Monday, February 23rd, 2015
The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope (by Austen Ivereigh)
Pope Francis has been invited by Speaker of the House John Boehner to address a joint session of Congress in September when he visits this country.
The pope has been criticized by many “talking heads” and pundits, most particularly on the right, for his statements about issues relating to the economy, profits and employment. Rush Limbaugh has gone so far as to tag him as “a Marxist”, which is patently false. Pope Francis, as Ivereigh points out in The Great Reformer, was highly critical of Marxist ideology and of those (including Jesuit priests) who supported it during his tenure as bishop and cardinal in Argentina.
There is an uninformed point of view by many that the pope has no real comprehension or understanding of capitalism and is guided solely by the crony capitalism of Argentina, where he spent most of his life prior to becoming pope.
But before heaping criticism on the pontiff for phrases, clauses or statements that, in many cases, have been extruded from long and thoughtful writings, his critics would be well-advised to read the eminently researched book by the English author and journalist, Austen Ivereigh, entitled, The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope.
The book, reviewed in the New York Times by James Martin, is not a quick read. But it is packed with research and information that give great insight into the thoughtful, pragmatic and intelligent man who is now pope. It seems evident to me, after reading the book, that Jorge Bergoglio, as the pope was known before his election to the papacy, is hardly naïve or uneducated on issues of economics and politics. He does indeed rail against what he calls “unfettered” capitalism as “a new tyranny.” Indeed, the antitrust laws that were enacted in this country one hundred years ago were designed precisely to counter the economic ills of unfettered capitalism, also referred to as robber baronism.
That Pope Francis lived in Argentina (through both good economic times and bad), as opposed to having spent years in the US, is not what guides him today in his statements about capitalism. Rather his concerns are the effect of unbridled capitalism at the expense of the greater good.
I would hope that every member of the US Congress would take the time necessary to read this book before the pope’s arrival in September. It will be hard to come away without at least a great measure of respect for the man.