The thing with Pope Francis, though, is he doesn't fit nicely into any of our political parties in Canada. With all of his emphasis on caring for the environment and for the poor and refugees, you’d think he’d vote Liberal or NDP. But then he’s pro life, which is a position that those parties won’t even allow their members to hold!
And it’s even worse in the States! Everyone I know praises Pope Francis- my atheist friends, my protestant friends, fallen away Catholics… my only friends who are critical of him are Conservative Catholic Americans. You’d think conservative Catholics would be the most firmly in the Pope’s camp! This is probably not representative of all conservative Catholic Americans, but I know several. They object to the Pope on the following grounds; he believes in Climate Change ( an ‘error’ they ascribe to his scientific community being misled), he’s critical of capitalism, he’s opposed to capital punishment, and he wants us to take in more refugees. Interestingly, I share the same faith with those guys, and yet I am with the Pope on every one of those topics! (Who I also share the faith with, I’d like to point out.)
Now to be clear, we are not required as Catholics to believe in climate change or to be opposed to capital punishment. All of the people I mentioned are well informed, and have done their research, and give their Ascent of Faith to the Church. But I want to suggest that what is happening is that we align ourselves so closely with our political ideologies that we sometimes confuse our ideologies with Church teaching. I want to challenge anyone who has done that to be open and ask the question- what is it the Pope is asking? We are so politicized in North America, that we have politicized our faith. The term “Religious Right” is used so commonly that it discredits both the political right and Christianity in one swipe!
Though the Pope is calling for some degree of change at the societal level, he is not calling for an overthrow of capitalism or for everyone to vote for leftist parties. I think his message is one that should challenge all of us, wherever we fall on the political spectrum. When he emphasizes the environment or love of the poor, he points at a root cause that I think our whole culture is guilty of- rampant consumerism. The call isn't to tax consumerism and so discourage it- a decidedly political solution to the problem. The call is for the transformation of hearts- to conversion. A decidedly Christian solution.
Pope Francis has been Pope for over 2 years now, decrying the sins of consumerism and asking that we be a Church that is poor and for the poor. In that time, how many of us have actually changed our consumer habits to align them with the Pope’s values? I say it’s time we heeded the call, repented of our sins, and opened ourselves to the mercy that comes with repentance.
Peter van Kampen