by Larry Peterson
When Pope Francis released his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, he also inadvertently released a swarm of pseudo experts on Catholicism and the Papacy. Why even Rush Limbaugh, who acknowledged his own non-catholicity, has decided that the Pope is nothing but a “pure Marxist”. Those on the left have assumed that the Catholic Church’s teachings on abortion, contraception, women priests, and homosexual behavior and other issues are about to be changed. These folks, left & right, are living in their own personal world of ‘relatavism’. Caught up in the secular world of ‘meism’ they cannot grasp for one tiny moment that the primary purpose of the Catholic Church is the salvation of souls. First and foremost, the Church is here to guide ALL of us to an eternal life with God, our Creator. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, founded the Church and appointed its first leader, the apostle Peter who was the first Pope. Pope Francis is #266. Their mission, which they graciously accepted, has always been the same, to lead the flock to Salvation. Nothing has changed.
Okay now, listen up all you clever pundits who have allowed yourselves to become unknowing prisoners of the secular Age of Relatavism. Pope Francis has done no different than Pope Leo XIII who gave the world Rerum Novarum in 1891 and Pope Pius XI who gave us Quadragesimo Anno in 1931. These documents were papal encyclicals and they dealt with capitalism, socialism, labor, fair wages, working conditions etc. (Please feel free to see for yourself. Just ‘google’). We need to remember that Catholic social doctrine deals with the DIGNITY of man/woman because they are made in the image and likeness of God. Poor and rich alike have responsibility to each other because they are all part of the human equation. There is nothing evil in being rich. There is nothing wrong with workers wanting a better wage and improved conditions. Evil enters when the deadly sin of greed is embraced by people when they begin thinking of themselves first instead of God. Consequently they want more for themselves at the expense of others. Employers and employees have a responsibility to each other to be fair and just at all times. As Leo XIII addressed the social order so did Pius XI wherein he wrote about the dangers of “unrestrained capitalism” and “totalitarian communism”. John Paul II addressed the dignity of man in Centesimus Annus in1991 and Benedict XVI followed with Caritas in Veritate in 2009. Pope Francis has connected the dots with the Popes over the last 112 years. The dignity of all people from the lowest to the most exalted is considered. The Pope(s) wants all people to understand that justice must come from all of us not just from some of us.
The Catholic Church is primarily a ship navigating the turbulent and often times violent waters of pride and envy and greed. As the church forges through these deadly waters the ship’s captain, (Pope), his officers, (bishops) and crew (priests and religious) are supposed to work together to keep the ship safe and on a true course to Salvation . They are responsible for the millions of souls that are their passengers. They are supposed to be teaching them how to remain safe and secure as they travel along and how to be ready to confront any and all emergencies. Many times an experienced crew member ignore’s his/her training. Often times untrained passengers do not listen. Sadly, they are lost. Pride, greed, envy, lust, anger, gluttony and even sloth combine to stretch their tentacles over the ship’s railings and grab the indifferent pulling them over the side and down into the blackness. And to think, all they had to do was listen. In the meantime the ship’s captain MUST stay the course even though at times he must adapt to changes in the weather. There is one thing he will not do, change the primary mission. No matter what, he will always move forward and never retreat from the goal of reaching the shores of Salvation.
I think we must remember that the Catholic Church is here to guide us to a reward greater than we can ever imagine. It is not here to make everyone feel good about indulging in their own “feel good” world. Just as a parent must say ‘no” to their children the Church must say “NO” to ideas, behaviors and personal whims that violate the commandments. In today’s world many people do not like being told NO. There seems to be an idea that if “I’m not bothering you I can do what I want.” Well, “NO”–none of us have that luxury. Pope Francis has embraced the people, the common people. It is a beautiful thing and God has done all of us a great favor in giving this man to the world. But make no mistake, he is the captain of the great ship and he is trying his best to guide it to “Salvation”. That will always be his primary goal and the ship’s ultimate destination.