I was flabbergasted on Monday, January 2, of this year, to open my copy of The Guardian, at times a strident critic of the Catholic Church, to read in the Guardian View two whole columns of qualified praise for Pope Francis’s “humane and intelligent conservatism”.
The conservatism is a paradox. He denounces global capitalism and is trying to get Christians to identify with the poor, the oppressed and refugees, but within the Catholic Church he has made little movement on the position of women, and feminist issues such as contraception and abortion. Despite the qualifications, Francis is seen as a champion of humanity.
The point here is not to promote Francis or Catholicism but to show that there is an alternative to the way societies seem to be moving. In economic crises, our leaders impose austerity on the majority while increasing the benefits of the so-called elite. The shortage of public services such as housing, healthcare and welfare are blamed on immigrants even though people taking advantage of ‘freedom of movement’ are economically advantageous. People who flee from war and persecution are seen as a threat to our security and culture. Foreign countries are viewed merely as opponents in a competitive world and, therefore, to compete we have to cut costs, particularly labour costs, or we have to bully foreign countries by having bigger and better weaponry. But the greatest ‘sin’ of today’s world is to see the whole of nature and the majority of humanity as expendable for the benefit of the ‘elite’. As the Guardian says, Francis identifies and concentrates on the three main challenges to our world: global poverty, global greed and destruction of the environment. The alternative way that Francis presents is one of openness and inclusion. This requires respect for nature and each human being. This will result in compassion and togetherness in mutual development and eventually internal peace as well as external peace. Francis is a undemocratically elected leader of 1.2 billion persons worldwide, but compare his message to that of Mrs May, Donald Trump, the populist media, the Conservative Party and Ukip and their backers. All supposedly democrats! It is also different to some other religious leaders, even some Christians, who see themselves as the hammer of God! What is presented before us is a choice: to maintain and sustain the current ways or to have faith in radical change by being human ourselves.
Mike Larcey, Downham Market