Acton Institute Powerblog

Rev. Sirico: Pope Francis, without the politics

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Writing in The Detroit News, Rev. Robert A. Sirico looks at Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation, the “much talked about, but little-read” document titled “The Joy of the Gospel” with a special emphasis on how the pontiff understands the problem of poverty. The president and co-founder of the Acton Institute notes how Francis “speaks boldly through effective and moving gestures.” Excerpt:

It is no surprise that the man who took as his model and name the model of il poverello of Assisi would place the poor as a central concern of his pontificate: their dignity, their rights and their sustenance. Yet, the spontaneous gestures and the impromptu manner in which they are displayed ought not to beguile us into thinking this pope is offering a superficial dichotomy between left and right; between capitalism and socialism. To think that any pope, but especially this pope, is animated in his concern for the poor and vulnerable by a particular political ideology is to miss him completely.

While renouncing the notion that the market alone is sufficient to meet all human needs, Francis is also prepared to denounce a “welfare mentality” that creates a dependency on the part of the poor and reduces the Church to the role of being just another bureaucratic NGO. The complexity of his thought surprises some, on both the Right (some of whom worry, needlessly, that he is a liberation theologian) and the Left (who are already using his words to foment a political “Francis Revolution” in his name). Such tendencies reveal a rather anemic understanding of this man but also of Catholicism, which has historically been comfortable balancing the tensions of apparent paradoxes (Divine/human; Virgin/Mother; etc.). It is too facile a temptation to collapse 2,000 years of tradition, commentary and lived experience into four or five politically-correct hot button sound bites that are the priority, not of the Church, but of propagandists with an agenda.

Read “Pope Francis, without the politics” by Rev. Robert A. Sirico in The Detroit News.

John Couretas John Couretas is Director of Communications, responsible for print and online communications at the Acton Institute. He has more than 20 years of experience in news and publishing fields. He has worked as a staff writer on newspapers and magazines, covering business and government. John holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in the Humanities from Michigan State University and a Master of Science Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University.


  • rodlarocque1931

    Would it be too much to expect the pope to stop feeding all these ‘misunderstandings’ of what he is ‘really’ trying to say?
    Seriously – when the Vatican spokesman needs to clarify that the Pope has not abolished sin, there is something seriously wrong going on…

    • Steven Hunter

      Perhaps. It seems to me, though, that the misunderstandings are in fact a willful distortion on the part of a media which neither understands Catholic social teaching nor cares that it doesn’t understand. If there was informed, responsible reporting on this papacy, I don’t think these sorts of clarifications would be required. Most faithful Catholics can see plainly what the Pope is doing and know that he hasn’t changed doctrine or any church teaching.

      • MarioG

        How does one “distort” Sections 53 through 58 in Evangelii Gaudium, which are taken right out of the Marxist playbook?

        The Pope has not changed Catholic doctrine because he cannot, but he has attacked capitalists as “savages” an invective he has yet to use against ISIS. I would like to ask him whether he would prefer Castro and Mugabe, Maduro and Ortega as sponsors or Gates, Zuckerman and Buffet?

        Who does he think has funded his ministry for centuries if not capitalists and those they employ?

        A more constructive approach would have been to THANK capitalists for their previous patronage and to then ASK them to do more to help the poor in partnership with the Church’s assets in terms of physical buildings and the small army of selfless nuns and priests. Every Catholic Church could be a community center in their parish funded by the fruits of capitalism.

  • Paul H.

    The right-wing political activist religious group, the Acton Institute, calls on people to take the politics out of religion. Moving on…

    • Fr. Robert Sirico

      The “right-wing” of which you speak actually calls for less government, hence less politics. Glad you’re moving on.

  • timothygordon Someone please direct Gregg and Sirico to this article of mine in Imaginitove Conservative.

  • Dr. Charlie Self

    Father Sirico, thank your these insightful words on a new leader of more than one billion believers. The instant nature of communication and “reporting” can distort what history will place in context. May our gracious Lord bless Francis with Gospel wisdom and favor with seekers and skeptics as he calls all to faith operating through love.

  • Momo

    Can someone explain his comment about deciding for yourself what is right? And saying that the biggest problem is unemployment? Really, because being no one goes to Hell for being poor. In fact, Jesus suggests is an easier route than if u r rich. I think that this world is temporary and the biggest problems are those that lead to eternal damnation. I think the Pope is a great man but I’m worried he’s not a great Catholic. Please comment.

  • Prof, Babu Joseph

    Yes Francis pope’s exemplary behavior has attracted the attention and appreciation of people of good will all over the world.There is no doubt about it.His heart is at the right place.But some of the off the cuff remarks supposed to have been made by him is really worrisome since it can create confusion in the minds of ordinary people.For instance some of his remarks clearly gives the impression that charity and distribution of wealth can probably solve the problems of poverty in the world.

  • MarioG

    To begin with, we have the context of the vicious attack on capitalists by Pope Francis by calling them “savages” an invective he has yet to use against the real savages slaughtering Christians across the middle-east and Africa.

    All one has to do is to read Sections 53 through 58 to see why this “exhortation” must have amused Karl Marx in his mausoleum at the irony of a Catholic Pope advocating for an ideology that he was unable to make work as we saw in the USSR and in Europe and in the US under Barack Obama.