Though not Catholic, I went to a Jesuit University and had one of the most spiritual experiences of my life in Rome. I watched the smoke from the Sistine Chapel signal the selection of a new pope.
I like the new guy, Pope Francis. He's not perfect, and neither is the institution, but this guy's a rebel. I think Jesus -- you know, the guy who chased the investment bankers out of the temple -- would like him too.
This pope doesn't prance around in red Prada shoes like the previous quitter pope. He has instructed clergy to sell their newer cars, give the money to the poor and drive beaters like his 1984 Renault. He told them to think of starving children instead of fancier cars.
He has washed the feet of prisoners in a remarkable display of humility. "Who am I to judge?" was his response to a question about homosexuals. He wants to focus on issues of poverty and economic justice rather than the church's recent "obsession" with gays, abortion and birth control.
He told the head of Vatican charities to get rid of his desk -- he wouldn't need it because he would be out among the people finding their needs. Germany's "Bishop of Bling" was fired and his mansion, with its $40 million in renovations, was turned into a soup kitchen.
This week the Vatican published a document that is basically the pope's platform. He's the spiritual leader of a worldwide population of Catholics three times larger than the U.S., so chances are he's got quite an audience.
In his "manifesto," Pope Francis took on greed and consumption. He flogged unfettered capitalism as the new "tyranny." The lure of consumerism is there to serve the financial system that rules us, he said. (See 2008.)
He wrote, "The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose." (Apparently he's familiar with Wal-Mart.)
"The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person!"
Oh, the humanity!
"Trickle down" economics is nothing more than a gimmick to fool the naive. It works for the tricklers, not the tricklees. (See the last 30 years.)
This pope isn't falling for it. He said politicians should guarantee all citizens "dignified work, education and health care." Holy moly! The man wants "entitlements" -- or what some of us call "human rights."
Dignified work? A living wage? He's a crazy radical!
My mother said he sounds like Mother Teresa. I think he sounds like Jesus.
Sarah Palin is all "taken aback." The things this pope talks about seem "liberal" to her. Wait 'til someone tells her what Jesus was really about. Healing the sick (without talking nonsense about death panels), feeding the hungry (without teaching them to fish first), telling people to sell their possessions and give the money to the poor (redistribution of wealth, for God's sake!), and praising the peacemakers (you know, those of us who don't think bombing is the first stage of diplomacy).
If she ever reads the book, (you know, the one in all the hotel rooms), she's going to freak out.
Rush Limbaugh did. In all his befuddled (or is it drug-addled) wisdom, he said, "Somebody has either written this for him or gotten to him. This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope."
Apparently someone got to him a long time ago. Back in Argentina, he was known for distributing bread at night to the poor, and sitting and talking to homeless people.
Maybe it was a gang that got to Pope Frances. Yeah, that's it. The Gospel Gang of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Maybe there was a typo and Limbaugh meant Mark-ist instead of Marxist.
While Sarah is busy cashing in on the "War on Christmas," Pope Francis gets what's really happening. The war on Christmas is being waged by thoughtless consumption and corporate greed.
The last thing the Pope needs is my blessing but my prayers are with him.
Originally published in the Anchorage Daily News.