"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist."
Which esteemed South American archbishop uttered these thought-provoking words?
It was not Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of
Like Bergoglio, Camara was deeply connected to those in poverty, also shunning the material trappings of the church. Unlike Bergoglio, Camara stood up and challenged the right-wing military dictatorship that ruled his nation through murder and terror.
In coming weeks we will read and hear much about what Bergoglio did or did not do during
This historical interlude matters, but it is not all that defines Francis. His actions and words paint a picture of a humble, pious and yet determined prelate. He is unambiguously conservative, but he may well challenge the Catholic and non-Catholic powers that be on the problem of poverty with a vigor not seen in recent years.
This is what a pope from
"We live in the most unequal part of the world, which has grown the most yet reduced misery the least. The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers."
This is the social question of the moment. How far will Francis go to press his natural constituency on the right wing to establish a more just economic order?
Shortly after the announcement of the new pope, well-known
Then, without missing a beat, Santorum couldn't help but pontificate a bit himself. It should be the church, he said, not government, that cares for the poor.
That's a good Catholic Republican for you, using his faith as a fig leaf for a libertarian philosophy that grinds the poor.
More moderate American Catholics found fleeting cause for hope upon hearing that the new pope was a Jesuit. But this too is a simplistic reading.
Bergoglio is indeed a Jesuit priest. But he has been an explicit opponent of liberation theology, the leftist political tendency within the clergy first articulated by Latin American theologians, which attracted no small number of Jesuits.
As archbishop of
He has called gay people raising children a form of discrimination against those children.
In short, liberals will find Francis irredeemably retrograde. They will find him to be another holdout against modernity who will not accept the reality that some people simply cannot live up to Catholic teaching on sexuality, and that virtually all Catholic women in the developed world use contraception at some point in their lives. Catholics who hoped the church might change its social views to comport with their own will have to wait much longer, perhaps forever, for a liberal pope.
Still, on the question of poverty this new pope may prove to be a scourge to a certain sort of conservative as well. He famously dressed down the "hypocritical" clergy in his see who refused to baptize children born out of wedlock. Moreover, his version of serving the least among us appears to be much more comprehensive than doling out loaves and fishes, Santorum style.
During a visit to the
- Anarchy and Hegemony
- The End of Youth
- Immortality: Holding Back the Years
- The Age of Aging
- Feel Like retiring? Forget It!
- Half-Baked Economic Theories Continue to Direct Global Economy
- Capitalism Is Not Dying
- When are Goals Ever Truly Realized in International Affairs?
- Beyond the Post-Cold War World
- Moscow - Beijing Ties: An Axis of Necessity
- UN Arms Treaty May Succeed Despite Iran, North Korea, Syria and NRA
- Grief Without Borders
- Elimination of Poverty Possible
- New Century is Off to a Wobbly Start
- Pope Francis Ties with Jews, Muslims Could Strengthen Vatican
- Pope Francis Staunch in Conservatism and in Defense of the Poor
- Bin Laden's Influence Lives on After Him
- Dam Construction Raising Regional Tensions
- Haiti's Man-Made Hell
- The World's Struggle to Kick the Habit
- United States and Israel Push The Boundaries of International Law
- Military Interventions Rarely Fulfill Their Goals
- Why Do Societies Give Up?
- War is Like Rust
- War's Lingering Phantoms
- Lasting Peace
- Controlling Lucifer
- United States to Join Global Race for Talent -- Big Time
(C) 2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc.