Brent Budowsky: Ready for Pope Francis

Brent Budowsky: Ready for Pope Francis
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What better time than Christmas to turn our thoughts to Pope Francis, a voice for our generation and all generations who teaches, as all great faiths teach, that those who have the most should extend their hands to those who have the least and that those who have power should serve those who do not. 

Francis is the people’s pope. He is most popular public figure in the world because the people know it! Citizens in America and across the globe are ready for the people’s pope who embodies modesty over arrogance, justice over inequity, kindness over selfishness, love over hatred and faith in the teaching of Jesus over the cruelty of communism and poverty created by the excesses of capitalism in an economy he has called a “dictatorship” grounded in a “cult of money.”

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Francis often directs his public comments to politicians and government officials as well as members of the clergy and the flock. With this in mind, I would suggest the following:

There is a Ready for Hillary movement, a Ready for Elizabeth movement and, more profoundly, a Ready for Pope Francis movement that is American and global.

The people’s pope, alone among world leaders, has directly and forcefully confronted institutions of finance, politics, media and now the organization that governs the Catholic Church itself. For this reason, while the 21st century remains young, we may be witnessing in real time the leadership of a man historians will ultimately regard as one of the greatest men of the century.

Jesus taught that the last shall be first, that we should sell all of our possessions and give the proceeds to the poor, and that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus forcefully challenged the institutions of his time, as Francis does, and for this he was crucified.

We celebrate the birth of Jesus not because of big discounts during holiday sales but because His message of love and generosity is timeless and common to teachings of great faiths everywhere. It is with this faith that Francis teaches and with this standard that, while Francis condemns abuses of institutions in almost every power center of the world, he criticizes himself and asks for forgiveness — an honesty more politicians might practice.

When Francis notes that as the stock market rises it becomes a banner headline but when millions of homeless people suffer they are treated like nonpersons to be forgotten, he is challenging the institutions of media.

When Francis condemns abuses of greed in the economy and calls for dramatic reforms, he is challenging financial institutions and calling for dramatic change.

When Francis condemns the environmental degradation that could destroy the planet itself, he is challenging business and political institutions that fail to be stewards of the earth.

When Francis teaches love and kindness toward the poor, he is challenging politicians who support cutting help for the poor, such as food stamps, a program the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops strongly supports.

It is said that when Francis read stories about would-be immigrants who died seeking a better life when their overcrowded boats sank in stormy seas, and learned that when the bodies were recovered the drowned mothers were still tightly hugging their sons and daughters with love during their last moments of life, he rededicated himself to humane treatment for immigrants. Francis challenges those in power who think otherwise, as some in earlier generations did when they opposed immigration of those who were Italian, Irish and Jewish, among others.

When Francis excoriates some members of the Catholic Curia itself, listing 15 “ailments and temptations” that corrupt their service to the Lord, as he did this week in his Christmas address that read like an indictment of abuses of power within the church itself, he is challenging the institutions of governance he leads.

When Francis champions and helps to mediate a more open relationship between the United States and Cuba, he is following in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, who championed similar policies and, like Francis, were ardent supporters of religious freedom, democracy and human rights.

There is indeed a readiness for Francis from people of good will in every corner of the world. If politicians and leaders become more ready to heed his message, more citizens would be ready for them.

With these thoughts I wish all a Merry Christmas and joyous holiday season! 

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Contributors Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.