Pope Francis is once again on a mission to prove his bona fides as a modern, rock-star pope. Unlike Pope John Paul II who was sometimes referred to as a rock star because of his charisma and ability to explain Catholic doctrine in a compelling and attractive way, Pope Francis wants to be much more like an actual rock star. Rather than focusing on core Catholic issues, he prefers to stick to the uncontroversial territory of Social Justice Warrior in order to appeal to hip lefties. He’s often proclaimed as a “super duper popular pope that everyone loves”, but this is largely because he makes no moral demands except maybe to recycle and kind of be nice to people. Who would argue with that? Certainly not the hip social leftists of Hollywood and elsewhere.
Most recently, and the inspiration for the writing of this article, he appeared on a TED talk. Was it to talk about a closer relationship to God, or how to live a better life through the teaching of Jesus Christ? Or that Jesus gives his body and blood in the Eucharist to those who want eternal life? Nope. It was about not wasting stuff. You know, because having 4 sweaters instead of 3 is pretty serious stuff. Yeah yeah, salvation, schmalvation, the main issue in our world at the moment is not letting power get to your head as the pope describes as drinking gin on an empty stomach. He referred several times in his talk to taking care of others. But it’s always very vague. “don’t leave people on the side of the road”. Essentially his main message is socialism 101. Some people make too much money, people care too much about “stuff”. One person’s wealth = another person’s poverty. He has never advocated more economic freedom which has been proven to be the driver of success and prosperity. He views the world as a zero-sum game.
200 years ago, 80% of the world was extremely poor. Now it’s like 12%, the lowest rate in human history. This isn’t simply because the 20% gave all their wealth away to the other 80%. Unfortunately the pope doesn’t understand that economic prosperity, rather than simply “being nice to poor people”, is the real solution. In fact, he has denounced capitalism as the “dung of the devil”. He, as a social justice warrior, has advocated the same things that have made Venezuela one of the worst places on Earth. Because of his stances, he has become very popular in pop culture. He is very trendy. No more pesky talk about universal morals or calls to holiness. How passé!
But don’t think this means anything positive for Catholicism in general. Mass attendance has not increased, nor has the number of people converting to Catholicism. In fact, within faithful Catholic circles, people at best try to view Pope Francis as meaning well but making media blunders and at worse view him as purely a social justice warrior who wants to appear popular, relevant and “cool”.
With this current pope, you are much more likely to get an earful about not throwing out rotten bananas or the need to smile more than you will about sexµal ethics, the seven deadly sins, sacrifice, the Eucharist, the necessity of the Church, or traditional devotionals such as the rosary or the stations of the cross. He will not address the personal moral problems facing people around the world today.
As I was thinking about this yesterday, I realized that Pope Francis’s message is only geared toward the top 1% or top 10% people in the world. They are the exploiters and wasters and people destroying the Earth and other people. It seems the other 90% or 99% are entities without agency. They are simply victims who are not moral actors, they are simply acted upon. As my friend noted, his message seems more political and in line with leftist political thought than a message designed to help every individual morally and spiritually.
Despite his attempts to create an image of being a kindly old man who is not interested in dogma but rather in being kind, gentle and “tender”, he actually treats people who question him with harshness, calling them Pharisees and saying they are too strict. He has banished many people who simply seek humble clarification on issues. He has demoted people who merely ask questions.
I think the pope needs to return to true Catholic principles and spend less time being a modern-day social justice warrior. The Church will not attract new followers by attempting to appear to be the same as the rest of the world. As anyone in marketing will know, to create a strong brand, an organization must stick to what makes it unique and promote that. No marketer would suggest an image that says you are the same as everyone else. Trying to be more like the world will not bring in converts. I believe what will bring in converts is showing how the Catholic Church can improve your life and the world substantially by following Jesus Christ.