Naming himself after St. Francis of Assisi, a Catholic who claimed that he answered God’s call to “repair my church in ruins”, a 76-year-old priest from South America became the first Jesuit pope yesterday and, breaking from small, hierarchical rituals, reminded the world that people currently want to believe, i.e. have faith, more than they want to choose to think, i.e., follow reason. Contrary to those who claim it doesn’t matter, the Catholic Church is meaningless, etc., the naming of the new pope is, I think, a serious new sign that civilization is in trouble.
It’s not that this pope – who is accused of aiding and abetting a dictatorship in his native Argentina, which he apparently as much as admits to doing, which is hardly surprising in a country that welcomed Nazis after World War 2 – is extremely hostile to sex without procreation, such as homosexuality and contraception, or that he is as contemptuous of capitalism as Barack Obama or his nagging wife Michelle. The sign stems from the fact that, as far as I can tell, most people are choosing to ignore or evade the overwhelming evidence that the Catholic Church, which is paying out millions of dollars in settlements to people who credibly claim to have been sexually abused as children by priests operating within a system that’s apparently influenced or ruled by a secretly repressed sex cabal, is 100 percent corrupt and immoral.
That people – conservatives, liberals, otherwise rational people of all types, judging by social and mainstream media – really want to believe is not quite astonishing. We are regressing, not progressing, and besides a New Left president, we now have a “Third World” pope who chose to emulate St. Francis because, according to a Vatican spokesman, he has a “special place in his heart and his ministry for the poor, for the disenfranchised, [and] for those living on the fringes and facing injustice.” This last line, if any justice were possible among Catholics, should mean those who toil, struggle and strive to make money and live decent, honorable lives in the pursuit of their own selfish happiness; be they any color, sex or economic status. But no one has any reason to think that Pope Francis will spare condemnation of those who seek to profit and act selfishly here on earth and we have every reason to think that he will not. Instead, Pope Francis should be expected to change the Catholic Church only in order to fix what he thinks is broken – which is to say make it a more consistent organ of altruism and other rotten ideals.
At that, secular and rational people should not snicker at Pope Francis, who may, like his predecessor, be a transitional figure, or wonder how anyone can take him seriously. The point is that they do – more than ever – and those of us who reject Judeo-Christianity, religion and mysticism ought to stop snickering, get serious about fighting the irrationality that’s engulfing the world and live by example – including by means of rational, not pedantic or dogmatic, activism – a rational alternative to a life of submission. The fact of Pope Francis is an ominous, not humorous, sign that we are running out of time.