By Lloyd Billingsley
Originally published on September 17, 2018 on American Greatness
Is the Pope Catholic?” is a longstanding response to those who show a stranglehold on the obvious. Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich recently gave it a new twist when he said that Pope Francis’ critics “don’t like him because he’s a Latino.” Cupich didn’t quote anybody, and he avoided the more obvious reasons Pope Francis’ critics don’t like him, such as the sexual abuse scandal.
In a recent episode, the Diocese of San Diego added eight priests to the list of those believed to have been involved in the sexual abuse scandal: Revs. Jose Chavarin, Raymond Etienne, J. Patrick Foley, Michael French, Richard Houck, George Lally, Paolino Montagna, and Monsignor Mark Medaer. As Bishop Robert McElroy told reporters, “This is a response to the terrible moment we are in.”
The bishop cited the Pennsylvania grand jury report, which flagged 1,000 underaged youths sexually assaulted by priests in the Pittsburgh area, and the recent resignation of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, accused of sexual assaults against altar boys, priests and seminary students. Some of Pope Francis’ critics believe he has not devoted enough attention to such matters.
Cardinal Cupich was dealing with accusations from Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano that Pope Francis knew about the sexual misconduct allegations against McCarrick. Vigano’s report also named Cupich as someone who owes his advancement to McCarrick’s influence. Whatever the case, many Catholics believe the pope has looked the other way.
His recent trip to Ireland, Tanya Sweeney wrote in the Irish Times, was “an affront, given the Catholic Church’s cover-up of child sexual abuse, both here and around the world, over decades.” Sweeney proposed eight ways to avoid the papal visit, including “attend a protest.” Many did, and others don’t like the pope because of his notorious views on economics.
“We cannot wait any longer to deal with the structural causes of poverty,” the pope explained. The “structural causes” turn out to be voluntary exchange and a free society, not the command economies of socialism. This smacks of 1980s-vintage “liberation theology,” Marxism tarted up with biblical language, which as the late Michael Novak noted, never liberated anyone.
“The pope’s anti-capitalist broadsides have helped make him the adorable mascot of the American left,” wrote Rich Lowry in a Politico column headlined, “The Invincible Ignorance of Pope Francis.” He makes “wholly ridiculous statements about public policy,” which leftists take as “confirmation of the economics of Bernie Sanders and the climate alarmism of Al Gore.”
Some people don’t like the pope because he has immanentized the eschaton, making climate change an issue of religious pronouncement rather than of empirical enquiry. Predictions of climate catastrophe are not science. The careful measurement of actual climate data is science.
Others who admire Pope Francis may take issue with his fervent pronouncements on U.S. immigration policies, which are a matter of U.S. law as established by the people’s elected representatives. The pope might have more credibility if he addressed the issue of parents who place their children in the hands of criminal smugglers. His lack of attention might indicate that he is okay with human trafficking, and it would be hard for anybody to like him for that.
Some critics of the pope note that he tends to go easy on the nations that drive people to flee, most often to the capitalist United States. Critics might see what the pope has to say on October 2, the 50th anniversary of the Tlatelolco massacre, when Mexican troops and police gunned down hundreds of unarmed students protesting for more democracy. Pope Francis has also been rather soft on Cuba’s sado-Stalinist dictatorship.
Back in the 1980s, when anti-Communist Pope John Paul II put out his Abba Pater album, “Saturday Night Live” comic Don Novello (Father Guido Sarducci) quipped “he’s no Smokey Robinson.” Of Pope Francis, critics might say “he’s no Pope John Paul II.”
In 2016, the killing of Christians in northern Nigeria increased by 62 percent, and as Open Doors USA reports, “For decades, Christians in the region have suffered marginalization and discrimination as well as targeted violence.” Yet Pope Francis has not made the persecution of Christians a priority of his global ministry.
Even so, Cardinal Cupich thinks people dislike the pope because he is “Latino.” Instead of addressing the issues, some responded that the pope is not “Latino.” On this point the Pontiff deserves defense.
Like many in Argentina, the Pope comes from an Italian family. Italy is home to the plain of Latium from which Latin derives. So by the most accurate standard the Pope is a Latino, and so are Jimmy Garoppolo, Andrew Cuomo, Justice Samuel Alito, and the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Those whom it is politically correct to call “Latinos,” such as self-proclaimed “wise Latina” Sonia Sotomayor of the Supreme Court, are more properly Hispanic, a linguistic term. Aside from actual nationality, Mexican, Salvadoran, and so forth, the more accurate designation would be “Iberian,” indicating ancestry from the Iberian peninsula of Europe, whence Spanish colonialism proceeded.
So Cardinal Cupich is right that Pope Francis is a Latino, but that is not the reason many people don’t like him. As Jay Leno once quipped, the Catholic Church needs to do more to promote the separation of priest and altar boy. His leftist politics aside, if Pope Francis fixes that more people all over the world might like him.