December 16, 2013
(Time Magazine/Handout)
(Time Magazine/Handout)

You would think that the far right’s war on Pope Francis wouldn’t occupy one moment of the pontiff’s time. After all, they are just a small cadre of apoplectic Americans fuming on radio and television while Francis must run the Vatican and lead 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide. But in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa published Saturday, Pope Francis was asked directly about the heated criticism from the conservative right in the United States. He knows what they have been saying about him. And in response, he turned the other cheek.

Some of the passages in the “Evangelii Gaudium” attracted the criticism of ultraconservatives in the USA. As a Pope, what does it feel like to be called a “Marxist”?

“The Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended.”

The most striking part of the Exhortation was where it refers to an economy that “kills”…

“There is nothing in the Exhortation that cannot be found in the social Doctrine of the Church. I wasn’t speaking from a technical point of view, what I was trying to do was to give a picture of what is going on. The only specific quote I used was the one regarding the “trickle-down theories” which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and social inclusiveness in the world. The promise was that when the glass was full, it would overflow, benefitting the poor. But what happens instead, is that when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger nothing ever comes out for the poor. This was the only reference to a specific theory. I was not, I repeat, speaking from a technical point of view but according to the Church’s social doctrine. This does not mean being a Marxist.”

Elizabeth Tenety, editor of The Post’s On Faith blog, doesn’t like how partisans from the right and the left are trying to remake Francis in their own image. “Both left and right need to wake up. Francis is, at his heart, a spiritual leader,” she wrote in a must-read commentary on Sunday. “His mission may have political implications, but he has come to serve God, not to advance the platform of the Democratic Party — and it’s presumptuous to imagine otherwise.

“Without Jesus, there is no Pope Francis,” Tenety continues. “If Francis’s embrace of the disabled, his focus on the poor and his mercy for the sinner sound vaguely familiar, that’s because you’ve heard them before. From that Jesus guy.” This might seem a basic statement of fact, but Tenety was absolutely right to  find it necessary to remind folks of the pope’s motivations and beliefs.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.