Pondering Pope Francis in Bolivia

Politely tuning out news from the Vatican serves as a proven method for avoiding ponders I might regret the next morning. Writing about the Catholic church is like beating a dead horse, it serves no purpose. Best intentions aside, every so often the Pope makes me queasy.

Nothing is simple, or as it seems in the halls of political and religious power.

Former ambassador Otto Reich, President George W. Bush’s Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, says Pope Francis’ economic and political agenda in his trip to Latin America has gone too far. “This pope grew up in a third world country that frankly is an example of what happens when you don’t have capitalism and democracy,” Reich says. “I was very optimistic when he was named and I have been extremely disappointed in the political and economic aspects of his papacy. … He’s a victim of third world education, and Argentina is a particularly sad example.”


Otto Reich is referring to the pontiff’s outspoken words over the last few days of his South American trip. Pope Francis doesn’t deserve an “Otto Reiching” yet he certainly has been busy. Apologizing to indigenous people –

“I would also say, and here I wish to be quite clear, as was Saint John Paul II: I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offenses of the Church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America”

Condemning economic and environmental exploitation –

“Human beings and nature must not be at the service of money,” he said. “Let us say no to an economy of exclusion and inequality, where money rules, rather than service. That economy kills. That economy excludes. That economy destroys Mother Earth.”

“Time, my brothers and sisters, seems to be running out; we are not yet tearing one another apart, but we are tearing apart our common home. Today, the scientific community realizes what the poor have long told us: harm, perhaps irreversible harm is being done to the ecosystem. The earth, entire peoples and individual persons are being brutally punished. And behind all this pains, death and destruction there is the stench of what Basil of Caesarea called ‘the dung of evil.’ An unfettered pursuit of money rules.”

All this while strategically poking fires under the nose of Bolivian President Morales, who declared Bolivia a secular state in 2006, removing bibles and crosses from government buildings in an attempt to limit church power.

Bolivian President Evo Morales presents Pope Francis with a gift of a crucifix carved into a wooden hammer and sickle, the Communist symbol uniting labor and peasants in La Paz, Bolivia, on July 8.

Pope Francis receiving a hammer and sickle crucifix from Bolivian President Morales.

This all sounds great but we’ve heard it before. Pope John Paul II apologized to indigenous people in 1992. Correct me if I’m wrong but so what? Talk is cheap, did I miss action somewhere along the line? Obviously apology means something, someone needs to champion the poor and safeguard our environment. Queasy happens when that someone is arguably the most powerful religious leader in the world. Exasperating as the slickest politician,  able to raise hopes, command attention and walk away without lifting a finger.




5 thoughts on “Pondering Pope Francis in Bolivia

  1. You do struggle with organized religion don’t you.

    I remember my mom telling me something (when I was probably about 8 years old)when I was engaged in some passionate tirade about something I could not change. “ All you’re doing is spitting into the wind. “

    Whatever faith in God is ‘about’ it’s not the organizing of religion. As soon as a ‘church’ builds it’s first building and hires it’s first employee/pastor/priest/shaman the church is no longer ‘just’ about faith, it’s now about continuing it’s own existence, growing, prospering, and bringing in dollars to maintain the organism. To balance that with active faith reaching out to others is impossible in most cases. Too many churches spend too much time fighting among themselves to actually have an impact on society. Which is why Jesus talked about his faith being ’not of this world.’ To expect anything else is foolish.

    But more importantly, never let anyone or anything have free rent in your own head. It’s a big world and there’s room for all sorts of people, some of whom will agree with you and many who will not — seeing as many will never hear your words or understand your language. Why make your self upset. You won’t convince the mass of believers they are wrong and they won’t convince you; and church-goers won’t even be listening to the argument.

    Just saying’….

    • Actually, I’m one who loves Papa Francisco. Though I understand your frustration with the whole Catholic universe, I see that faith as in fact a world of weak people who accept the status quo, and strong people who struggle hard to change everything on behalf of common people. Let’s remember that priests have died in this struggle. I want the morally strong guys to succeed, and this pope seems determined to lead the way. Teaching is his job — to keep TEACHING his flock to care about all people, and accept deep changes in the economic system — capitalism, if you will — that keeps people horribly in thrall to money. I’m glad you cited the passages you did.

  2. Pingback: Jeffster Awards #45 | Deconstructing Myths

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