Posts Tagged ‘Pope Francis’

Jobless youth and oldsters who can’t retire

July 26, 2016

Thomas Geoghegan, a labor lawyer in Chicago, wrote a good article for The Baffler about the connection between low wages, high youth unemployment and older people (such as himself) being unwilling to retire.

Thomas Geoghegan

Thomas Geoghegan

A reporter asked Pope Francis to name the single biggest evil in the world.  Secularism?  No.  Abortion?  Not even.  Here’s what he said: “Youth unemployment—and the abandonment of the elderly.”

OK, that’s two evils.  But aren’t they really one thing?  Unable to get a start, boomerang kids move back home—while their grandparents hang on to their jobs.

Why hang on?  They fear being abandoned.  They didn’t save.  The young have always had to wait for the old to retire in order to move up a notch, but in the twenty-first century, that wait is getting longer, increasing the competition for scarce jobs.

For the state to shrink, the old must work more.  It’s a neoliberal axiom.  Call it the New Old Deal.

As a labor lawyer, let me defend my clients.  The working-class people I represent are dying sooner, not mucking up the labor market by living too long.  Alcohol and heroin are partially to blame, and trending stories on epidemics afflicting the white working class make easy fodder for TV newsmagazines.

But let me tell you what I more often see happening to non-college whites: those who do hard physical labor for an hourly wage go lame.  By age fifty-five, or certainly sixty, many are just done.

And when they go lame, they have no options.  They have no union-bargained pensions anymore.   They certainly have no 401(k) retirement accounts.

Maybe the country should be grateful; to the extent that they die prematurely, they help shore up Social Security.  And hey, should the GOP make it harder for them to receive workers’ comp or disability, these high school grads may die even younger.

The whole article is worth reading.  Click on Exit Planning to read it.

How the USA got over being anti-Catholic

September 24, 2015

The most significant thing about Pope Francis’ address to Congress is that it happened.

During most of American history, a majority of Americans saw the Roman Catholic Church as an enemy of American freedom and democracy.   Persecution of Catholic immigrants in the 1840s and 1850s was worse than persecution of Muslim immigrants today.

Anti-Catholic cartoon from the 1850s

Anti-Catholic cartoon from the 1850s

This would be unthinkable today, and it reflects changes in both American public opinion and Vatican policy.

The Founders of the American republic defined themselves in opposition to the absolute monarchs of Europe.

The French Revolution was a revolution against the church as well as against the king and aristocracy, and, after the defeat of Napoleon, the Papacy aligned itself with the Holy Alliance, a union of Austria, Prussia, Russia to suppress any democratic uprising in Europe.

Vatican policy for more than a century was based on opposition to the legacy of the French Revolution, and, as a result, all revolutionary movements in Catholic countries were anti-clerical.

Catholics in Protestant countries were persecuted sometimes by law and almost always in public opinion.  Poor Catholic immigrants into the United States had equal legal rights, but in the early 19th century were targets of mob violence, both because they were poor and foreign and because they were regarded as proxies for the Vatican.


Garry Wills: The Pope Is a Christian!

April 3, 2015

Garry Wills wrote in the New York Review of Books that contrary to appearances, Pope Francis is popular with the Catholic laity.  A Pew poll indicates that 90 percent of Catholics approve of the Pope’s statements, and 95 percent of the Catholics who are most observant.

What makes Pope Francis controversial, Wills wrote, is that he follows the teachings of Jesus.  In fact, he said, the Pope, in his preaching of charity to the poor, is less radical than Jesus, who said it was harder for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Perhaps it is wrong to think of a “Catholic right” and a “Catholic left.” It may be more fitting to think of the former as the defenders of Dives, or the Pharisees who do not want people to eat with Jesus, or the flushers of the homeless, or the priestly Levites, or the prodigal’s elder brother—while their opposites are the lovers of Lazarus, or the sinners who eat with Jesus, or the bedroll people, or the “outcast” Samaritan, or the prodigal’s father.  These are the two forms of Christianity now on offer.  Let Catholics make their choice.

via The New York Review of Books.

How many ombudsmen has the Pope?

November 18, 2013

Autocrats at the top of hierarchical organizations—whether governmental, corporate, religious, military or political—have a lot of power when it comes to crushing dissent or doing battle with outside forces.

But when it comes to internal reform, that autocratic power commonly melts away.   Autocrats who try to reform the institution they supposedly control run into mysterious resistances and obstacles.  An autocrat is only as powerful as the willing obedience of those lower in the hierarchy extends.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

That’s why I admire and sympathize with Pope Francis in his struggle to clean house at the Institute for Religious Works, also known as the Vatican Bank.  Originally set up to finance the church’s charitable activities, the Vatican Bank operates outside Italian law and financial reporting requirements, and is understood to have been infiltrated by the Italian Mafia for the purposes of money laundering.

I don’t think Pope Francis really is targeted for assassination, as some Italian prosecutors have suggested, but I do think the various Italian Mafias are powerful institutions, and not only in Italy, and they did their utmost to frustrate the Pope’s efforts.

When Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope, I wrote about his ambiguous role in Argentina’s “dirty war” under the dictatorship.  I now think that what I wrote was uncharitable and based on incomplete information.

I admire Pope Francis not just for his highly-publicized modeling of the behavior of Jesus toward the poor, sick and outcast, but his willingness to take action against church officials who abuse their power, such as the Bishop of Limberg, Germany, who was suspended for misuse of church funds for his extravagant lifestyle.  You don’t have to be a Catholic to wish him success.


The new Pope and the Argentine military junta

March 14, 2013

Many Latin American prelates, most famously Dom Helder Camaro of Brazil and the martyred Archbishop Oscar Romaro of El Salvador, spoke out in the 1970s and 1980s against military dictatorships, death squads and torture.  The new Pope Francis was not one of them.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio

[Jorge Mario] Bergoglio was the head of the Jesuits in Argentina during the military dictatorship of 1976-1983, during which the military murdered upwards of 30,000 people (as well as kidnapping hundreds of children whose parents the regime had tortured and murdered). Unlike Catholic officials in neighboring Chile and Brazil, where priests, bishops, and even cardinals spoke out against human rights abuses and defended victims of abuses, in Argentina, the Catholic Church was openly complicit in the military regime’s repression.

Bergoglio was not exempt from this involvement: military officers have testified that Bergoglio helped the Argentine military regime hide political prisoners when human rights activists visited the country.  And Bergoglio himself had to testify regarding the kidnapping of two priests who he stripped of their religious licenses shortly before they were kidnapped and tortured.

This isn’t just a case of Bergoglio being a member of an institution that supported a brutal regime; it’s a case of Bergoglio himself having ties, direct and indirect, to that very regime.  For those who hoped for a Pope who might represent a more welcoming and open path for the Catholic Church, the selection of Bergoglio has to be a let-down.

via Americas South and North.

In November 2005, Cardinal Bergoglio was elected head of the Argentine Conference of Bishops for a three-year term, which was renewed in 2008.  At the time he was chosen, the Argentine church was dealing with a notorious political scandal, that of the Rev. Christian von Wernich, a former chaplain of the Buenos Aires police who had been accused of aiding in the questioning, torture and death of political prisoners.

The church authorities had spirited Father von Wernich out of the country and placed him in a parish in Chile under a false name, but he was eventually brought back to Argentina and put on trial. In 2007, he was found guilty on seven counts of complicity in homicide, more than 40 counts of kidnapping and more than 30 of torture, and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Father von Wernich was allowed to continue to celebrate Mass in prison, and in 2010 a church official said that “at the appropriate time, von Wernich’s situation will have to be resolved in accordance with canonical law.” But Cardinal Bergoglio never issued a formal apology on behalf of the church, or commented directly on the case, and during his tenure the bishops’ conference was similarly silent.


I never was bothered by the fact Pope Benedict XVI was a member of the Hitler Youth as a teenager.  He was a boy and too young to know better, he never personally participated in Nazi atrocities and he never supported or showed sympathy for Naziism as an adult.  Cardinal Bergoglio was an adult when he supported the fascist Argentine military junta, and, so far as I know, he never expressed regrets.  (If I am wrong on this point, I would be grateful for better information).

[Note added 3/16/13.  Argentina’s bishops in October 2012 issued a collective apology for failing to protect their flock during the dictatorship.]

The Papacy is important to everyone and not just Catholics.  The Roman Catholic Church is not only the world’s largest religious communion, it is the world’s largest membership organization—period.  There are more than a billion Catholics in the world.   A majority of the world’s Christians are Catholics.  What the Pope does, and what the Catholic Church does, are hugely important to the world, for good and bad.

Now it may be that as Pope, Pope Francis will be able to put his past history behind him.  Maybe he will support Catholic social teaching at its best, rather than Catholic authoritarianism at its worst.  I hope so.  It’s possible.  Such a change of heart wouldn’t be unprecedented.  But I wouldn’t bet on it.