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Pope Francis is not a Marxist

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By John Barnhart

    Let me preface this by reminding readers that I’m not Roman Catholic. I’m Anglican.
    It should also be noted that the Orthodox Church never accepted the Bishop of Rome’s claims to supreme authority over the entire church from beginning. During the late Roman Empire, some bishops carried the title of Patriarch. Some of these were bishops, such as the Patriarch of Jerusalem, whose seats were in early Christian centers. Others, such as the Patriarch of Constantinople, had this title because their seats  were in important cities.
    The Bishop of Rome was one of these and, as he began to claim supreme authority over the entire church, the other Patriarchs refused to go along with him. The back and forth of “Yes, I am,” “No you’re not” finally ended in the 11th century when the Pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople mutually excommunicated each other. The Western half of the Church accepted the Bishop of Rome’s claims, until the Protestant Reformation, as he was the only Western bishop with the title of Patriarch.
    As I’m Anglican, in communion with the Church of England, I generally don’t comment on the Pope as what he does and says is an internal issue within the Church of Rome. However, as others outside the Church of Rome have chosen to pounce on him, I thought I would throw in my two cents worth.
    After Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, last year, Rush Limbaugh pronounced him a Marxist because of what Pope Francis wrote in one section of this exhortation, actually only a few paragraphs, about the global economy.
    This is unfair. In the first place, Marxists are atheists and I’m pretty sure the Pope is Catholic. In the second place, from what I’ve read, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was a vigorous opponent of “liberation theology” during his years as a Roman Catholic cleric in Argentina. Liberation theology was an attempt to merge Christianity with Marxist ideology — an effort similar to trying to blend baking soda and vinegar.
    Some have suggested that, at worst, Pope Francis is a European-style social democrat when it comes to economics.
    I don’t know about that, but I’ve read the paragraphs of Evangelii Gaudium that apparently roused Mr. Limbaugh’s ire and I find nothing in them that are even remotely Marxist. You can read the exhortation yourself by going to www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/apost_exhortations/index_en.htm. It’s available in several languages, including English.
    Near the end of that section, Pope Francis writes: “I exhort you to generous solidarity and to the return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings.”
    The whole section represents a historic Christian view of wealth and concern for the poor. It reminds me of what Saint Paul wrote in Colossians 3:5: “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” (NASB)
    The italics are mine. I put the words, “greed, which amounts to idolatry” in italics to emphasize what I believe Pope Francis is getting at — greed is not good. From a Christian perspective, being greedy is no different than worshipping an idol, a fact, Pope Francis alludes to in his exhortation when he draws a parallel between modern materialism and the account in Exodus which records how the ancient Israelis made a golden calf, an idol of gold, to worship while Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Law from God.
    Sometimes I think that greed is the one sin that some folks have almost baptized, but this attitude is not consistent with a Biblical Christian worldview. Pope Francis is certainly not being a Marxist, or even a socialist, by calling attention to this fact.