Is Pope Francis a "Radical Leftist"?

Conservatives are not happy with Pope Francis. They are saying that he should not be making “political” statements.”  I am not a Catholic theologian or an expert on Catholic social teaching, but isn’t Francis just being a consistent Catholic?  Somebody help me out here.

Moreover, since when has Church teaching ever been separated from politics?  Over at the New Republic, Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig explains:

After an initial wave of adulation, Pope Francis is now suffering a backlash. Granted, all popes suffer their critics for various decisions about liturgy and doctrine, but Pope Francis seems to have ignited a firestorm among Catholics due to his habit of addressing political matters. Rightwing disdain for Francis is deep enough to have some conservatives strategizing on how to continue to combat his influence without delivering possible gains to Democrats or so-called liberal Catholics.

Writing at The Week, Michael Brendan Dougherty hoped for “a truly humble papacy, where politics is avoided, and where the personality of the occupant does not presage some reform”that is, a papacy the world has scarcely known. For years, papal encyclicals have included politics, from Rerum Novarum’s 1891 treatment of capital and labor to Quadregesimo Anno’s 1931 look at socialism and capitalism. More recently, Saint Pope John Paul II was said to have had a hand in the defeat of communism, thanks to, in the words of Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum, “his unusual abilityderived from charisma and celebrity as well as faithto get people out on the streets.” It should come as no surprise that Pope John Paul II’s political legacy is heeded at conservative Catholic outfits like First Things as a positive one, and that his tendency to involve himself in political affairs via craft and charisma (such as the Bosnian War) was not regarded by the anti-Francis crowd with the same distaste.

In any analysis of a public figure, partisan interests will influence one’s opinion, and there isn’t anything particularly productive about pointing out that conservatives tend to forgive in conservative leaders what they don’t in liberals. A more helpful question is this: Why has Pope Francis addressed political issues, such as climate change, inequality, poverty, and overpopulation? Is it evidence of abject partisan interest, or a covert dedication to communism, Marxism, or some other insidious ideology?

Or is it just that we now presume that “politics” belongs outside the Church’s purviewdespite the Church’s historical record of considering and intervening in political affairs? To me, this appears to be the distortion at hand.

This is partly because the notion that “politics” can be neatly separated from daily life is a new one. For earlier political theorists, like Aristotle and Augustine, politics was just a natural extension of community life. But over time, a fantasy of “politics” wholly divorced from everyday life and experience has emerged in certain corners of liberal thought, producing with it the expectation that politics is a matter for professional politicians and their colleagues, while those in religious offices should simply avoid addressing politics altogether.

Yet, even if Pope Francis attempted to avoid politics, he would still run into trouble: This is because while “politics” has been increasingly cordoned off into a hermetically sealed chamber of thought in recent centuries, its purview has also been expanding so that it has absorbed new issues over time.

Read the rest here.

2 thoughts on “Is Pope Francis a "Radical Leftist"?

  1. Rule One: Never believe anything you read in the media attributed to the Pope or Rush Limbaugh. Odds are strong they have misunderstood.

    Sorry, But Media Coverage of Pope Francis is Papal Bull


    Second, Pope Francis does have a left-liberal sensibility. So does Catholic social teaching. But it's also lazy to assume Western conservatives are unconcerned with the plight of the poor. The differences with the modern left are over the how, not the what, the best means to achieve prosperity and safeguard human dignity and freedom.

    And so, in his upcoming encyclical, the important thing is that Francis not overstep the bounds of papal authority and so far he has not.

    As his “right-wing” predecessor wrote in the very wise Caritas in verite

    “The Church does not have technical solutions to offer and does not claim 'to interfere in any way in the politics of States.'

    She does, however, have a mission of truth to accomplish, in every time and circumstance, for a society that is attuned to man, to his dignity, to his vocation. Without truth, it is easy to fall into an empiricist and sceptical view of life, incapable of rising to the level of praxis because of a lack of interest in grasping the values — sometimes even the meanings — with which to judge and direct it. Fidelity to man requires fidelity to the truth, which alone is the guarantee of freedom (cf. Jn 8:32) and of the possibility of integral human development.”

    To which the “conservative” can only add, amen—and Francis would too.


  2. Thanks for this post. Reminds me of Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish Blog posts. Ever since he went commercial (but now retired) I've missed this kind of information which he was so good at.


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