Why do conservatives want to do away with Pope Francis’ First Amendment rights? Why do they want to restrict freedom of speech for the Holy Father? Why can’t the Pope stand up for his religious beliefs without being attacked and threatened by conservatives? Why are conservatives trying to silence God?
Ken Langone, the billionaire who put together the initial financing for Arthur Blank and Bernie Marcus to start Home Depot, has delivered a threatening message from another millionaire to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, warning that if Pope Francis doesn’t quit talking ugly about rich people’s lack of compassion, rich people are going to quit donating money to the church.
For conservatives who don’t see how that is a huge affront to the Holy Father’s freedom of speech, I’ll translate it down to where they can understand it: Suppose a cable channel warned some actor that if he didn’t quit talking ugly about gay people, the cable channel would quit paying him money to act.
Pope Francis has created quite a stir among conservatives by simply standing up for his religious beliefs and telling people what the Bible says about people with a lot of money who have no empathy for the poor. He has correctly pointed out that Reagan-designed trickle-down economics do not work and doing things which benefit the wealthy never results in more crumbs falling from the table for the poor. He has also criticized the wide income-disparity gap which always widens further under Republican administrations and narrows under Democrat administrations.
And for speaking out about his religious beliefs on wealth and the poor, Sarah Palin has flippantly labeled Pope Francis as “the Obama of the Catholic Church” while Rush Limbaugh has called him a “Marxist” and Paul Ryan has said “this guy” just doesn’t understand American capitalism because he isn’t from around here. Ryan’s statement seems to be the one that is talking hold as the main talking point of conservatives: The Pope is used to crony capitalism in Argentina and he just doesn’t know that wealthy people in America are a whole bunch sweeter and nicer to poor people. (As evidenced by what? Walmart and McDonald’s paying a living wage plus benefits and conservatives' support for raising the minimum wage, giving food stamps to the poor and paying unemployment to the jobless?)
The only difference between conservatives exercising their freedom of speech by condemning gay people to Hell and Pope Francis exercising his freedom of speech by criticizing wealthy people, is the Pope’s failure to hatefully proclaim that rich people are going to Hell. But he could. Jesus plainly and unequivocally said that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to avoid spending eternity among the fiery flames of a hot burning Hell (paraphrasing by me).
Of course, since the express teachings of Jesus on this subject run contrary to conservative thought, the religious right has come up with a way to “rightly divide the word of truth” (“interpret it the way we want to interpret it”) by saying that Jesus was not speaking of a literal camel and a literal needle. On this (inconvenient) scripture, we have to look at “historical context” which shows that during the time of Jesus, there was a narrow passage between two mountains known as the “eye of the needle,” much like Fat Man’s Squeeze at Rock City, and while a camel had to be careful as it went through, it was not impossible for a camel to pass.
[Really good Christians can do this in their sleep. You take this scripture literally, that scripture figuratively; you read this scripture in the context of today, that scripture in its historical context; you use the plain English definition this word, the original Hebrew meaning of that word; you understand this passage within the four corners of the page, that passage by reference to an outside document; you add X to this side, subtract Y from that side, multiple both sides by Z and divide the result by the square root of 5.]
Conservatives are criticizing the Pope for speaking out against the idolatry of money. But Jesus said that a person cannot serve God while simultaneously worshiping material wealth.
Conservatives are criticizing the Pope for speaking out against income disparity and the wealth gap between those at the very top and the rest of us. But Jesus placed income disparity on the same footing with adultery. When the rich young ruler approached Jesus and asked what he must do to go to Heaven, Jesus told him to obey the commandments: don’t kill, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, honor your parents and treat people the way you want to be treated. The rich young ruler then said that he had kept all these commandments his entire life. But Jesus said he lacked one thing: he must sell all that he had and give to the poor. And the Bible says, the rich young ruler “went away sorrowfully, because he had many possessions.”
The thing that absolutely blows my mind is how deferential and reverent and timid conservatives have always been towards a pope when it came to the protection of child molesters. Before Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict, he had served for 24 years as the head of the Congregation of The Doctrine of The Faith where he directed that all allegations of child abuse by priests were to come to his desk in Rome where they would never see the light of day. He’s living out the remainder of his life within the sovereign borders of Vatican City, partly out of fear that he will be arrested if he ventures out to another country. Yet conservative leaders would never criticize him, out of fear of being seen as attacking the church or being irreverent. My own posts against Pope Benedict on this subject were seen as brash and an attack on Catholicism.
But, now! Now that we have a Pope who is speaking out against the lack of compassion and lack of empathy that often goes hand in hand with riches and wealth; now that we have a Pope who is criticizing the economic religion of collectively taking care of the wealthy job creators in the hopes than huge benefits heaped upon them will eventually trickle down to the poor people; now that we have a Pope who is encouraging us to follow the teachings of Jesus about taking care of the poor…NOW, they criticize him.