The Church declared socialism, communism, Marxism, etc. as heresies, all falling under the great heresy of modernism. This was done in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

      And the Holy Father should not “love” capitalism either. It is simply an economic tool, not a means of societal salvation. It is not intrinsically evil, like socialism et al., nor is it intrinsically good. It is very dangerous for Catholics to act as though a particular manmade system, like capitalism, is on a level with Church dogma or doctrine. We cannot be worshippers at the altar of capitalism anymore than at the altar of any other manmade system.

  4. Joe says:

    Nice rhetoric try Tom Hoopes but you come off much more arrogant to dismiss your opponent in the first lines with an ad hominem.

    1. Tom Hoopes says:

      Yes, I worried about that and almost changed it.

      But if a hockey writer wrote a harshly critical piece about my mother claiming she was criminally insane, I would defend her and not shy from pointing out that he had no credentials to make that diagnosis.

      If I wrote a piece debunking global warming based on my own scientific analysis of my own climate models, I would expect a defender of it to point out that I’m not a scientist.

      And if a video critic wants to harshly denounce the Pope in a piece that paints him as anti-Catholic and pro-communist, in an article that rattles the faith of tens of thousands of readers who don’t know who he is, then I will definitely point out that he’s a video critic … and add (as I did): “Rather than dismiss him for his lack of credentials, let’s look at his arguments.”

  5. Jordan says:

    I just have one thing to say: “…Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.”

  6. Carol Hindman says:

    We as Catholics are supposed to guard against heresy. Since this Pope was selected I have heard nothing but constant heresy! People have been trying to pigeon hole him into the end of times prophesy and this supposedly being the last and evil Pope. A protestant take on a Catholic prophesy by the way. The media has gone wild playing on the emotions of end of timers and the Pope has been unfairly quoted and misinterpreted time and again. Those who refuse to see him as anything but the vicar of Christ endangers themselves as well as anyone whom they should convince of their views. I have been on my guard for what has been happening in the world for several years now and I refuse to condemn our Holy Father because the media enjoys the practice of making Catholics squirm and panic. By accepting this new game the media is playing, you fall right into their hands, or should I say the devils hands. What is the best way to defeat the Catholic Church?? Divide and conquer and they are doing a fine job of it! Pope Francis is challenging us to become better people. Instead of sitting here on your computer judging a man who has done much for humanity already, I suggest that all of you who are so ready to judge, get out there and do some good works. Notice that the media has not mentioned the things that he has said right, such as our need to go to confession often. Has that been
    mentioned?? Ever?? I heard him say it myself while watching him during a mass. I find it hard to believe that we as Catholics have lost our way so badly that the doctrine (which is truly very important) has become more important than how we treat each other! With that, we are back to the Pharisees who sat on their high horse and judged while Jesus went about preaching against that very thing. It makes me sad that there are so many Catholics who have been so quick to judge the Pope and I, who love every single thing about my God and My Church, wonder how I could be of the same faith as some of you. When in doubt follow Jesus! That is the whole point here!

    1. Bill Sr. says:

      Amen and Amen!

      1. Nicholas Copernicus says:

        The pope has to dress in funny clothes to me. Gosh that is also a true sign of humility, every day wearing those things. seriously people! All the sacrifices these priest make and then they have to wear that stuff to be a sign of Christ presence in the world. This is another reason there could only be one vicar of christ. I hope someone dresses him because the inner war that must go on every day to fight the temptation of having to wear that stuff needs to be fended for by at least one more soul. I could see where members of the roman Curia could get tricked into justifying illicit behavior, what courage it must take to have to wear those cassocks all day every day. This is a tremendous act of humility. Yes it lends itself to simplicity and not cluttering up ones mind with material possessions , but to truly humble yourself in this day and age when there are so many allternatives and styles, but making a conscious decision to stick with the suggestions of the church and wear the uniform so that others will be reminded that God is present in our lives and is using human beings who humble themselves to the degree that they will wear the same outfit every day for the rest of their lives . That is a courageous life to “always ” wear your badge. Cops go to work and then change after 8 hours in public life , but priest are married to the uniform until death do you part. This is too much of a burden for women to bare they should never want to become priest they barely these days stay in habits.

        1. Susan says:

          OMGosh Nicholas Copernicus. You sound like Protestant Reformist. A simple google search on priestly garments will tone this down quite a bit.

    2. Susan says:

      I totally agree. I sat next to a lady on a plane who said, “we need to love homosexuals but not associate w/them”. How is she susposed to ooze Christ w/that attitude.

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