Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Why This Jewish Mother is Seriously Digging the New Pope

One of the big stories in the news today is about Pope Francis and his recent apostolic exhortation, a statement of what the Pope believes the Catholic church is called to do during his papacy.  Each pope makes such a statement, so the release of the document isn't such big news, but apparently the content is.  The more I read on Salon and Huff Post and the Daily Beast, the more I realized I had to read his words for myself.  

The Babka of my childhood:  "Racetrack" from
Canter's Deli & Bakery in Los Angeles.  (Yes, it's a
totally gratuitous coffee cake picture.) 
I have previously identified myself as a Jewish mother in these pages, accepting all of the good and bad connotations that go with that title.  The fact is, I am Jewish, and I am a mom, so the description is apt. (And, Oy!  I do worry about the kids, but also, I'm so proud of them.  Come by sometime for a slice of chocolate babka and a nice cup of tea, and we'll talk.  Or I could make you some chicken soup, you are looking a little tired, dear.)  So what do I know about the Pope?  Well, mostly what I read in the papers. Also, I happen to be married to a Catholic, a man who went to parochial school from kindergarten through college.  In addition, I worked on a masters in philosophy at Boston College, a Jesuit university. Those personal facts may not give me enough street cred to speak knowledgeably about Catholic religious doctrine, but I do know how to read and analyze a document, and, Lord help me, how to offer my opinion of what I've read.  So here goes. 

From what I can gather, after a discussion of spiritual joy and the need to spread such light through the world-- and here, the Pope is kind of a noodge, reminding Catholics that they need to be agents of positive change-- Pope Francis talks about the troubles of the world, identifying the love of money and the spread of competitive capitalism as real evils in the world because they have lead to inequality and exclusion. He speaks of "the idolatry of money" and the "lack of concern for real human beings" and despairs about the growing inequality of the marketplace and the resulting human consequences:

While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation.... A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules.... To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.
"How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly
 homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news
when the stock market loses two points?"

Wow.  This is such a powerful statement of how the pursuit of money caused individuals and governments to forget about what is truly important, not just neglecting and demeaning people, but damaging the environment as well. He goes on to mention that "trickle down economics" does not work, and to exhort everyone, not just his flock, to recognize the consequences of poor policies and to make changes that will make real differences in the lives of people everywhere. 

 Maybe it isn't news that the relentless pursuit of wealth for its own sake is an epic fail for people and for the planet-- yeah, you've heard that commie liberal crap before. But here is Pope Francis, someone that most people would identify as genuinely conservative in all of the best ways, someone with a global audience, who is throwing down and telling the world to get right.

I like that.  

I'd like to have him over for a slice of babka and a cup of tea, because he seems to be so genuine in his wish to heal the world and so sensible in his identification of problems that touch us all, no matter what religion we are or where we fall on the economic spectrum.  But he's a busy, busy man, and it's going to take a lot to get his message out, so I know he won't be stopping by for a nosh.  Wherever she is, his mother must be so proud... 

I hope it is absolutely clear that I mean no disrespect to the Pope or to any Catholic.  I think the statement he made is an astute analysis of the challenges facing the world today and I deeply admire his will to bring joy and love to the world.  


  1. I think the Pope is great and I'm a "Lutheran Mother."

    1. That is cool, Julie! You know, when someone speaks the truth like that, it is really non-denominational. All of us can get the message, and I'm glad to know there are so many people who want to get it, and want to act on it!

  2. I think the Pope is great and I'm a "Lutheran Mother."