Now seems a good time to step back and consider what so often eludes us in our rush to pontificate: Context, context, context.
Both Karl Marx and Pope Francis may have critiqued our idolatry of money as creating an “economy of exclusion and inequality,” as Francis described the global economic system in his “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel). But Marx was making an economic statement and Francis was making a theological one. Christianity is based on Christ, while Marxism advocates abolition of religion and acceptance of atheism. One receives grace and performs acts of charity; the other abjures grace and systematizes penury.
Next comes Adam Shaw, news editor for FoxNews.com and a Catholic, who wrote that the pope is like Obama — the worst invective a good conservative can hurl this side of “You’re a tool of Satan!”
“Just like President Obama loved apologizing for America, Pope Francis likes to apologize for the Catholic Church, thinking that the church is at its best when it is passive and not offending anyone’s sensibilities,” wrote Shaw. Both men, he implies, “pander to enemies,” and are “professional grievance mongers.” And so on.
Pray, where does one see passivity in Pope Francis? The man is an activist, a street worker, a foot washer and evangelizer. There’s nothing passive or pandering about him. And it would appear that Francis is quite willing to offend sensibilities.
It is useful to remember that Jesus wasn’t only a carpenter’s son but a radical who turned the tables on the status quo. Likewise Francis — a Christian right down to his sensible black leather shoes, the better to walk the walk and sneak out at night to minister to Rome’s homeless.
What set off conservatives was the pope’s criticism of “trickle-down” economic theory that places absolute faith in markets to be humane and fair. Conservatives argue correctly that capitalism has done more to raise millions from poverty than any other system. And they well remember the fusion of Marxism and Christianity called “liberation theology” that seeks to redistribute wealth.