I took some crap from my Catholic brethren for being unfair to the Holy, Mother Church.
To do penance for that post I thought I’d mention a recent story that is indicative to me of what I take to be the greatest gift the Catholic Church presently offers the world.
In case you missed it, Pope Francis recently spoke about the need for global financial reform “along ethical lines that would produce in its turn an economic reform to benefit everyone. Money has to serve, not to rule” Francis said.
The new Pope went to excoriate Western society for its relationship to money and its worship of the free market, saying the worship of the golden calf of old, has now a new image, “in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.”
You can read the rest of the story here.
To get back to my reason for writing, Pope Francis’ strong words against unfettered capitalism remind the world that though the Catholic Church advocates against abortion and homosexuality it (the Catholic Church) does not fit into the ‘conservative’ category, at least as its given to us in American culture. The very same seamless garment of life that prompts the Church to protect the unborn provokes it defend the prisoner and the poor.
The Pope before him took a dim view of America’s unprovoked war in Iraq and the current Pope just reminded everyone that the Church’s understanding of economics is both older than Milton Friedman and at odds with him.
And, to my mind, that’s the best thing going about the Catholic Church right now.
While all Christian bodies self-present as a global church, seldom do they meet that assertion.
My own Methodist tradition IS a global stream of Christianity yet that stream is comprised of myriad rivulets and eddies, with each taking the character, perspective and loyalty of their nation and culture. So in the United States we have United Methodism and in Korea we have the Korean Methodist Church and so on.
People called Methodists are not a singular global body with a unified witness.
We’re more like managers and employees of a franchise lacking a CEO.
What United Methodists, for example, say about a particular issue- conservative or liberal- inevitably sounds like what any one else from the United States would say, Christian or not.
No where is this more true and obvious than with the situation in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican “Communion.” In case you missed it, (story here) the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church (USA) used the holy day of Pentecost to cast the Apostle Paul (you know, author of most of the New Testament whether we like it or not) aside as a ‘bigot’ using the Book of Acts of all things to make her case.
One would think she could used a text actually authored by Paul for the one formerly known as Saul gives ample ammunition the cause. While I may have sympathies with the issue behind her sermon even someone who agrees with her on the issue of sexuality must admit the ethnocentrism inherent in her perspective, for to liken one’s position to a fresh outpouring of the Spirit is to put those other sincere Christians who disagree in what sort of light?
While I acknowledge all the flaws and imperfections in the following, I nonetheless believe:
Only the Catholic Church with its bishop among bishops, who is beholden to no other government, politics, military or culture, offers a voice free to be, firstly and thoroughly, Christian.
This is why, I think, on issue after issue, from war to sexuality to torture to economics, the office of the Pope is so routinely ‘all over the place,’ refusing easy secular categorization.
Pope Francis’ words on economics would get pilloried (actually probably yawned at) as ‘Occupy Wallstreet’ language if a United Methodist had said them.
Fact is, he’s just speaking Christian.
That Francis’ words on economics sound ‘political’ to us (or even ‘partisan’ when on another’s lips) is but an indication of how we’re more captured by our politics than we are by our Great High Priest.