The Pope’s problem
Published 11:17 pm Thursday, September 24, 2015
I’ve been a Roman Catholic since 1954.
I have great respect for Pope Francis. When it comes to matters of faith and morals, what he says, goes.
But when it comes to politics and economics, the pope is about as far from infallible as anyone can get.
For example, he was in Cuba earlier this week, meeting informally with Fidel Castro and touring the island to say Masses and meet with priests.
Apparently the pope was having such a good time he forgot that for more than half a century Cuba has been a rotten communist prison camp and his hosts Fidel, and his brother Raul, have been the wardens.
The people of Cuba have been denied every basic human freedom there is, plus they’ve been impoverished en masse and deprived of the simple blessings of modern life by the Castros’ brand of atheistic socialism.
Yet apparently Pope Francis couldn’t see the barbed wire that still surrounds Fidel’s broken-down paradise.
His visit to Cuba was a perfect chance for him to throw his moral weight around and shame the Castro brothers before the whole world.
But unlike John Paul II, who went to Communist Poland to encourage the creation of Solidarity and meet with its brave leaders, Francis ignored the existence of Cuba’s political dissenters and prisoners of conscience.
How great would it have been if Pope Francis had stood in Havana Cathedral and delivered a “Mr. Castro, cut down that barbed wire” sermon?
Instead, in the poorest and least free dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere, he warned the people against letting riches rule your life.
Getting too rich and losing your spiritual values is the last thing the poor of Cuba need to fear right now.
I’m afraid Pope Francis wouldn’t get that joke because, unfortunately, he really does think capitalism and its love child, manmade climate change, are the world’s two biggest problems.
Not ISL taking territory and beheading people. Not terrorism. Not the Syrian refugees. Not a nuclear Iran. Not the civil wars in Ukraine or Yemen or Libya or Iraq. Not the poverty or lack of electricity or clean water for half of Africa. Not a hundred other things.
Global warming and capitalism. Seriously.
On Wednesday, one of the first things the pope did in Washington was call for a fight against climate change, which he said is a planetary crisis so serious it “can no longer be left to future generations.”
He didn’t explain how spending hundreds of billions of dollars to lower the global temperature a tenth of degree a hundred years from now will help the poor, because it’s unexplainable even for a pope.
Before he heads back to Rome, Francis will surely get around to scolding America for the inequalities of its capitalist economic system and the greed of Wall Street.
But like so many Americans of the liberal faith, he has capitalism and socialism backwards.
It’s capitalism that has made America the wealthiest and most generous country in the history of mankind and has brought forth everything we eat, use and enjoy.
It’s capitalism and freedom, not socialism and its chains, that have brought a much better life on Earth for billions of the poor souls the pope cares so much about.
Does the pope realize that 401(k)s and pension funds owe their good returns to the health of Wall Street and the stock market?
Or that most of the enormous wealth the Catholic Church has acquired over the centuries was generated by greedy immoral capitalism?
I bet not.
Pope Francis is rightly praised for caring deeply about the poor and the marginalized.
But he’ll never figure out how to actually help them until he understands what made America so wealthy and stops worrying about the wrong things.
Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan, a political consultant, and the author of “The New Reagan Revolution” (St. Martin’s Press).