Listers, habemus papam Franciscum. The world was stunned and the pundits proved wrong as the Argentinian Jesuit walked out on the Loggia of St. Peter’s. In a soft but strong voice, Pope Francis gave his first words as the Vicar of Christ:
Brothers and sisters good evening.
You all know that the duty of the Conclave was to give a bishop to Rome. It seems that my brother Cardinals have gone almost to the ends of the earth to get him… but here we are. I thank you for the welcome that has come from the diocesan community of Rome.
First of all I would like to say a prayer pray for our Bishop Emeritus Benedict XVI. Let us all pray together for him, that the Lord will bless him and that our Lady will protect him…
And now let us begin this journey, the Bishop and the people, this journey of the Church of Rome which presides in charity over all the Churches, a journey of brotherhood in love, of mutual trust. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world that there might be a great sense of brotherhood. My hope is that this journey of the Church that we begin today, together with the help of my Cardinal Vicar, may be fruitful for the evangelization of this beautiful city.
And now I would like to give the blessing. But first I want to ask you a favour. Before the Bishop blesses the people I ask that you would pray to the Lord to bless me – the prayer of the people for their Bishop. Let us say this prayer – your prayer for me – in silence…
I will now give my blessing to you and to the whole world, to all men and women of good will.1
The world waits to see how the pontificate of Pope Francis will shape the world and the Catholic Church. Below are his comments as a Prince of Church on several different moral issues.
Abortion is without a doubt one of the greatest moral evils within modernity. As the “Advocate of Christian Memory,” a pope must take up the mantle of defending the culture of life - a defense the Early Church held against the pagans of Rome.
He once called abortion a “death sentence” for unborn children, during a 2007 speech and likening opposition to abortion to opposition to the death penalty.
In an October 2, 2007 speech Bergoglio said that “we aren’t in agreement with the death penalty,” but “in Argentina we have the death penalty. A child conceived by the rape of a mentally ill or retarded woman can be condemned to death.”2
Notice he does not flench on abortion being a “death penalty” for those conceived in rape. Though a child may be conceived by horrid means, that individual child’s life is still innocent and untouched by that evil. God help America if we believe the worth of a child is articulated by the means of its conception.
2. On Receiving the Eucharist
The Cardinal speaks on the worthiness to receive communion regarding those who support grave evils.
The new Pope referred to abortion and communion, saying “we should commit ourselves to ‘eucharistic coherence’, that is, we should be conscious that people cannot receive holy communion and at the same time act or speak against the commandments, in particular when abortion, euthanasia, and other serious crimes against life and family are facilitated. This responsibility applies particularly to legislators, governors, and health professionals.”3
Pope Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, also wrote on the worthiness of a Catholic to receive communion when he was a Cardinal in the CDF.
Notice the Cardinal’s distinction between the apparent and institutionalized euthanasia and the “clandestine euthanasia.”
The new pontiff also denounced euthanasia and assisted suicide, calling it a “culture of discarding” the elderly.
“In Argentina there is clandestine euthanasia. Social services pay up to a certain point; if you pass it, ‘die, you are very old’. Today, elderly people are discarded when, in reality, they are the seat of wisdom of the society,” he said “The right to life means allowing people to live and not killing, allowing them to grow, to eat, to be educated, to be healed, and to be permitted to die with dignity.”4
Hopefully the acute language and highly quotable phrases the Cardinal used to denounce homosexuality will appear in his pontificate as well. He refers to the bill legalizing homosexual marriage as a “machination of the Father of Lies” and that homosexual marriage was a “dire anthropological throwback.”
He has affirmed church teaching on homosexuality, including that men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity and that every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. Though equating the pursuit of their equal rights as the devil’s work . He strongly opposed legislation introduced in 2010 by the Argentine Government to allow same-sex marriage, calling it a “real and dire anthropological throwback”. In a letter to the monasteries of Buenos Aires, he wrote:
“Let’s not be naïve, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”
He has also insisted that adoption by homosexuals is a form of discrimination against children. This position received a rebuke from Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who said the church’s tone was reminiscent of “medieval times and the Inquisition”.5
Rorate Caeli has been kind enough to publish the letter Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, wrote to the Carmelite Nuns of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires regarding the bill to legalize homosexual marriage in its full text.
5. On Poverty
The Pope’s proclivity towards austerity and his work with the downtrodden and sick will most likely translate to poverty being a central pillar of this Jesuit papacy. Just prior to being raised to the Office of St. Peter, the Cardinal wrote a tremendous lenten letter that threaded social ills, the spirituality of lent, and the hope of Christ together in a powerful manner. His comments on poverty and the social injustices that create it are a constant theme of his writings.
In 2009, Bergoglio said that extreme poverty and the “unjust economic structures that give rise to great inequalities” are violations of human rights and that social debt is “immoral, unjust and illegitimate.” During a 48-hour public servant strike in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Bergoglio observed the differences between, “poor people who are persecuted for demanding work, and rich people who are applauded for fleeing from justice.”6
The Cardinal has also commented on how extreme poverty is a violation of human rights.
Social debt is “immoral, unjust and illegitimate,” the cardinal said, emphasizing that this is especially true when it occurs “in a nation that has the objective conditions for avoiding or correcting such harm.” “Unfortunately,” he noted, it seems that those same countries “opt for exacerbating inequalities even more.”
Argentineans have the duty “to work to change the structural causes and personal or corporate attitudes that give rise to this situation (of poverty), and through dialogue reach agreements that allow us to transform this painful reality we refer to when we speak about social debt,” the prelate said.
Cardinal Bergoglio said the challenge to eradicate poverty could not be truthfully met as long as the poor continue to be dependents of the State. The government and other organizations should instead work to create the social conditions that will promote and protect the rights of the poor and enable them to be the builders of their own future, he explained.7
It is impossible to mention Jesuit from South America and not inquire where this Cardinal turned Pope stands on Liberation Theology. His official biographer comments:
“Is Bergoglio a progressive — a liberation theologist even? No. He’s no third-world priest. Does he criticize the International Monetary Fund, and neoliberalism? Yes. Does he spend a great deal of time in the slums? Yes,” [Bergoglio’s authorized biographer, Sergio Rubin] said.
Bergoglio has stood out for his austerity. Even after he became Argentina’s top church official in 2001, he never lived in the ornate church mansion where Pope John Paul II stayed when visiting the country, preferring a simple bed in a downtown building, heated by a small stove on frigid weekends. For years, he took public transportation around the city, and cooked his own meals.8
As the first pope from Latin America and the first non-European pope since one from Syria almost 1200 years ago, it is expected that this Holy Roman Pontiff will speak out against poverty and speak for the downtrodden in a way not seen in some time.
6. On Children
The Cardinal speaks candidly about some of the more vulgar and to outsiders largely unknown abuses of children in South America.
Bergoglio noted that “the most mentioned word in the Aparecida Document is ‘life’, because the Church is very conscious of the fact that the cheapest thing in Latin America, the thing with the lowest price, is life.”
The cardinal called the abuse of children “demographic terrorism,” and blasted Argentine society for tolerating their exploitation. “Children are mistreated, and are not educated or fed. Many are made into prostitutes and exploited,” he said. “And this happens here in Buenos Aires, in the great city of the south. Child prostitution is offered in some five star hotels: it is included in the entertainment menu, under the heading ‘Other’.”9
On a similar note, the Cardinal has addressed sex trafficking - a grave crime that normally targets the young and vulnerable.
“In our city there are people committing human sacrifice, killing the dignity of these men and these women, these girls and boys that are submitted to this treatment, to slavery. We cannot remain calm.” …. The cardinal urged his fellow citizens to report “breeding grounds for submission, for slavery,” “altars where human sacrifices are offered and which break the will of the people,” asking that “everyone do what they can, but without washing their hands of it, because otherwise we are complicit in this slavery.”10
Shifting to a more positive story, the Cardinal is recorded explaining to children the Gospel and its call to serve the poor.
During his homily, he encouraged children to “seek after Jesus” and to find Him by “opening your hearts,” participating in the Sacrament of Holy Communion and seeing Him in those in need.
“Who told us that we can find Jesus in those most in need?” the cardinal asked. “Mother Teresa,” the children shouted in response.
“And what did Mother Teresa have in her arms? A crucifix? No. A child in need. So, we can find Jesus in each person who is in need,” he said.
After noting that very few children raised their hands when asked if they read the Gospel, Cardinal Bergoglio encouraged the children to say to their priests, “Father, teach me the Gospel.”
He also reminded them that the strength for encountering Jesus “is in the family, in mom and dad.” The cardinal then invited the children to stand up and give “a big round of applause to the Virgin Mary.”11
Regarding children, the Cardinal from Argentina has presided over so-called “Children’s Masses.” The subject of children will be a theme of Pope Francis’ pontificate as he seeks to heal Holy Mother Church and restore her credibility in the wake of the global sex abuse scandal.
7. On Politics
According to St. Thomas Aquinas, politics is the “noble science,” the highest practical science constituted by human reason, and a moral science. Pope Francis spent a good deal of time in Argentina fighting against the modernist reforms of the government. Moreover, within the Church the spectre of liberation theologies that conflate Christ’s justice with Marxist principles was (and still is) a constant presence in Latin America. The Cardinal is reported to have rejected these views, as aforementioned in the On Poverty section.
“To those who are now promising to fix all your problems, I say, ‘Go and fix yourself.’ … Have a change of heart. Get to confession, before you need it even more! The current crisis will not be improved by magicians from outside the country and nor will [improvement] come from the golden mouth of our politicians, so accustomed to making incredible promises.”12
Listers, pray for Pope Francis and that he will hear God’s call to rebuild Christ’s Church.
Wikipedia: Pope Francis . Catechism of the Catholic Church Paragraph 2358 ^ InfoBae.com ^ Padgett, Tim (18 July 2010). “The Vatican and Women: Casting the First Stone”. TIME. Retrieved 13 March 2013. ^ Goñi, Uki (July 15, 2010). “Defying Church, Argentina Legalizes Gay Marriage”. Retrieved March 13, 2013. ^ Allen, Jr., John L. (March 3, 2013). “Papabile of the Day: The Men Who Could Be Pope”. National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved March 13, 2013. ↩︎
Wikipedia: Pope Francis ^ “Extreme poverty is also a violation of human rights, says Argentinean cardinal”. Catholic News Agency. 1 October 2009. Retrieved 13 March 2013. ^ “Argentines protest against pay cuts”. August 8, 2001. Retrieved March 13, 2013. ↩︎