“I came to bring good news to CEOs and hedge fund managers,” so said Jesus as he announced his mission statement in Luke 4:18.
Not really. He said he came to bring good news to the poor.
Pope Francis insists that this is also the mission of the Catholic Church. His statements and actions consistently focus on concern for the poor. He states that as governments make decisions, they need to evaluate the effects of all their decisions on the poor.
That’s why he speaks consistently about the effects of climate change, unrestricted capitalism and lack of compassion toward refugees.
Steven Bannon doesn’t like this. He has purchased a million-dollar monastery in an Italian village to train people to work against the pope. His rallying cry is that the pope has failed to solve the sexual-abuse crisis that could bankrupt the church.
Bannon is planning seminars to train a new generation of leaders in what he calls populist nationalism. The Italian villagers protesting his plan have another name for it: fascism (a form of government with extreme nationalism and militarism that suppresses individual freedom and all opposition).
Bannon says he has the support of powerful Catholics, including Cardinal Raymond Burke.
For most of the papacy of Francis, Burke has been at odds with the pope. He was upset when the pope explored a way for the divorced and remarried to come back to Communion. When Archbishop Maria Vigano wrote an 11-page letter asking for the pope’s resignation, Burke responded, “I cannot say it is wrong.”
At the heart of the disagreement between Cardinal Burke and Pope Francis is the great difference in their images of the church. Burke sees the ministry of the church is to gather members on “the ship of the saved.”
The hierarchy stands at the entrance to the ship to judge if those approaching the ship qualify to get on board. Because of Pope Francis, Cardinal Burke states the church is “like a ship without a rudder.”
The pope’s image is much different. He sees the church as ministering to those wounded on a battlefield. The hierarchy’s role is to bring mercy and healing to those struggling with the spiritual and temporal wounds of life.
As Francis proclaims, “The church cannot be other than the sacrament of God’s mercy in the world, in every time and towards all humanity.”
The irony concerning Bannon and Burke is they believe Pope John Paul II to be an exemplary pope, yet John Paul did little to face the sexual-abuse crisis. During his papacy, a large portion of the sexual abuse and coverup happened. He even promoted Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, a well-known sexual abuser demoted by Francis, to be a cardinal.
Francis, on the other hand, has interviewed sexual abuse victims and has forced the resignation of many offending bishops.
Recently, he hosted a retreat for leading bishops from all over the world to listen to victims of sexual abuse and to learn that the problem and its solution belonged to all of them. Effective June 1, Francis mandates that all clergy abuse and coverup, including that by bishops and cardinals, is to be reported and investigated worldwide.
Bannon is funded by those “who think the pope is bad for business.” Among those who have this attitude is millionaire Timothy Busch, an attorney who specializes in “high-net-worth” estate planning. Busch is co-founder of Napa Institute, which attracts wealthy Catholics who are vocal critics of Pope Francis.
As Tom Roberts writes in Sojourners Magazine, “Their devotion to individualism, unrestricted capitalism and diminishment of government services, especially to the poor and marginalized, runs counter to the central tenets of Catholic social teaching.” Pope Francis is simply carrying out the mandate of Jesus and centuries of papal statements concerning caring for the poor and making decisions for the common good.
In 2017, Napa Institute sponsored an event at Catholic University entitled “Good Profit,” in honor of Charles Koch’s book of the same name. The event was hosted by Busch, who donated $15 million to CU, and now has the business school named after him.
Support for the Bannon-Burke-Busch collusion seems small from the pews. It has no traction in third world countries.
However, as an alumnus of Catholic University, I am concerned about the developing agenda in a university controlled by American bishops. There is a sliver of wealthy influential Catholics pushing an agenda contrary to Jesus and centuries of the social teaching of the Catholic Church.
Meanwhile, the pope is unperturbed by it all. His focus is to bring good news to the poor.