Monday, September 21, 2015

Francis, the Despot's Pope

Pope Francis had not one but two meetings with dictator emeritus Fidel Castro; the second, which took place in "his" home, included his wife, children and grandchildren, all of whom asked and received the papal blessing. The pope could not, however, spare one minute to meet with Cuba's dissidents and political prisoners. That would have given offense to his hosts and the pope would never be so rude. The meek may inherit the earth some day but until that happens the "people's pope" will pay court to the Pharisees and serve as their chaplain, bringing aid and comfort to the enemies of Christ while turning his back on his people.

Immediately after visiting the Castro clan and rendering unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, Francis attended a vespers celebration at the Cathedral of Havana, where he addressed for the first time Cuba's priests, nuns and seminarians. He advised them to value their poverty, which is Christ's greatest gift to mankind. "Material wealth," he said, "impoverishes because it deprives us of the only wealth worth having" — presumably the immaterial (or spiritual) kind. He called poverty "the wall and the mother of consecrated life" because like a mother it fosters greater trust in God and acts as a wall against worldliness.

Any man who has not lived a cloistered life knows that the poor are not exempt from materialism or worldliness. If anything, poverty makes one even more keenly aware of the benefits derived from wealth and anxious to share in them. The "spirituality of poverty" as a meme may appeal to the wealthy, but not enough for them ever to embrace it. It can have no charms for the poor who do not idealize poverty because they actually know something about it, as apposed to dictators and popes. Like the slave masters of old, they extol a culture of poverty but would not cast off their wealth to share in its supposed blessings. It is not given to every man to be wealthy, but any man who desires to be poor can be poor.

The pope railed against "excessive consumption" in a country where nothing is consumed in excess thanks to an economic model which for 56 years and counting has kept the Cuban people on the edge of starvation (and sometimes over the edge) as a means of societal control. The Castros, like the Church, also regard poverty as a "mother" and a "wall" which fosters greater dependence on the State and dampens materialism. They also feign poverty as does the pope and blame it on the economic system that produces the least poverty while endorsing the economic system that produces the most poverty. But, of course, that is to be expected since poverty is a positive good (for others): "Our holy mother Church is poor. God wishes Her to be poor, as he wanted our Holy Mother Mary to be poor. Love poverty as you would love a mother." And, by implication, be grateful to those who keep you poor and thus assure you the Kingdom of Heaven.

The pope does not take a vow of poverty, as do other religious. He is the richest of the rich: so rich that he is above money. The pope receives no salary and never carries money on his person (neither does the queen of England); but, as a benefactor once observed of Gandhi, it takes a great deal of money to keep him "poor." Francis' "poverty" is more symbolic than real. In fact, the pope presides over the world's largest real estate holdings and controls an art collection worth a trillion dollars. This is the so-called "patrimony" of the Church, which the pope is nonetheless free to do with as he pleases. 264 successive popes have added to that hoard, not one has ever willingly disbursed any part of it.

It is the ne plus ultra of hypocrisy for the pope to preach the gospel of poverty in a country and among a people where abject poverty has been imposed for 56 years by the ruling kleptocracy. If hunger refines the spirit, then the Cuban people are all spirit by now.

This well-fed pope did his penance in Cuba's tropical heat by wearing layers of petticoats and capes. But these, after all, are no hair shirt and will soon be cast off in the privacy of the papal suite. The sliminess of his hypocritical notions, which clings to him like a second skin, cannot be as easily shed.

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