Pope Francis – The Church’s Principal Progressive

Last Sunday was Easter. It is celebrated by Christians the world over as the day of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ – the Son of God – made Man thirty some years before on that first Christmas day. His suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection were in fulfillment of God’s promise to provide a Savior for mankind.

It is usually about this time each year that the newspapers and mainstream media gather the naysayers to doubt, criticize and demean Christians in general, and Catholics in particular, for their beliefs. Curiously, this year little attention has been paid to those cynics. It may well be due to the declining number of people who identify with a particular faith. It may be due to the unceasing march of government to remove any reference to the Christian faith from the schools or other public bodies – and in many instances to castigate religion. It may be due to the breakdown of the American family – if there is insufficient commitment necessary to honor the family, there is even less to honor a church. Whatever the reason there is a remarkable reduction in the number of people practicing the Christian faith.

And maybe it’s because the modern day Progressives see a fellow traveler in Pope Francis I and his secular agenda. No sense making waves from the outside of the Church if the leader inside the Church is doing the work for you.

Pope Francis was ordained into the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). The Jesuits are best noted for their excellent high schools and universities and for their centuries of interfering in secular politics. In its earliest days (beginning with its founding by St. Ignatius of Loyola in 1540) it was organized in much the same fashion as the military to who it attached itself during the period of European exploration and colonization. While they were dispatched to bring Christianity to the lands of exploration, more often than not the highly educated Jesuits insinuated themselves into the power structure of those new lands. In some instances they became advisors to the existing potentates while more often they helped guide dissident groups that challenged the existing structure. In either instance the Jesuits gained influence in the governance of the new land and secured access to the decision makers – both the colonialists and the indigenous people.

So it was with Pope Francis (nee Jorge Mario Bergoglio) who was ordained during the period of so-called liberation theology in South America. It was, and still is, an attempt to meld Catholic theology and socialist politics together. Among the revolutionary movements of the 60’s and up until today, you will find Catholic priests, particularly Jesuit priests embedded with armed rebels and occupying positions of influence within their leadership. It is difficult to determine the degree to which then-Fr. Bergolio embraced these rebels but it is safe today that he embraced at least those portions of their philosophy that preferred socialism over capitalism. As he moved through the ranks of the Jesuits and then the Church as a whole, Fr – then Bishop and then Cardinal – Bergolio was an outspoken critic of the American free market economy while remaining silent about the atrocities of the socialist/communist rebels in South America. And nothing has changed since assuming the papacy.

As with most progressives, Pope Francis has found it necessary to embrace the totality of the progressive secular agenda and not just the economic beliefs of socialism. Thus from his earliest days as pope, he has spoken about changing the doctrine of the Church to embrace women as priests and to recognize marriages – including the sexual unions – between members of the same sex, He has failed to sway the hierarchy of the Church and particularly the hierarchy of the Church in the United States.

Having failed, Pope Francis has turned to a tried and true tactic of progressives to achieve diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) by exclusion – in this case the exclusion of men during the ceremonial washing of feet on Holy Thursday. (The ceremonial washing of feet hearkens back to the time of Jesus when most traveled by foot and thus encountered dust and mud on their feet. When welcoming a traveler, the owner of a house would provide a bowl of water and a cloth with which to clean their feet. In many instances this cleaning was undertaken by servants. Jesus did this with his disciples at the Last Supper thus demonstrating how you should make all feel welcome and humbling himself to do the task himself.) To the best of my knowledge this is no custom or doctrine in the Catholic Church excluding women from the ceremonial washing. My wife was honored to be included in the ceremony way back in the early 70’s by the then-Bishop Raymond Hunthausen of the Helena Diocese. I have attended dozens of these ceremonial washings and in each and every instance those receiving the ceremonial washing include men and women regardless of their station in life. But it was more than just the division of men and women into exclusive groups, it was almost a demand that we honor and approve of such divisions. Thus the reason for the advanced announcement to the world press. Why the exclusion? It appears to be an act of petulance but is primarily viewed as an act gratuitous stupidity.

Now, contrast that with the Easter Sunday homily of Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and one of the most visible prelates in America. Cardinal Dolan’s homily was about exclusion but quite the opposite of Pope Francis. Cardinal Dolan was addressing the grumbling by many in the Church about the attendance and crowding of the “twice-a-year-Catholics (Christmas and Easter masses). After noting the declining numbers of people embracing the Christian faith through attending churches – by demonstrating they are a part of prayerful community – Cardinal Dolan called upon us to be welcoming of all as they attend when they can. The environment of a church as a welcoming family may do much to recover the desire of unaffiliated believers to return to such a welcoming family and as a family achieve more than they can as individuals. The concept of embracing others rather than dividing us into factions.

That struck me as true in reflection. As we moved from city to city during my time with the telephone company we found our new friends, are new “family” in the church and more particularly amongst the families of children who attended the Catholic schools with our children whether they were Catholic or not. These were families inviting you to join their families.

Change will occur when like-minded people voluntarily agree – not when they are segregated and forced to accept by condemnation.