“60 Minutes,” one of America’s last remaining bulwarks of the status quo, devoted a full fawning hour to Pope Francis Sunday, between Christmas and New Years. Can this media-canonized pope save the world’s institutions, beginning with the Catholic Church and extending to the American-made international system?
What’s at issue is the whole crumbling world order, and the desperate need by those in positions of wealth and power (and make no mistake about it, the papacy is a position of wealth and power) to shore up the rotten timbers, even as more and more people are giving up on religions and the old order altogether.
When I was young, the news magazine “60 Minutes” challenged the powers that be, but in recent years it has been more concerned with falling ratings and stale rehash. It also has a developed a decidedly reactionary bent that covers the spectrum from nostalgia to ‘ain’t America wonderful’ segments.
But three puff pieces on the pope is too much. Toadying to the pope’s image, the show quotes a cardinal waxing lyrical about Pope Francis: “An evangelizer must never look like someone who is coming back from a funeral.” America’s leading news magazine is now shilling for this pope’s mission of remaking the Roman Catholic Church into a “missionary church.”
So hungry are people for moral guidance that they will forget (never mind forgive) the Vatican and its franchises all over the world for the sexual abuse of children over decades, covered up by bishops and Rome. Would Jesus, who overturned the established order in the Temple, have anything to do with such an institution?
You have to be an ex-Catholic to fully appreciate the meaning of the word ‘jesuitical.’ Pope Francis, a Jesuit as careful about his image as any American movie star (while at the same time declaring that he finds all the attention “offensive”) is the very definition of the word.
Jesuitical means, “one given to subtle casuistry.” Casuistry in turn is defined as “misleadingly subtle reasoning.” Subtle in these contexts is another word for sly. And Francis is one sly fellow.
Pope Francis handling of the Church’s pedophilia “filth” (to use his predecessor’s word) is very jesuitical. Following United Nations criticism earlier in the year, the new pope initially strongly defended the Roman Catholic Church’s record on tackling sexual abuse by priests. Then, when the media-savvy pope realized that his ‘man of the people’ and reformer persona was being tarnished, he felt compelled to “personally ask for forgiveness for the damage some priests have done for having sexually abused children.”
That’s the very definition of jesuitical, which implies having it both ways and bamboozling people into believing that the institution and office have come clean.
It’s the same pattern he followed in Argentina, when, as Jorge Bergoglio and head of the Jesuit order, he was charged with complicity in the torture and execution of progressive priests. The Catholic Church and Pope Francis were accused of “closing its eyes” during the “dirty war” of murders and abductions carried out by the junta that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983.
Eduardo de la Serna, coordinator of an Argentinean group of priests who focus on the plight of the poor, said, “Bergoglio is a man of power and he knows how to position himself among powerful people. I still have many doubts about his role regarding the Jesuits who went missing under the dictatorship.”
Given the worldwide blight to its brand that the child sex abuse scandal has brought upon the Vatican, might the cardinals have chosen Bergoglio precisely because he was able squirm out of the Argentinean scandal?
Some Protestants are given to ask, ‘what would Jesus do?’ (Catholics, and the mainstream media, just go the pope.) So what would Jesus do about the Ancient Rome-patterned, male-dominated organization?
Wouldn’t Jesus, whose closest disciple was a woman, Mary Magdalene, deny any affiliation the Roman Catholic Church in the first place, and denounce the essentially political institution of the papacy in the strongest terms? After all, wasn’t Jesus crucified because he vehemently objected to the cozy relationship between the Jewish rabbinical hierarchy and their Roman overlords?
And didn’t Jesus say, “Sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Selling off some of the land titles and gold trinkets, and giving the proceeds to the poor would be a good place for Pope Francis to start is he is serious about spiritual matters.
Let me lay my cards on the table. As an altar boy, I was one of the favorites of the priests, but a priest never touched me inappropriately. One of the parish priests even asked me to be master of ceremonies at the 25th anniversary of his ordination, which was quite an honor and responsibility for an 8th grader.
But by the 10th grade I had begun to question and research the ‘Holy Mother Church,’ and what I found, both by direct observation and inquisitiveness, led me to the Inquisition and a long line of papal corruption, amongst many other outrages.
So after I was sure that this religion, and all organized religions, had little or nothing to do with religious experiencing, I came downstairs one Sunday morning as a senior (when it was still a “mortal sin” the miss Mass), and announced parents that I wasn’t going to church that day or ever again.
The Vietnam War was at its height, and my parents threatened to deprive me of college, which meant no deferment, which meant certain draft, which meant I could be off fighting Vietcong in the rice paddies in months. Pardon the pun, but I stuck to my guns.
Much has been made of the Latin American pope’s role in initiating and mediating the deal between Cuba and the United States. Given American and Russian relations at present, and the re-starting of the Cold War standoff (people seem to have forgotten the thousands of nuclear weapons still in their silos), the attempt to reprise, with Cuba, the role of Pope John Paul in ending the first Cold War seems not just like small potatoes, but dangerous parody.
But then, so does all of the media-hyped papal piffles, given the crisis facing humanity.