Columns

Pope Francis and related matters

MICHAEL BURKE

Thursday, March 21, 2013    

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Pope Francis is the 266th pontiff, counting from St Peter the apostle. The western media has written of his lifestyle among the poor as if it is something brand new, although the church has always had a preferential option for the poor in keeping with the teachings of Jesus Christ. How many in the media have a rounded knowledge of Roman Catholic doctrine? How many in the media have ever read an encyclical? The lifestyle of Pope Francis prior to becoming the pontiff is quite similar to many popes, the most recent being Pope John Paul II (1978-2005) and of note, Pope John XXIII (1958-63) who was born and raised in peasant circumstances.

During the Second World War, Archbishop Angelo Roncalli (later Pope John XXIII) distributed baptismal certificates (without baptising them) to a boatload of Jews so that they could be allowed in Italy to eat because they were starving. When Germany occupied Poland during the same war, Karol Wojtyla (later Pope John Paul II) gave Jews false papers that declared them as Aryans to escape the gas chamber.

Indeed, Wojtyla was virtually a slave in Poland during the war and was required to break stones. When he became archbishop of Krakow in Poland, Wojtyla refused to live in the archbishop's house but one day he came to the rectory where he lived and found his belongings removed. The people of the church said that he should live in the archbishop's house and took his things there, much to his annoyance.

The very name chosen by the new pope in honour of Francis of Assisi tells a story. John Francis Bernardone of Assisi in Italy, lived between 1182 and 1226. He founded the Order of Friars Minor (the Franciscans) to "bring the good news to the poor" (Isaiah 61, Luke 4). It was Francis of Assisi who started the trend of displaying a re-enactment of the nativity scene or manger at Christmas. It depicts the very humble circumstances in which the new-born baby Jesus was found by the magi who gave him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Pope Francis is a Jesuit. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), was strongly influenced by the founder of western monasticism, Benedict of Nursia, Dominic DeGuzman of Spain who founded the Order of Preachers (known as the Dominicans) and Francis of Assisi. Small wonder then that when the Young Men's Sodality of Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Cathedral founded the first credit union in Jamaica in 1941, the prayer of St Francis of Assisi ("Lord, make me an instrument of your peace") was adopted as the prayer for the credit unions, no doubt due to the influence of their moderator the late Jesuit priest Father John Peter Sullivan.

Neither national hero Norman Manley nor his son Michael Manley were Roman Catholics. But the elder Manley commented on the social teachings of the Catholic Church in the 1940s. National hero Marcus Garvey had actually commented earlier on the encyclical Rerum Novarum by Pope Leo XIII in 1895. The origin of the minimum wage law in most parts of the world (enacted in Jamaica in 1975) comes from Rerum Novarum. And the worker share-ownership concept that was being promoted by Michael Manley in the 1970s is found in Mater et Magistra (1961) an encyclical of Pope John XXIII. The encyclical Populorum Progressio by Pope Paul VI in 1967 is a "must-read" for any serious religion writer.

When Pope John Paul II was shot and injured on May 13, 1981, Michael Manley spoke of Pope John Paul bringing the church on the side of the poor, which suggests that he was reading the literature. However, the church was on the side of the poor from its inauguration by Jesus Christ more than 2000 years ago.

Most of the western media has emphasised the pedophilia scandal among priests, giving the impression of that being all there is to the Catholic Church. Ian Boyne, who is not Roman Catholic at all, correctly condemned this bias in his Sunday Gleaner column "new pope, old ways" of March 17. He further wrote, as I have in the past, that he believed that it is the homosexual community that exposed pedophile priests because the Roman Catholic Church has consistently disapproved of homosexual acts (for reference number 2357 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church).

In his Sunday Gleaner column of the same day, Gordon Robinson echoed what has been said and written thousands of times before; that compulsory celibacy for priests is the cause of the pedophilia problem. Yes, the celibate priesthood has been used as a cloak for pedophilia by a small minority of priests. But marriage, as far as I know, is an even greater cloak for any form of buggery and pedophilia than celibacy. I am concerned that marriage might be thrown at the problem as a solution, only to find that the problem becomes worse. A closer look at the growth of homosexuality and pedophilia in anti-Roman Catholic Jamaica would tell you that.

Fortunately for me, I have grown used to media bias as a Roman Catholic and as a past student of Jamaica College, of which some sections of the local media have shown a negative bias for decades. Yes, I attended Jamaica College, which is a non-denominational school, between 1964 and 1971. Indeed, part of my specific vocation within the church is the training of Roman Catholic high school students who do not attend Roman Catholic schools to defend the teachings of our church.

Congratulations are in order for Calabar on a well-deserved victory in the boys' championships and for Holmwood Technical for their success in the girls' championships. In the boys' championships, JC came second. But the photographs published in the Gleaner gave the impression that JC did not compete this year. There were more pictures of third-placed Kingston College athletes than even those of the 2013 champions Calabar High School. The Gleaner has been caught red-handed in their anti-JC bias and their own published photography is the evidence.

ekrubm765@yahoo.com

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