At last, a politician who says what he means and doesn’t hold back.
This politician is the leader of one of the world’s smallest countries, Vatican City. But make no mistake about it. He is fully prepared to fight for the causes that he fervently believes in.
To an assembled multitude of over a million in Ecuador, Pope Francis delivered several broadsides the intent of which could not be mistaken. Calling present day capitalism and corporate greed “the dung of the devil,” he called the world’s leaders “cowards” for not enacting meaningful legislation to alleviate the plight of the poor and also to save the planet.
There was no mistaking his intent.
“There is the stench of… ‘the dung of the devil.’ The unfettered pursuit of money rules….This system is … intolerable.” said the Pope, “Farmworkers find it intolerable, laborers find it intolerable, communities find it intolerable, people find it intolerable … The earth itself … also finds it intolerable.” “It is not enough to let a few drops fall whenever the poor shake a cup which never runs over by itself.”
Hammering away on his theme of economic justice, this time in Paraguay, he offered yet another “altar of money” and accusing the wealthy of worshipping a new “golden calf.”
Never, to my knowledge, has any Pope or other religious leader of stature, had the courage to speak so forcefully.
In an age, when every nuance, gesture or even yawn is captured by the media; where leaders from a member of the village council to the President of the United States choose their words oh-so-carefully, the Pope’s sermon was breathtaking and spectacular. He did not speak with vague references for fear of antagonizing the rulers of the countries he is visiting. We aren’t accustomed to world leaders hitting with such impact. We definitely are not used our own religious leaders throwing caution to the wind, and addressing their congregations with the passion of the prophets.
Thank God for Pope Francis, literally. I am aware that when the College of Cardinals gathers to elect a new pope, they are said to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Until now, I was sure that this was just a pious euphemism for concealing the bargaining that must go on in the Sistine Chapel.
I was wrong. In choosing Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to lead the Catholic Church, the Cardinals were guided by a Force greater than themselves. They did not choose a company man, like they did last time. Perhaps they simply had learned from the last time or, perhaps, they truly received guidance from Above. I choose to believe the latter.
It is no secret that the Church is in big trouble throughout much of the world. The priest abuse scandals have taken a heavy toll. Catholics in the U.S. and throughout much of Europe have voted with their feet and have left the Church. Many people (of various faiths) wonder if organized religion is necessary at all.
And now, less than two years, this extraordinary man has redefined the papacy, and perhaps even the Church itself. When one listens to the Pope’s unvarnished words, it should be clear that his guiding principles are what religion is supposed to be, “to comfort the disturbed and to disturb the comfortable.”
Pope Francis takes no sides politically. He is the champion of the poor, the exploited and the forgotten. I have no doubt that when he visits the U.S., he will be just as direct. The world’s most powerful nation will get a full dose of Francis’ moral indignation. Let us hope that our own leaders will take heed.
Thank God for this great and humble man, an authentic servant of God and of all of God’s creatures.