Thursday, May 25, 2017

Pope Francis Gives Trump a Pointed Present

The more I hear about Pope Francis I, the more I like and respect the man.

Here is a Pope that actually makes me almost scratch my head about Catholicism, which was the faith for much of my family, including my father, who had a very traditional Catholic upbringing when growing up in France. You see, traditionally, I took quite a skeptical view of the Catholic church, and especially the Vatican, with it's gilded halls and priceless art, exclusive archives, enormous wealth and it's own private bank. It seemed to me a paradox that the Vatican claimed to represent the true message of Jesus and Catholicism, while simultaneously clinging to every aspect of privilege that it has obtained during it's long history, and much of it was ill gotten goods. All of that, of course, is coupled with a rather frightening history in which the Church heavily taxed the poor, and where it went to extraordinary lengths to fight any scientific progress, particularly when the findings of then new scientific research felt threatening to their established worldview. When you consider yourself infallible, and your world view is based on one strict interpretation of the world, any and all evidence that would appear to either contradict, or perhaps even outright negate, that world view will clearly not be welcomed.

Still, the extremes to which the Church fought certain things from the idea that the Earth was not the center of the Earth, to the Inquisition, to the still ongoing denial of evolution and the Big Bang theory, and even climate change. They forced Galileo to deny what he knew to be true, and which logic dictated was true, and he got off lightly. Many others were tortured, even burned at the stake, as heretics. Or basically setting up a division of New World territories between Spain and Portugal, while trying to force native peoples in the Americans and elsewhere to And of course, going still further back in history, you cannot simply pretend that the Church did not hold non-believers in contempt, and destined to the fires of Hell for all eternity, while some official believers who were almost monsters were forgiven some incredible, staggering sins.

Clearly, the Church saw many of these things as a threat to it's established order, and specifically to it's privileges.

However, Pope Francis I has also criticized this excessive focus on exclusivity and privilege by members of his church, and seems to be trying to bring the message of the church back to the original teaching of Jesus, which were all about acceptance, forgiveness, not judging, treating each other like we would like ourselves to be treated, and helping out the poor.

Yet, Pope Francis I has gone further than Popes before him went in trying to modernize the Church's viewpoint on many other things, as well. This Pope has a background in science, and so he also will be remembered as the Pope that suggested that the Big Bang theory, and even evolution, are real, and compatible with Church teachings. He has called out the elitism of many high-ranking Church officials, and has even attacked gossip.

Still, perhaps the most impressive thing that this Pope has done is to completely reverse the Vatican's position on climate change. Whereas before, there was some serious skepticism, this Pope has not only acknowledged that climate change is real, but has championed the cause and urged action to people around the world. He understands that the science behind it is real, which means the threat is real, and that there is no time to waste. Something needs to be done, and done now.

Surely, that must make a meeting with President Trump difficult, if not maddening. After all, Trump is everything that the Church, and especially this Pope, rails against. He is a man with no sense of control, with an obscenely enormous ego, and who is personally guilty of more of the Seven Deadly Sins than not, and generally, on an epic scale. Trump is the ultimate narcissist, and he has been guilty of fostering hatred towards numerous minorities, including women, Mexicans, and Muslims. In the wake of his election to the White House, there has been a spike in hate crimes in the United States. And through it all, Trump assures us that he knows better than any and all of us, put together.

Clearly, Trump is a difficult man to accept and like for a variety of reasons. When he is so dismissive of any and all viewpoints that do not match his own, you know that other world leaders are going to have a difficult and unpleasant time dealing with him. And this is perhaps especially true of that ultimate crisis in our time: climate change. Trump made up his mind that climate change is not real, that it is just one big, gigantic hoax invented by the Chinese to hurt the American economy. To that end, he has tried to stifle dissent by literally silencing federal employees who he feared would advocate the position that climate change is real and man-made, and that urgent action is required to combat it. In very typical fashion, Trump suggests that he knows better than these scientists, who studied for years, and who make a career out of studying this field, especially.

Pope Francis wanted to get across the seriousness of this dilemma, and he did it in a rather coy manner with Trump. He gave the president a personally signed copy of the Laudato Si’, his climate change encyclical, as a parting gift. Perhaps it was a shot at the president's stubborn climate change denial stance. Or, perhaps it was a sincere attempt to try and wake him up to this reality, and make him understand just how important it is for the United States - still the world's leading superpower - to take action to try and combat it.

However way you want to interpret it, as a shot, or as a real, heartfelt attempt to get the president to see another viewpoint other than the one he has entrenched himself in, it shows character and resolve, which seems to me to be what you would want from a moral authority figure.

And once again, we have the president embarrassing himself and disgracing his nation with his arrogance and false sense of entitlement, meeting with a world leader who has shown real courage, true resolve, and responsible leadership to try and do his part to make this world a better place in as many ways as he can. It really is a striking contrast in styles.

I cannot say that I am proud of President Trump with really anything that he has done thus far, but the actions of Pope Francis I can serve as a reminder that there are people - yes, powerful people - who can show Americans, and indeed the world, a shining example of what Abraham Lincoln described as the "better angels of our nature."

Below are some of the pictures from when my son and I went to see Pope Francis I during his visit to America in September of 2015, where we saw him in Philadelphia:

Pope Francis politely shades Trump’s climate ignorance with a parting gift by Jack Jenkins, May 24, 2017:

The Pope Just Called Out Trump’s Cowardice With The PERFECT Gift  BY SHEILA NORTON    PUBLISHED ON MAY 24, 2017

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