Vernucio’s View: Is Pope Francis too political

Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, is continuing what some perceive to be a departure from the traditions of the institution he leads. Critics maintain that he has used his highly visible position to engage in temporal matters.

Pope Francis, TIME magazine’s “2013 Person of the Year.”

In addition to stating that he is willing to “confront” President Trump on the construction of the border wall, Vatican News reports that he has directed $500,000 be sent to migrants in Mexico from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. At first glance, this appears to be a fairly normal act of charity from an organization that has performed enormous good works across the planet. But a more careful review reveals a separate inclination.

An official Vatican statement noted that “In recent months, thousands of migrants have arrived in Mexico, having travelled more than 4,000 kilometres on foot and with makeshift vehicles from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Men and women, often with young children, flee poverty and violence, hoping for a better future in the United States. However, the US border remains closed to them…In particular, the aid is intended to assist the more than 75,000 people who arrived in Mexico in 2018, in six migrant caravans…All these people were stranded, unable to enter the United States…”

As the Vatican stated, these individuals fled poverty in their home nations. Through Catholic Relief Services, the Church does seek to provide assistance in those countries.  But critics worry that Pope Francis’ attention is concentrated less on the good works performed by his institution and more on criticizing the moves by Washington to protect its borders.  He appears, they note, less concerned with the corruption and incompetence of those Central American nations that results in poverty and human rights violations, and more on his political dislike of capitalism, a  perspective that overlooks capitalism’s record providing more prosperity for more people than any other approach.

The Pontiff has soundly criticized the acts of the United States in enforcing its own laws, but has remained relatively silent on the practices of Latin American leaders who have caused the conditions that chased people out of their homelands. As Dr. Samuel Gregg wrote in The Catholic World Report, “With Venezuela imploding, many wonder why Pope Francis seems slow to condemn a left-wing populist Latin American dictatorship that’s brutalizing the population of an overwhelmingly Catholic country. If you want to see where socialism takes a country, go to today’s Venezuela.”

The Pope has made some comments condemning corruption in the region, but his actions indicate a lack of resolve. Martin Barillas, in a Lifesite article points out that “Twenty former presidents of Latin American nations sent an open letter on Jan. 5 to Pope Francis in which they criticized his call for “harmony” in socialist Venezuela and “reconciliation” in Nicaragua where Marxist governments have ruined these countries’ national economies and subjected citizens to torture and summary executions.”

The most controversial display of the Pontiff’s apparent tolerance for corrupt and socialist regimes came during his 2015 visit to Cuba, in which he met not only with the island nation’s current leader but also with retired dictator Fidel Castro, who has an abysmal human rights record. The Washington Post editorial board .reflected: “How… to explain Pope Francis’s behavior in Cuba? The pope is spending four days in a country whose Communist dictatorship has remained unrelenting in its repression of free speech, political dissent and other human rights despite a warming of relations with the Vatican and the United States. Yet by the end of his third day, the pope had said or done absolutely nothing that might discomfit his official hosts.”

Writing in Reuters, Philip Pullella reports that ” A group of 19 Catholic priests and academics have urged bishops to denounce Pope Francis as a heretic.”

Frank Vernuccio serves as editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy and Government.

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