Pope Francis’ commentary is indeed becoming political and influences many American Catholics as they consider candidates in the fall elections. The Holy Father seemingly does not have a comprehensive American perspective, that is an American perspective from a Northern Hemisphere’s view of life. As a native American that hails from the Southern American Hemisphere, Pope Francis’ pastoral message lacks a distinctive understanding of the social and political thoughts of the inhabitants of the United States. Pope Francis’ experiences in Argentina as a priest, bishop and cardinal underscore his abilities to negotiate the Catholic Church’s rights against totalitarian governments that flourish in the precepts of collective socialism. However, when dealing with the political concepts of the American Republic, Pope Francis would be well served with counsel from well experienced and educated Americans that are experts in this regard.
Bernie Sanders might consider Pope Francis as a kindred spirit in terms of the Holy Father’s progressive Catholicism, but most American Catholics are unlikely followers to this social and theological thought advocated by the Holy Father. Cultural differences, well established in the United States that are deeply infused with materialism is the first obstacle Pope Francis’ message encounters in the United States. Things, things and more things are part of the collective American psyche because of the role the United States played in the Industrial Revolution. The possession of material things, and indeed personal wealth is important to Americans, but it does not presume they are unwilling to divest themselves of material things, or share wealth with the less fortunate. Pope Francis needs to properly address his pastoral message to American Catholics not as a derogatory challenge that affronts United States Catholics as selfish; rather as an incentive to responsibly share our personal and national resources with the less fortunate as logical result of our blessed society. If indeed, Pope Francis utilized an approach that accentuated the positive aspects of Capitalism, rather than a collective denunciation of American society, the reverberations of anti-Catholic sentiments would not be collectively as negative. With that in mind, Pope Francis needs to keenly remember that despite of our materialistic inclinations in American society, American Catholics are generous contributors to the Peter’s Pence collection, annually contributing in excess of $15,000,000 in 2014 (according to the USCCB website!) Materialistic Americans provide a large part of the operating revenue necessary for the Holy Father’s apostolic ministry. Please don’t bite the hand of the United States Catholics that support the mission of the Holy See!
As the Pontifex Maximus, the Chief Bridge Builder as one of the papal titles, Pope Francis needs to build a bridge of fellowship with the United States that does not terminate with an existential misunderstanding of precisely Pope Francis is proposing as the global ministry of the Catholic Church as both a theological beacon of hope, as well as an institutional advocate for human rights as part of the proclamations of Pope Francis. Frankly, the Catholic Church is poised to become the singular most powerful advocate in the world for the needs of the poor and economically deprived peoples. However, the papal rhetoric needs to combine the message of Jesus’ teachings with the socio-political world of global politics that are often at odds with each other, let alone the leader of the Catholic Church as another political voice with an opinion on politics in the United States. While the United States is a relative toddler compared with the Roman Papacy, both entities are capable of learning from each other. The United States needs to realize that the Holy See has the oldest diplomatic corps in the world and the Holy See needs to appreciate the massive American resources that are available to an often neglected world that is wrought with hunger and poverty on a scale unknown in America. Pope Francis needs to nurture the American government in a diplomatic and paternal spirit of collective responsibility, rather than scolding Americans collectively as a society of narcissistic materialists that are unwilling to share their resources with the rest of the world.
Pope Francis’ background as descended from a socialist regime in Argentina in some degree predetermines his pastoral message as adversarial when it comes to dealing with the developed and economically powerful nations of the world. It would be astute for the Holy Father to adopt not an adversarial attitude against the economically powerful nations of the world, but invoke challenge to those nations. That challenge for the United States and the other industrialized global community is to recognize the needs of the poor and under privileged not as a resource for exploitation through Capitalism, but an opportunity for sowing seeds of democracy and industrial independence that results from the financial contributions of the developed world. The positive aspects of capitalism need to merge with the theological teachings of the Gospel to unite the world in a substantive manner that respects the intrinsic human rights and dignities and at the same time elevate the human condition out of collective suffering as a result of poverty and lack of natural resources.
The Catholic Church is indeed a global institution with a long history fostering human rights and dignities against political and ideological entities that are determined to undermine the Church’s message of universal peace and global prosperity. Despite the often blunt and reactionary declarations of Pope Francis, American Catholics, indeed all Americans desire both peace and prosperity for all peoples. However, calling for these two things, at the expense of loosing our free choice to contribute to the elimination of the world’s maladies through an adaptation of capitalism that effectively works with Catholicism and its sacred teachings alienates and further disturbs Americans, especially when Pope Francis’ statements interfere with the democratic process of American politics.
Pope Francis please seek good counsel on the American way of life, and work towards a common good based on a just understanding of capitalism and economic developments as the resource necessary to solve the world’s woes, not as the cause of global injustices and economic inequalities. The approach that seeks a collective and positive resolution towards eradication of social, political and economic injustices in harmony with the teachings of the Catholic Church will produce a bountiful harvest for generations to come.