Pope Francis has been very clear about how he feels about ideological purity in religion. He’s been particularly critical of right-wing Christian fundamentalism. Pope Francis has shifted the focus of the Catholic Church to issues facing the poor and the sick. He has railed against economic inequality and has criticized the anti-gay and anti-abortion strains that have come to dominate the Christian Right here in America. Such ideological extremism is dangerous, not only to Christianity, but to the world. And Pope Francis said as much last Thursday.
Pope Francis called right-wing Christian fundamentalism a sickness.
During a daily Mass last week, Pope Francis called ideological Christianity “an illness” that doesn’t serve Jesus Christ. Instead, it “frightens” people and pushes them away from religion.
“In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid. And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements. The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances, distances the people and distances of the Church of the people. But it is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians. It is an illness, but it is not new, eh?”
Here’s the video via Raw Story:
Based on past statements, Pope Francis’ remarks were aimed mostly at the Christian Right.
While Pope Francis did not specifically mention Christian right-wing ideology during the Mass, his past remarks suggest he was talking about that ideology most of all.
In September, Pope Francis attacked “savage capitalism” and took up the plight of the unemployed against a system that worships money. Earlier that month, the Pope also criticized conservative Catholics for focusing so much on abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception. And in July, Pope Francis put the brakes on hating gay people, saying that we shouldn’t judge or marginalize them.
Clearly, Pope Francis isn’t fond of the extreme ideals of the Christian Right. He supports helping the poor. He believes in economic fairness. He denounces hatred of gay people. He thinks the war against abortion and birth control has gone too far. Considering all of these things, it’s pretty obvious that Pope Francis was mostly talking to right-wing Christians on Thursday. Their ideological fanaticism has damaged religion. They have abandoned the true teachings of Jesus to pursue an extremist agenda. And Pope Francis just called them out for it. Cue right-wing rage in 3, 2, 1…
This article, from an American publication concerned with the problem of fanaticism in religious observance, quotes the recent statement of Pope Francis which identifies that problem within the Christian communities that turn the right wing pursuit of morality into an unhealthy obsession counter to the Gospel ethos of empathy with the outcast and poor of the world. In the very first paragraph of this communique, here is the comment:
“Pope Francis has been very clear about how he feels about ideological purity in religion. He’s been particularly critical of right-wing Christian fundamentalism. Pope Francis has shifted the focus of the Catholic Church to issues facing the poor and the sick. He has railed against economic inequality and has criticized the anti-gay and anti-abortion strains that have come to dominate the Christian Right here in America. Such ideological extremism is dangerous, not only to Christianity, but to the world. And Pope Francis said as much last Thursday.”
For us Anglicans around the world who believe that the current GAFCON movement has been unduly influenced by American Right Wing influences towards homophobia and misogyny in the United States; the Pope’s warning against such bigoted moral crusading rings a bell. Moral Crusades on matters of gender and sexuality – in the light of modern understanding of the social and biological aspects of these matters – may be missing the whole point of the Christian message of God’s love for sinners. The story of the Pharisee and the Publican in the Gospels show the need for humility on the part of preachers of the Good News of Jesus Christ. We are urged not to proclaim our own righteousness in order to judge the unrighteousness of others. The Gospel, it has been said, is ‘One poor man showing another poor man where to find bread’. Jesus is the Bread of Life for Sinners.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand