As the world learns just who Pope Francis I is, those of us who have waited for generations to see time catch up with the Catholic Church are enjoying the show. The usual conservative version of Whack-A-Mole isn't working--their customary strategy of assassinating the character of anyone they don't like.
There was no problem with the lies and persecution of President Bill Clinton, and America basically sat by and watched the impeachment show while Republicans cemented into place their system of raping the treasury of this nation. Rush Limbaugh came in shooting from the hip. Anyone who got his attention long enough to distract him from young girls in the Dominican Republic was fair game as far as the Right Wing was concerned. Limbaugh introduced the song, "Barack the Magic Negro" to his audience and has been taking on everyone who fell afoul of his mission to trash everything that is not conservative.
Americans sat by and watched while Limbaugh slandered Sandra Fluke, a women's advocate in health care. They sat and watched while he insulted the President's family. Now we are witnessing the drama of Limbaugh taking on the Pope.
He has probably been weighing the question of whether his celebrity and clout are sufficient to take down the Pontiff of the worldwide Catholic Church, and unfortunately for him (but fortunately for the rest of us) the answer to that question is going to be NO. There are a lot of conservative Catholics, to be sure, but if you ask them if it is going to be Francis or Limbaugh, their answer is by no means a given. Spokespersons for American Catholicism have already asked for an apology for remarks that Limbaugh spewed this past week.
The assumption that is making the rounds in media talk is that, although Francis was born in Latin America, he is in essence European because he comes from an Italian family. There has not been enough consideration of South American liberation theology, which animates Catholicism in Latin America to a great extent. When Francis chose ordained ministry he knew that he was going to have to deal with the climate of thought in South America before anything else. I mean, he didn't have it in mind to become Pope when he was a young candidate seeking ordination. It seems from reading about his life that it was rather the other way around: his exemplary conduct attracted attention. It was not, apparently, a case of campaigning for election as Pope. That is pretty much a ludicrous idea, especially for anyone who was not born in Europe no matter what their family's antecedents.
Liberation theology is explained as follows (simply) in Wikipedia:
"Liberation theology is a political movement in Roman Catholic theology which interprets the teachings of Jesus Christ in relation to liberation from unjust economic, political, or social conditions. It has been described as an interpretation of Christian faith through the poor's suffering, their struggle and hope, and a critique of society and the Catholic faith and Christianity through the eyes of the poor. Detractors have called it Christianized Marxism.
"Although liberation theology has grown into an international and inter-denominational movement, it began as a movement within the Catholic Church in Latin America in the 1950s–1960s. Liberation theology arose principally as a moral reaction to the poverty caused by social injustice in that region. The term was coined in 1971 by the Peruvian priest Gustavo Gutierrez, who wrote one of the movement's most famous books, A Theology of Liberation...
"The influence of liberation theology diminished after proponents were accused of using Marxist concepts leading to admonishment by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in 1984 and 1986. The Vatican criticized certain strains of liberation theology for focusing on institutionalized or systemic sin, apparently to the exclusion of individual offenders and offenses; and for identifying Catholic Church hierarchy in South America as members of the same privileged class that had long been oppressing indigenous populations since the arrival of Pizarro onward."
Long story short: “Marxism” is the epithet that conservatives (religious or political) throw at liberation theology to discredit it and hopefully prevent anyone from considering it on its merits. This is quite similar to the attitude on the American Right that since President Barack Obama is black, he is henceforth disqualified from consideration on the basis of the content of his character—it’s all about the color of his skin.
Considering that many of the upper-class families in South America have European roots, such as the family of the Pope, one can see how liberation theology would be taken as a personal affront to many people who were quite comfortable before Father Gutierrez began knocking their privileged classes. It is quite predictable that the Vatican's enforcers would object to the idea the a system can be organized to perpetuate injustice, not to mention a social class of people devising a system that is deeply embedded in the Latin American Church. That, by the way, is exactly what Francis renounced when he became the simple priest who made the conscious decision to stay simple that became his hallmark.
It is hard to doubt that, in choosing the priesthood, Francis made a choice to turn his back on the power scenario that he was born into. It is common knowledge that his daily life before he was elevated into the spotlight was uncommonly ordinary and frugal. This has inspired admiration from all sides, as it should, I think. But now that he has expressed disapproval of the get-rich-at-all-costs system that is killing America, the talking heads who feed at the trough of the corporate dictators have been told to get out there and get that guy.
Why not? The ultra-Right in America got Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., they got Robert Kennedy, they got a slew of Civil Rights figures and they may have taken out President John F. Kennedy in an act of punishment for his intention to inflict the Civil Rights Act upon the South. The fact that President Lyndon Johnson got it through in 1964 resulted in the Dixiecrat resignation from the Democratic Party (good riddance to them) and the Southern Strategy in which the Republican Party acquired the Bible Belt. What they did with it is there for all to see.
And then along comes Francis, who says that the mythical system of trickling down money from people who don't need any more of it doesn't work. To this economic heresy he adds that it is more in character with good government to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and heal the sick. Curses! The Catholic Church has been silent on most issues since the Fifties--why is Francis kicking them awake now?
Well, it may have something to do with really believing what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. It may have something to do with not being a fundamentalist--believing that you can read and understand the New Testament without having someone quoting proof texts to you and telling you what it means. But whatever else he is doing, Francis is now demonstrating to Christians and non-Christians alike that some people take this faith seriously. Some people want to imitate Christ. Some people believe that their actions on earth may have consequences.
If evangelical preachers and politicians believed such things, they would be on their knees begging God's forgiveness for what they have done to this country and to the Christian Church. They have polluted our teachings with their greed and hate. They have sanctioned the manipulation of America's political system to enrich a small group of people while other denominations that have a similar agenda--like the Mormons--chime in and encourage vulture capitalism, which is trickle-up economics if I ever saw it.
The un-Christians who thrive on sectarian hatred will tamp it down and put up one of their own as their Republican nominee--a man whose contempt for most human beings is testified to by his own words, not to mention the teachings of his faith. They trampled on the neatly-pressed suits of two Catholic Republican candidates to rush to the side of a man who builds elevators for his cars while his church organizes movements to deprive Americans of equal rights and keep women in subjugation.
Along comes Francis. He speaks with the whole weight of the Catholic Church behind him. Watch out, guys--he just might direct attention to vulture Christianity sometime soon. Bring it!