By JR on Monday, December 09, 2013
More on Pope Francis
I have to conclude that Evangelii gaudium is a failure as a policy document. It has been extensively misunderstood. As I think I showed yesterday, a careful reading of it favours neither Left nor Right in politics. Francis identifies what he sees as a raft of social problems and many of those problems are ones that Leftists dine out on. But he does not call for political action to remedy those problems . He recommends prayer and personal compassion as the response to such problems.
But just about nobody seems to have noticed that. The Left think he has come down firmly on their side and conservatives see him as pro-Left too. See for instance here for a conservative critique.
The problem as I see it is that people on both sides of politics in the Western world see a statement of social grievances as a call for political action. So Francis has misjudged his audience. He is politically naive: Rather surprising in a Jesuit.
Past Popes in their encyclicals have taken care to remain in the middle ground of politics. John Paul II's encyclical Centesimus annus is a good example of that. Fortunately, Evangelii gaudium is an informal document so is not binding in any way. So Francis should move soon to issue an encyclical which cancels out the naive political views that are expressed in Evangelii gaudium. He will lose a lot of conservative Catholics otherwise. And Leftists are not conspicuous as churchgoers. His good intentions may be bad for his church. Pius XII came quite unfairly to be called "Hitler's Pope". Will Francis come to be known as "Stalin's Pope"? -- JR