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Making a Mess As Papal Policy
Much of our energy is spent in trying to establish and maintain order in our lives. Purposeful action is impossible without it. We teach this to our children and hope they will eventually incorporate in their maturity the discipline we imposed upon them in their early years. So it may strike some as rather puzzling that Pope Francis has famously counseled the young to “make a mess.” (See: “Pope closes South America trip urging youths to ‘make a mess’”.)
The young are only too willing to oblige, for their exuberance demands an outlet and, failing a constructive channel, will often express itself in random and even destructive acts. Riots occur on college campuses, not in retirement homes. And tearing things down is much easier than building them up: one can see the immediate results of demolition and feel that something has been accomplished, even if it has the negative value of having turned an orderly structure into a formless wreck.
But why would the head of the Roman Catholic Church urge the young to “make a mess?” What does he intend?
His counsel to make a mess came during his 2015 South American tour in which he denounced "unfettered" capitalism, in keeping with his preference for scatological metaphor, as “the dung of the devil.” He assigned the sufferings of the poor to the spreading of this “dung” over the economic field, so to speak. His message to the young has to be understood in this context. It is unreasonable not to see it as an exhortation to economic revolution: to fling the dung of capitalism back into the faces of the demonic rich.
Francis even used a Christmas homily to say that the established economic order in the West deprives young people of the opportunity for “genuine” work, whatever that may be. (See: “For 2017 More of the Same: Leftist Politics Wrapped in the Language of Catholic Piety”.) This is due to the culture of “exclusion” and “privilege” that the Christ Child was supposedly born to overthrow. So now even the Nativity has been subsumed into Francis’ project of enlisting the Church, especially the young, into his crusade against capitalism and for… what, precisely?
Francis may not provide a clear vision of what he thinks the Church should become, but there can be no mistake that he is eager to dispense with much of what he thinks the Church has been. (See: “What Religion Is This?”.) Francis sees traditional Catholicism as self-absorbed, self-righteous, concerned with individual salvation rather than social justice, which he apparently regards as the primary mission of the Church. But even on its own terms, this aberrant vision of the Church’s mission is not joined to any practical program and amounts to little more than amorphous sentiment.
How will making a mess succeed in overthrowing capitalism? It’s not clear, of course. Little in what this pontiff says is clear, but his general meaning is unmistakable: the rich, with the acquiescence of the Church, have exploited the poor. The Church must now align itself with the poor through some social upheaval that will change the established order and make it more equitable or egalitarian. The Pope is calling upon the young to be the change agents in both the Church and the world. And they can only bring about change by first destroying the established order. How should they go about this?
Every revolution begins by breaking things and killing people, then rebuilding on a new plan. The Pope is not explicitly advocating violence, but it is difficult to see how making a mess of the present social and economic order so that it can be radically reconstituted will not leave some bodies in its wake, along with much collateral damage which will hurt the poor it is intended to help. And what is to take the place of the overthrown economic order? The Pope counsels the mess-makers to “tidy up” afterwards, but he is short on specifics, to say the least. Perhaps Cuba and Venezuela can provide a model.
He simply tells the young that making a mess will “free” their hearts, create “solidarity” and give rise to “hope”. But from what will their hearts be freed? What exactly is the supposed nature of their present bondage? And what is to be done with this freedom? “Solidarity” is a term used to describe the uprising against communism in Poland in the 1980s, but that can hardly be what is meant in this circumstance, for the Pope is not urging anyone to cast off the yoke of state socialism; quite the opposite. And “hope” in what? Hope can be a vague term with a positive flavor, which is why politicians like to use it. It commits them to nothing. But a Pope should use the term hope either in its theological sense, or be precise in what it is he wishes people to cherish as a realizable ideal in this world. Francis’ “hope” is as amorphous as his “solidarity”. Much of what he says can only be regarded as vacuous rhetoric.
But the Pope’s counsel to make a mess has assumed new importance as he is now being hailed by some in the media as the “leader of the global left.” (See: “How Pope Francis Became the Leader of the Global Left”.) This may be what the Pope has desired and what he views as the proper role of the Roman pontiff. But his words may have unintended consequences as Western society moves toward greater polarization and an intransigence that may foreshadow violent confrontations.
To conflate the mission of the Catholic Church with a political agenda has always proven disastrous for both Church and state. Yet, the lessons of history appear to be lost on Francis and his admirers, as they move toward yet another confusion of religion and politics that cannot end well. If the Pope wishes for a mess, he is likely to get his wish.
The Power of Words
Included in the vast amount of disinformation children receive from well-meaning adults is the notion that words are somehow unimportant. Most of us are taught the saying: “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.”
It may be taught to discourage a violent response to an insult, but its assertion is radically untrue: few things can hurt us as much as words. An insult may not fracture an arm or bruise a rib, but it can scar us psychologically in profound ways. And a false teaching about God and human nature can ruin a life and endanger a soul. (See: “Renowned Philosopher and Friend of John Paul II: ‘Pope Must Act To Avoid Schism and Heresy’”.)
Some of us who have lived in more wholesome times are still capable of being shocked and outraged by the casual and ubiquitous use of obscene language in public and in the world of “entertainment.” We will never get used to the “F” word as socially acceptable and, apparently, required in movie dialogue. We must avoid the media if we are to retain our sensibilities. We must even avoid public places where we are likely to hear things that provoke us to anger and disgust. And our Church leaders have done little to oppose the descent of popular culture into the sewer where it now putrefies.
It is easy to despair of the possible return to a sense of decency in the use of language, but there recently appeared a glimmer of hope — in Russia. Metropolitan Hilarion, of the Russian Orthodox Church, has proposed a law that would punish people for using “abusive language” in public (see: “The Russian Church suggests fining for abusive language in public places”).
Hilarion, speaking on Russian TV, said the following:
Indeed, why should we tolerate the pollution of the public square with filthy language? Laws prohibit littering, and who would not be upset by someone throwing their trash in the street or on the sidewalk? Fines exist to deter such behavior, and they work for the most part. We have a strong consensus that littering is wrong and should not be tolerated.
Would it not be wonderful if such a consensus about the use of obscene words were to be regained? Imagine being able to take your children or grandchildren anywhere without fear that they will hear disgusting language? Imagine being free of having to hear it yourself?
Every time such language is heard, it has a corrosive effect. It is a great destroyer of innocence. It gives scandal to the young and wounds every pure soul that must endure it. And it is the agent of ugliness. It tears down our sense of the beautiful in language, which must be encouraged, for language is of supreme importance in our spiritual life.
Words not only are the vehicle for expressing truth; they are the means of uplifting ourselves and others through reverence and love. They are God’s great gift to us as rational beings. And the mysterious and beautiful prologue to St. John’s Gospel begins by identifying the Word with God.
To speak carelessly, obscenely, is a terrible sin. We are told by Our Lord that we must give an accounting for each word we speak, and that a man does not defile himself by what he puts into his mouth but by what comes out of it. Our Lord also said that we speak from the fullness of our hearts.
So what is in our hearts? Let’s listen to what we say, and learn.
Hilarion recounts that he never used foul language even when he was a young soldier. Anyone who has been in the military knows what a heroic, almost unheard of accomplishment this was. He says that he was mocked at first, but by the end of his service, others respected him and checked their foul language in his presence.
If we make it known to all of our acquaintances, and perhaps to the commercial sponsors of obscenity, that we will not tolerate such language, we will produce an effect. It is very true that for evil to triumph, it is only necessary that good men do nothing. If we say nothing in the face of the onslaught of obscene language, the “F” word and its variants will become the norm, if they have not already succeeded in doing so. In any event, it is time to take a stand on the matter.
Nothing, not even lewd behavior in films and on TV, has been more destructive of our common sense of decency than the desecration of language. Language is the measure of a society’s moral health. When words are respected and used with care; when clarity, eloquence and beauty in language are admired and aspired to; when words are seen as the servants of truth, not of power or salaciousness, then we will have a chance of living in a decent world that recognizes speech as a Divine gift to be used in the service of our salvation.
While we wait with confidence for the Triumph Our Lady of Fatima promised, we must do all we can to hasten that triumph. We must not retreat from the public square but proclaim the truth in its fullness, and fight for that truth in this final battle between satan and Our Lady.
We must work and pray ever more fervently that the Holy Father and the bishops will heed the requests of Our Lady of Fatima. (See: Petition to Our Holy Father — The Consecration of Russia and Petition to Our Holy Father — The Release of the full Third Secret.)
We must also keep informed. Read the recent “Fatima Perspectives” (view here) and “Fatima News & Views” articles listed below.
Latest Fatima News & Views
Fatima Center Special Report: Four Prominent Cardinals Publicly Challenge Francis — Four prominent cardinals publicly challenge Francis to “clarify” that his teaching in Amoris Laetitiae is not contrary to “Scripture… the Tradition of the Church… [and] absolute moral norms”. Cardinal Burke: “Formal correction” to follow if no response from Francis.
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