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“Give ‘Em Hell, Frank!”


Antoine Mekary/ALETEIA

Fr Dwight Longenecker - published on 09/17/15

Wishful thinking in the secular media

Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to America has secular journalists slotting him neatly into their usual left wing-right wing boxes. The problem is, the pope won’t fit.

Writing for Mother Jones, A J Vicens predicts that Pope Francis is going to shoot the gospel gun when he addresses the American congress later this month. He thinks Pope Francis is going to lambaste American lawmakers with a socialist political message. Vicens’ commenters are enthusiastic about the prospect, cheering on the Pope with “Give ‘em Hell Frank!”

Vicens’ article is heavy on Pope Francis quotes, seeing six areas in which the pope has taught about the abuse of money through an anti-capitalist lens. On income equality Pope Francis has lamented economic ideologies that defend the “absolute autonomy of the marketplace” the effect of which is extreme and growing financial inequality.

Vicens also points out enthusiastically that Pope Francis is down on the theory of “trickle down economics” and believes the idolatry of money contributes to inequalities in wealth. Money is there to serve people not to enslave them, and the pope stresses that economics should always be people centered.

While it is encouraging to see a secular journalist be so thrilled about the pope it is discouraging to see how the mainstream media continues to view Pope Francis and his teachings through the left-wing/right-wing, either-or filter.

If the they are thrilled with Pope Francis the narrative goes, then the right must dislike him, so Vicens feeds the false fire that conservative Catholics are upset with Pope Francis, linking to a misleading article in the Washington Post suggesting that “conservative dissent” is brewing in the Vatican. I commented on that article here, pointing out that there has always been a healthy debate in Catholic circles between conservatives and progressives and that it was inaccurate to portray the Catholic church as constantly engaged in a massive Hegelian struggle between opposing forces.

The simple fact of the matter is that Pope Francis is neither left, nor right; he is Catholic. His economic message is nothing new. Like his predecessors, the pope is developing established Catholic social teaching which has always been critical of unbridled capitalism. Most of what he says is Christian common sense. The pope is against the idolatry of money just as all Christians should be. He is against greed because it is one of the seven deadly sins. He is in favor of “the preferential option for the poor” because Jesus was, and it’s part of the Christian gospel. He is opposed to false economic ideologies that put themselves above ordinary people because that has always been the Christian message. Consequently Pope Francis is opposed to both socialism and a tyrannical form of capitalism that endorses aggressive and absolute autonomy of the marketplace.

Will Pope Francis give American lawmakers hell? I expect he will preach the clear message of Christ to all Americans, and in doing so he will probably not only criticize American greed and lust for power, but he will also criticize the shocking crime of abortion in America and our lack of care for the poor, sick, elderly and homeless. He will criticize our destructive redefinition of marriage, the erosion of religious freedom, the spiritual desert of our culture, the attack on the family and our pornographic, hedonistic culture.

To imagine that Pope Francis is coming to America simply to take a swipe at right-wing politicians is to completely misunderstand both Pope Francis and the Catholic faith.

If the Pope is true to the Catholic message he will “give hell” not only to power-hungry politicians and greedy financiers, but also to those who are slaughtering the unborn, trafficking children, abusing the elderly and destroying marriage through twisted and decadent behaviors.

Lest anyone think that Pope Francis is coming to America as some sort of Bible thumping hellfire and brimstone preacher, it should be remembered that he comes first and foremost as the messenger of Christ the Lord. He comes as an agent of mercy, an ambassador of peace and a herald of forgiveness.

In other words, Pope Francis is not coming to America to give us hell.

He’s coming to help us toward heaven.

Read Fr Longenecker’s blog, browse his books and be in touch at

Pope FrancisPope Francis USA
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