Sunday, April 17, 2016

Bernie And Pope Francis


I inadvertently stumbled onto Fox & Friends when I woke up at 4 am Sunday. The producers seemed to have invited some random right-wing priest on to paint a weird picture of Bernie's quick visit to the Vatican. Fox has been asserting all week, Bernie had invited himself to the Vatican-- even as they reported on how a "left-wing bishop," Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, who happens to be a close aide to Pope Francis and the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, had invited him. According to this random dude with a clerical collar, Bernie was staying-- was staying with an implication he chose where to stay-- in the same guest house where the Pope lives. If Bernie and Jane were placed in a room near the Pope, that was something carefully thought out by the Vatican, not by Bernie or his campaign. Dude with collar then claimed Bernie was waiting for the Pope-- waiting as in waylaid-- in the hallway when the Pope was leaving for Lesbos. The absurdity of what Fox was trying to get across, that somehow Bernie ambushed the Pope was as silly as Fox's overall world view. If Bernie and Jane were in the hall when the Pope was passing by, it's because the Vatican summoned him, not because Jeff Weaver, Tad Devine and Michael Briggs plotted out a strategy to bring the two men into physical proximity. In fact, on Friday night while Bernie was having dinner, he was told that the Pope would like to talk with him personally the following morning.

Despite the picture Fox was trying to portray, Pope Francis had a 5-10 minute meeting in the foyer of the Domus of Santa Marta that included Bernie and Jane along with Bernie advisor Jeffrey Sachs and his wife and, translating, Bishop Sánchez Sorondo.
[F]inal word, it seemed, came Friday afternoon in the form of a handwritten letter from the pope apologizing to conference attendees for his absence.

“I will keep them all in my prayers and good wishes, and send them my heartfelt thanks for their participation,” he wrote. “May the Lord bless you. Fraternally, Franciscus.”

Around 5:30 p.m. Friday, the conference’s business ended and Mr. Sanders made an appointment for dinner at the Casa Santa Marta with his foreign policy adviser, Jeffrey D. Sachs, the economist and a fellow conference participant.

Mr. Sanders and his wife, Jane, sat with Mr. Sachs and his wife, Sonia, for a soup and buffet dinner, where they were joined by Bishop Sánchez Sorondo and Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras, the pope’s right-hand man and one of the Vatican’s top power players.

“It was a wide-ranging conversation,” Mr. Sachs said. “It was about issues of the church and its history, about Honduras and foreign policy.”

But the most important words occurred in the middle of dinner, when a personal secretary for Francis arrived with the news Mr. Sanders had been hoping for, Mr. Sachs said.

If Mr. Sanders were in the foyer of the Casa Santa Marta at 6 a.m. the next day, he would be able to speak briefly with Francis as the pope headed to the airport for his Saturday trip to Greece, where the pope would be addressing the migrant crisis.

So early Saturday morning, Mr. Sanders stood in the marble foyer, which looks out onto a large cobblestone drive just inside the Vatican walls. Joining him were his wife, Mr. Sachs and his wife and Bishop Sánchez Sorondo, the senator’s de facto Vatican fixer.

The pope, speaking to reporters on his plane later in the day, described the meeting. “This morning when I was leaving, Senator Sanders was there,” he said, adding, “He knew I was leaving at that time, and he had the courtesy to greet me.”

No photos of the encounter were permitted, but Mr. Sachs said the senator was delighted all the same. He was beaming as he left the guesthouse, and celebrated the informal audience with a victory lap of sorts in St. Peter’s Basilica along with Mr. Sachs and the bishop, passing Bernini’s Baldacchino, a monumental bronze canopy over the papal altar, and Michelangelo’s Pietà.

Aware that his every statement is parsed for deeper meaning, Francis said he was simply being polite, not political.

“I shook his hand and nothing more,” he said. “If someone thinks that greeting someone means getting involved in politics,” he added, laughing, “I recommend that he find a psychiatrist!”

But the candidate was excited to talk about his coveted souvenir.

“I conveyed to him my great admiration for the extraordinary work that he is doing all over the world in demanding that morality be part of our economy,” Mr. Sanders told reporters aboard the plane as it rushed him back to the campaign in New York.
Bernie and Pope Francis share a progressive vision around the dignity of mankind that includes peace and economic opportunity that is not shared by anyone else running for president. Bernie has been singing Pope Francis' praises since he became Pope in March of 2013 and chose to be named for St Francis of Assisi, best known as an advocate for the poor and down-trodden. Before he declared Pope he had said of St. Francis that "He brought to Christianity an idea of poverty against the luxury, pride, vanity of the civil and ecclesiastical powers of the time," a message that would be taken as a full on attack against the Republicans and the Clintons, all of whom are living on that low evolutionary plane of luxury, pride and vanity and none of whom are remotely fit for leadership roles.

The paragraphs below are from the speech Bernie delivered at the Vatican, the transcript of which he released even though Clinton is still doggedly refusing to release the transcripts of the speeches she gave to the worshippers of the golden calf, 12 of which netted her a cool $2.9 million. Ask yourself why Bernie was happy to release the transcript of his speech, while Clinton is still tightly guarding the contents of hers. What is she hiding? New Yorkers can force her to release her speeches by refusing to vote for her Tuesday. Bernie:
The Church’s social teachings, stretching back to the first modern encyclical about the industrial economy, Rerum Novarum in 1891, to Centesimus Annus, to Pope Francis’s inspiring encyclical Laudato Si’ this past year, have grappled with the challenges of the market economy. There are few places in modern thought that rival the depth and insight of the Church’s moral teachings on the market economy.

Over a century ago, Pope Leo XIII highlighted economic issues and challenges in Rerum Novarum that continue to haunt us today, such as what he called “the enormous wealth of a few as opposed to the poverty of the many.”

And let us be clear. That situation is worse today. In the year 2016, the top one percent of the people on this planet own more wealth than the bottom 99 percent, while the wealthiest 60 people-- 60 people-- own more than the bottom half-- 3 1/2 billion people. At a time when so few have so much, and so many have so little, we must reject the foundations of this contemporary economy as immoral and unsustainable.

...We are now twenty-five years after the fall of Communist rule in Eastern Europe. Yet we have to acknowledge that Pope John Paul’s warnings about the excesses of untrammeled finance were deeply prescient. Twenty-five years after Centesimus Annus, speculation, illicit financial flows, environmental destruction, and the weakening of the rights of workers is far more severe than it was a quarter century ago. Financial excesses, indeed widespread financial criminality on Wall Street, played a direct role in causing the world’s worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

We need a political analysis as well as a moral and anthropological analysis to understand what has happened since 1991. We can say that with unregulated globalization, a world market economy built on speculative finance burst through the legal, political, and moral constraints that had once served to protect the common good. In my country, home of the world’s largest financial markets, globalization was used as a pretext to deregulate the banks, ending decades of legal protections for working people and small businesses. Politicians joined hands with the leading bankers to allow the banks to become “too big to fail.” The result: eight years ago the American economy and much of the world was plunged into the worst economic decline since the 1930s. Working people lost their jobs, their homes and their savings, while the government bailed out the banks.

Inexplicably, the United States political system doubled down on this reckless financial deregulation, when the U.S. Supreme Court in a series of deeply misguided decisions, unleashed an unprecedented flow of money into American politics. These decisions culminated in the infamous Citizen United case, which opened the financial spigots for huge campaign donations by billionaires and large corporations to turn the U.S. political system to their narrow and greedy advantage. It has established a system in which billionaires can buy elections. Rather than an economy aimed at the common good, we have been left with an economy operated for the top 1 percent, who get richer and richer as the working class, the young and the poor fall further and further behind. And the billionaires and banks have reaped the returns of their campaign investments, in the form of special tax privileges, imbalanced trade agreements that favor investors over workers, and that even give multinational companies extra-judicial power over governments that are trying to regulate them.

But as both Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis have warned us and the world, the consequences have been even direr than the disastrous effects of financial bubbles and falling living standards of working-class families. Our very soul as a nation has suffered as the public lost faith in political and social institutions. As Pope Francis has stated: “Man is not in charge today, money is in charge, money rules.” And the Pope has also stated: “We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.”

And further: “While the income of a minority is increasing exponentially, that of the majority is crumbling. This imbalance results from ideologies which uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and thus deny the right of control to States, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good.”

Pope Francis has called on the world to say: “No to a financial system that rules rather than serves” in Evangeli Gaudium. And he called upon financial executives and political leaders to pursue financial reform that is informed by ethical considerations. He stated plainly and powerfully that the role of wealth and resources in a moral economy must be that of servant, not master.

The widening gaps between the rich and poor, the desperation of the marginalized, the power of corporations over politics, is not a phenomenon of the United States alone. The excesses of the unregulated global economy have caused even more damage in the developing countries. They suffer not only from the boom-bust cycles on Wall Street, but from a world economy that puts profits over pollution, oil companies over climate safety, and arms trade over peace. And as an increasing share of new wealth and income goes to a small fraction of those at the top, fixing this gross inequality has become a central challenge. The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great economic issue of our time, the great political issue of our time, and the great moral issue of our time. It is an issue that we must confront in my nation and across the world.

Pope Francis has given the most powerful name to the predicament of modern society: the Globalization of Indifference. “Almost without being aware of it,” he noted, “we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.” We have seen on Wall Street that financial fraud became not only the norm but in many ways the new business model. Top bankers have shown no shame for their bad behavior and have made no apologies to the public. The billions and billions of dollars of fines they have paid for financial fraud are just another cost of doing business, another short cut to unjust profits.

Some might feel that it is hopeless to fight the economic juggernaut, that once the market economy escaped the boundaries of morality it would be impossible to bring the economy back under the dictates of morality and the common good. I am told time and time again by the rich and powerful, and the mainstream media that represent them, that we should be “practical,” that we should accept the status quo; that a truly moral economy is beyond our reach. Yet Pope Francis himself is surely the world’s greatest demonstration against such a surrender to despair and cynicism. He has opened the eyes of the world once again to the claims of mercy, justice and the possibilities of a better world. He is inspiring the world to find a new global consensus for our common home.

I see that hope and sense of possibility every day among America’s young people. Our youth are no longer satisfied with corrupt and broken politics and an economy of stark inequality and injustice. They are not satisfied with the destruction of our environment by a fossil fuel industry whose greed has put short term profits ahead of climate change and the future of our planet. They want to live in harmony with nature, not destroy it. They are calling out for a return to fairness; for an economy that defends the common good by ensuring that every person, rich or poor, has access to quality health care, nutrition and education.

As Pope Francis made powerfully clear last year in Laudato Si’, we have the technology and know-how to solve our problems-- from poverty to climate change to health care to protection of biodiversity. We also have the vast wealth to do so, especially if the rich pay their way in fair taxes rather than hiding their funds in the world’s tax and secrecy havens-- as the Panama Papers have shown.

The challenges facing our planet are not mainly technological or even financial, because as a world we are rich enough to increase our investments in skills, infrastructure, and technological know-how to meet our needs and to protect the planet. Our challenge is mostly a moral one, to redirect our efforts and vision to the common good. Centesimus Annus, which we celebrate and reflect on today, and Laudato Si’, are powerful, eloquent and hopeful messages of this possibility. It is up to us to learn from them, and to move boldly toward the common good in our time.

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At 2:07 PM, Blogger Ol' Dirty Bama said...

Hillary's minions have been pushing the "Bernie invited himself" meme and the "Bernie ambushed the Pope" as well. Birds of a feather!

At 3:52 PM, Anonymous brilliantatbreakfast said...

Yep yep...the Hillbots have been really ugly about this. But call them on it and they scream "Sexism!!" They are making it very, very difficult to want to elect this woman in November.

At 8:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, no need to bring Fox News into this. All you had to do is go over to Daily Kos to see dozens of diaries about how "reprehensible" and "shameful" Bernie was for inviting himself and ambushing the Pope in the dead of night.


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