Speaking of Catholics with good sense, Pope Francis delivered a 38-minute video message to the fourth World Meeting of Popular Movements yesterday. He opened by referring to global social activists (and no, he’s not talking about you fascist insurrectionists out trying to destroy democracy) as “Queridos Poetas Sociales”—Dear Social Poets:
This is what I like to call you, social poets. You are social poets, because you have the ability and the courage to create hop where there appears to be only waste and exclusion. Poetry means creativity, and you create hope. With your hands, you know how to shape the dignity of each person, of families and of society as a whole with land, housing, work, care, and community [emphasis mine; Pope Francis I, video address to IV World Meeting of Popular Movements, translation from Spanish as presented in captions, Vatican News, 2021.10.16].
Social poets, creating hope—what a fine and Christian way to spend one’s days.
Pope Francis exhorts us social poets to keep pursuing justice for the oppressed:
The Meeting brings together activists from the most marginalized communities of society and participants include street vendors, artisans, fishermen, farmers, builders, miners, Christian workers of various trades and professions.
“In thinking of you,” the Pope said, “I believe your dedication is above all a proclamation of hope” reminding us that “we are not condemned to repeat or to build a future based on exclusion and inequality, rejection or indifference; where the culture of privilege is an invisible and irrepressible power and exploitation and abuse are a habitual method of survival” [Benedict Mayaki, “Pope to Popular Movements: You Create Hope and Forge Dignity,” Vatican News, 2021.10.16].
Justice, says Pope Francis, lies in reining in capitalist exploitation, division, and lies:
Pope Francis went on to make a series of nine appeals “in the name of God”. He appealed to big laboratories to liberalize patents and allow every country to have access to the vaccine; to financial groups and credit institutions to waive debts in order to allow poor countries to guarantee the basic needs of their people; to big extractive companies to stop destroying forests, wetland and mountains and polluting rivers and seas; to big corporations to stop monopolistic production and distribution structures that inflate prices and withhold bread from the hungry; and to arms manufacturers and dealers to cease their activity that foments violence and war.
The Holy Father also called on technology giants to stop exploiting the vulnerability of people to gain profit; on the giants of telecommunications to liberalize access to educational material to help educate poor children during quarantine; on the media to stop the logic of post-truth, disinformation, and an unhealthy attraction for scandal and contribute to human fraternity and empathy; and on powerful companies to stop blockades and unilateral sanctions against countries.
“This system, with its relentless logic of profit, is getting out of all human control. It is time to put the brakes on the locomotive, an out-of-control locomotive that is carrying us towards the abyss. There is still time,” the Pope said.
Then, addressing governments and politicians, he urged them to represent their peoples and work for the common good, listening to the people and not only the economic elites who are “so often the mouthpieces of superficial ideologies that evade the real dilemmas of humanity” [Mayaki, 2021.10.16].
Pope Francis also waves off you knuckleheads conflating God, guns, and Trump (that’s the content of a flag I saw on U.S. 281 north of Wolsey the other day, flying disrespectfully above the Stars and Stripes):
I also want to ask all of us religious leaders never to use the name of God to foment wars or coups. Let us stand by the peoples, the workers, the humble, and let us struggle together with them so that integral human development may become a reality. Let us build bridges of love so that the voices of the periphery with their weeping, but also with their singing and joy, provoke not fear but empathy in the rest of society.
And so, I persist in my pestering.
It is necessary to confront together the populist discourses of intolerance, xenophobia, and aporophobia, which is hatred of the poor. Like everything that leads us to indifference, meritocracy and individualism, these narratives only serve to divide our peoples, and to undermine and nullify our poetic capacity, the capacity to dream together.
Sisters and brothers, let us dream together [Pope Francis, 2021.10.16].
Por favor, Papa, ¡persista!
Pope Francis says that dreaming requires us to forgo the docile path of accepting (incorrectly, the Pope insists) that there is no better system than the status quo and choose the difficult path of changing the system toward greater justice. Pope Francis urges us to turn from resignation to action with this remarkable statement about the parable of the Good Samaritan and George Floyd:
In Fratelli tutti I used the parable of the Good Samaritan as the clearest possible Gospel Presentation of this intentional choice. A friend told me that the figure of the Good Samaritan. A friend told me that the figure of the Good Samaritan is associated by a certain cultural industry with a half-wit. This is the distortion that provokes the depressive hedonism that is meant to neutralise the transformative power that people possess, and in particular young people.
Do you know what comes to mind now when, together with popular movements, I think of the Good Samaritan? Do you know what comes to mind? The protests over the death of George Floyd.
It is clear that this type of reaction against the social, racial, or macho [!] injustice can be manipulated or exploited by political machinations or whatever, but the main thing is that, in that protest against this death, there was the Collective Samaritan who is no fool! This movement did not pass by on the other side of the road when it saw the injury to human dignity caused by an abuse of power. The popular movements are not only social poets by also collective Samaritans [Pope Francis, 2021.10.16].
Neither the Good Samaritan, the Collective Samaritan protesting George Floyd’s murder, nor Pope Francis is a half-wit. We must not pass by on the other side of the road when we see abuses of power that injure human dignity. We must approach and challenge those abuses of power to restore human dignity.
Pope Francis knows he’ll catch heck from some quarters for speaking up for social justice, but non carborundum illegitimus est. The Pope understands the criticism comes from the wealthy and powerful trying to keep their wealth and power:
It sometimes surprises me that every time I speak of these principles, some people are astonished, and then the Holy Father gets labeled with a series of epithets that are used to reduce any reflection to mere discrediting adjectives. It doesn’t anger me, it saddens me. It is part of the post-truth plot that seeks to nullify any humanistic search for an alternative to capitalist globalisation. It is part of the throwaway culture, and it is part of the technocratic paradigm [Pope Francis, 2021.10.16].
…and from members of his own Church who don’t understand their own teachings and traditions:
…And it saddens me that some members of the Church get annoyed when we mention these guidelines that belong to the full tradition of the Church. But the Pope must not stop mentioning thus teaching, even if it often annoys people, because what is at stake is not the Pope but the Gospel [Pope Francis, 2021.10.16].
Pope Francis won’t get me to convert, but I find his adherence to and advocacy of principle in the face of criticism admirable and exemplary.
And while I’m neither Catholic nor Republican, I can endorse more of Pope Francis’s Catholic social agenda than I can of the supposedly Christian-based agendae of any noisy Republicans I know here in South Dakota.