Francis the Shepherd: nice guy who doesn’t know his sheep?

By Matt Rooney | The Save Jersey Blog

Well, Save Jerseyans, we’ve reached the final day of Francis Fest here in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. And I’m glad for it. Yours truly caught a lot of flack from friends and foes alike over the last several days for critiquing this supreme pontiff’s decidedly and distressingly leftward bent compared to his predecessors and that change’s decidedly unchristian implications for the Church and humanity.

I could (and have) gone on, and on, and on over the substance, and plenty of talking heads are already out there explaining how Pope Francis’s earlier-in-life brush with Argentinian Peronist populism has apparently blinded him to the data, but do you want to know what really bothers me about this visit? At a deeply personal level?

When I was a much smaller Rooney attending St. John’s Catholic school and altar serving at St. Aloysius’s Sunday mass, I invariably found comfort in the following Gospel passage (John 10:14):

I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me…”

Like all kids who dabble in adolescent melodramatics, I didn’t always feel like my friends, family, and the world outside knew me. Understood me. Appreciated my fears and grasped my priorities. It was reaffirming to know that God unfailing did.

Now I’m sure this Vicar of Christ does not. Not even close.

Again, I’m not even going to get deep into the substantive debate in this particular post (for example, a “stranger,” Holy Father, is someone in need who politely knocks on your door and asks for help. Someone who breaks in? And refuses to abide by your rules? That’s an intruder). We won’t need to; Pope Francis’s priorities are worrying enough on their face.

Why would he focus primarily on reprimanding the excesses of capitalism when he’s visiting the most objectively generous nation on the planet? Even in 2010, in the immediate wake of the financial crisis, U.S. corporate charitable giving rose by 13% to $4.9 billion. Over the past two decades since the collapse of communism, the free market has carried American goods, crop yield techniques, vaccines, cheaper energy and other modern wonders to the far reaches over the earth, lifting over a billion people out of poverty and dramatically improving the world’s quality of life. Just look at what the last Administration did for AIDS in Africa!

So the pope lecturing America on the need to care for the poor is not unlike lecturing records-shattering Olympic medalist Michael Phelps to exercise. Why bother? He’s fretting over a problem that’s maybe #15 on the American problems list. This isn’t 1950s Argentina, Holy Father…

pope francis congressTo the extent that poverty DOES exist in America, it’s not the kind of poverty the Holy Father remembers encountering in the streets of Buenos Aires. Our poor have cell phones, public benefits, scholarship opportunities and in some of the poorest cases $25,000+ annual educations subsidized by the taxpayers. The largest obstacle facing these kids on a daily basis are drugs (which the Left wants to legalize) and crappy schools (which are well-funded but mismanaged by a Big Labor-protected monopoly). This country’s homeless (whom Philadelphia disappeared before the papal visit) are largely grappling with severe mental disorders, not necessarily a lack of familial resources, and they’d be off the streets were it not for the Left’s taken-too-far 1970s crusade against the asylums.

The Pope’s apparent answer to the completely avoidable poverty that does exist? For the government responsible for ruining the schools and the cities through redistributionist policies in the first place to redistribute more wealth, never mind if the conditions still exist to create any.

But I digress. The collapse of the civic and moral virtue necessary to sustain an ideal capitalist system (see Catholic Justice Scalia’s 2013 lecture at Lanier Theological Library in Houston for a better discussion on this topic than I could ever offer), embodied by the Trumps, Kardashians, and Clintons of our worlds, is evidence of a western cultural crisis, Save Jerseyans, not a fatal flaw of free market economics. A rejection of not just traditional institutions but also the idea of a divine itself. It was therefore slightly reassuring to see the pope focus on the family at Saturday evening’s climactic outdoor concert.

Sadly, that was an isolated incident.

We didn’t get any warning about the dangerous of godless statism or cultural idolatry, as John Paul II had routinely served up, nor any strong pronouncements (other than one watered-down line in his speech to Congress) about abortion and the travesties perpetrated by Planned Parenthood despite the Bishop of Rome telling America’s bishops it was the primary reason for his visit. Inalienable religious liberty took a back seat to open border rhetoric. Most distressing of all? Despite the fact that he quietly wears the cross of a martyred Iraqi priest under his garments, the Pope sounded less like a shepherd defending his sheep and more like a European politician address “extremism” at Ground Zero and the U.N. No mention was made at any point about America’s countless casualties in foreign wars to defend peoples of all faiths against oppression, violence, and intolerance.

I mean, we barely even heard much about Jesus! Go check out the transcripts. The Vicar of Christ sounded more like the Dalai Lama…

Pope Francis came to America expecting to find mid-20th century corporatism. I see no evidence that he’s changed his baseless opinion since arriving. His narrow world view shaped in South America is part of the problem; shockingly enough, his admirable desire to speak for the voiceless is another less obvious component. A shepherd should pay special attention to the weakest members of the flock, no doubt about it, but if you ignore all of the others, many of whom who could inform the process of helping the weaker sheep (!), are you truly doing the lambs a service? 

The painfully obvious answer is “no.”

What is the flock supposed to do when the shepherd refuses to take on the wolves?

This Catholic sincerely wishes he could’ve been more excited about the Pope’s U.S visit, but if I wanted a lecture on the tenets of a discredited, oppressive and yes, unchristian economic ideology, I don’t need to fly in a socialist from Rome. They grow on trees in Trenton. Visit Camden to find out how well it works for the poor. I wanted a rousing pep talk for a western civilization besieged by enemies inside and out when the growing legend surrounding this Pope’s admirable personal behavior had everyone hanging on his every word. It was a missed opportunity of historic proportions.

My faith in Christ is as strong as ever, folks, but my faith in a shepherd who clearly doesn’t know me, and the other people he talked right past this week, has certainly seen better days.

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